If you’re looking for a small, capable SUV, the Jeep dealership is a pretty good place to start your search, as the company offers three small SUVs from which to choose. The 2020 Jeep Compass is the middle child of that group, larger than the subcompact Renegade but less refined and less comfortable than the similarly sized Cherokee. It’s also not available with its big brother’s engine upgrades, which, in our view, is the main reason you’ll want to think twice about the Compass. Its only engine choice is not a great one.
Besides that, though, the Compass has a lot working in its favor. It comes reasonably well-equipped, offering a standard 7-in touchscreen infotainment system, and is generally pleasant to drive. In addition to wearing one of the more distinctive designs offered in the subcompact class, the Compass Trailhawk’s off-road capability gives it a distinct advantage over most non-Jeep competitors.
Of course, there are a great many of those competitors out there and if you’re not particularly enamored by Jeep’s style and off-road capability, cross-shopping the Compass with competitors from Subaru, Kia, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and the like is definitely recommended.
What’s New for 2020?
Changes to the Compass are minimal heading into the new model year. For 2020, the Compass gains a new Velvet Red Pearl Coat exterior color and a newly available Alpine premium audio system for Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk models.
Additionally, the Safety and Security Group (Gloss Black exterior mirrors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, ParkSense rear park assist system, rain-sensing windshield wipers and vehicle theft security alarm) and Advanced Safety Group (leather steering wheel, forward-collision warning-plus, lane-departure warning-plus, auto high-beam headlamps, adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, and auto-dimming rearview mirror) are both now available on the base Sport trim.
Finally, a new Luxury Seat Group (power passenger seat, memory driver seat and ventilated front seats) is optional on Limited, High Altitude and Trailhawk trims. See the 2020 Jeep Compass models for sale near you
What We Like
- Unmistakable Jeep styling
- Ample user-friendly tech
- Distinctive, off-road-ready Trailhawk version
What We Don’t
- Meager performance and unremarkable fuel economy
- Unresponsive 9-speed transmission
- Limited small-item storage
The Compass is offered with just one engine, a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. The default transmission is a 6-speed manual in the lower trims, while a 6-speed automatic is optional for front-drive versions. All-wheel-drive models make use of a 9-speed automatic.
Despite this drivetrain variety, fuel economy really doesn’t change much. A front-wheel-drive Compass with the automatic returns an estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city/31 mpg on the highway/25 mpg in combined driving. Four-wheel-drive versions are pretty much the same as that, regardless of transmission. The FWD and the manual pairing does yield a slight uptick to 23 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined. All are unremarkable for the segment.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Jeep Compass comes in Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk trim levels. Upland, Altitude and High Altitude sub-trims are also offered that add unique styling elements and some mild packaging tweaks to the Sport, Latitude and Limited trims, respectively.
The Sport ($23,600) comes with 16-in steel wheels, hill-start assist, black door handles, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, a backup camera, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, a 115-volt power outlet, a 7-in touchscreen, a USB port, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, an auxiliary audio jack and a 6-speaker audio system. With optional AWD, the Sport includes Selec-Terrain traction settings that include auto, snow, sand and mud. The Tech Group adds roof rails, rear parking sensors, body-colored door handles, proximity entry, push-button start and satellite radio. The AWD-only Upland Edition adds Trailhawk-inspired design elements, including 17-in alloy wheels. The Sport is the only Compass to offer an available manual transmission.
The Latitude ($25,620) comes standard with an automatic transmission and adds its own 17-in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, fog lamps, ambient LED cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/vinyl upholstery and the Tech Group equipment. The Altitude Special Edition adds to the Latitude equipment a variety of black exterior design elements, including 18-in wheels.
The Limited ($28,140) comes with 18-in alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, remote ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a manual height-adjustable passenger seat, a heated steering wheel and an 8.4-in touchscreen infotainment system. The High Altitude trim is a more rugged take on the Limited, with a few additional standard features like a Beats audio system and unique wheels and accent colors.
The Trailhawk ($29,290) has standard AWD with simulated low-range gearing and a crawl mode, a more off-road-appropriate suspension, greater ground clearance, hill-descent control, skid plates, tow hooks (two at the front, one at the back), Falken all-terrain tires, unique 17-in wheels, a full-size spare, special styling, and all-season rubber floor mats. Inside, the Trailhawk builds on the Latitude’s equipment with cloth/leather upholstery and the 8.4-in touchscreen. The Leather Interior Group basically adds all the Limited’s extra equipment.
Optional on the Sport, Latitude and Trailhawk is the Cold Weather Group that adds a windshield wiper de-icer, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and all-season floor mats, features that are also included on the Limited. Optional on the Latitude and Trailhawk is the Popular Equipment Group that adds Limited’s upgraded seat adjustments and an auto-dimming mirror. A compact spare is optional on non-Trailhawk trims.
As mentioned above, the Safety and Security Group adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic assist, rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and remote ignition. To that offering you can add the Advanced Safety Group, which includes lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams and, when equipped with the automatic transmission, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. These two safety-oriented packages are now available on all trim levels for 2020.
Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited models can be had with the Premium Lighting Group, which adds bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights and LED taillights. Other options on these trims include a tow package, a power lift gate, a panoramic sunroof and integrated navigation.
Standard safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control and seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knees). The Compass’ top three trims can be equipped with forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic assist system.
The Compass received four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, including 4-star frontal and 5-star side crash ratings. The non-profit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick+ due to it receiving top scores for both crashworthiness and its crash prevention systems.
Behind the Wheel
If there’s a reason to think twice about the Compass, it’s the engine. Although its 180 hp seems perfectly competitive for the segment, the resulting acceleration ultimately is not, and it sounds coarse and unrefined from behind the wheel. Not helping things is the 9-speed automatic paired with AWD. This transmission is incredibly slow to respond to throttle inputs and often chooses the wrong gear. Passing maneuvers can be frustrating. We’d say avoid it but then not many people want a manual transmission or a FWD Jeep.
This is really a shame, since the Compass is otherwise a pleasant little SUV to drive. Now it’s not as cushy or refined as the similarly-sized Cherokee nor as agile as some compact SUV rivals, but it’s otherwise confident and secure. You also sit quite high, which is often a reason people want an SUV in the first place.
And to take that a step further, a big reason people want a Jeep in the first place is its off-road ability (or at least the perception of it). For this, the Compass Trailhawk legitimately delivers. No, it’s not a Wrangler, but for a compact crossover, it’s exceptional. Besides its all-terrain tires and simulated low-range gearing and crawl mode, the Trailhawk enjoys ground clearance of 8.5 inches (versus 7.8 or 8.2 in other trims), an approach angle of 30.3 degrees, a breakover angle of 24.4 degrees and a departure angle of 33.6 degrees. These are pretty good figures for something that still works well on the street. Just be mindful that the Trailhawk’s knobbier tires and off-road-oriented suspension make the ride a bit rougher and the handling a bit worse in comparison to other trims.
Inside, the Compass is handsome and well-equipped, especially in terms of its abundant, user-friendly technology. Materials quality is merely acceptable, though, and you won’t find the sort of clever small item storage up front as you’ll come across in many of the Compass’ compact SUV competitors. There’s also less space for larger items. Cargo capacity runs to 27.2 cu ft. with the rear seats in place or 59.8 cu ft. when they’re folded down. Many competitors have at least 10 cu ft. more, which is significant. Worth noting, though: The subcompact Compass actually offers five additional cu ft. of cargo space over the more expensive Cherokee with the second row seats folded or about two-and-a-half cu ft. with the second row in place.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Jeep Cherokee — If you’re OK paying a bit more for greater refinement and a stronger engine, upgrading to the similarly sized Cherokee is probably a good idea. You can see how they generally compare in our article from 2018 explaining the differences between the Compass and Cherokee.
Used Honda CR-V — Admittedly, there’s no rugged Jeep-like coolness to the CR-V. But if anyone is looking for a good, reliable used compact crossover, this does the job. A certified pre-owned (CPO) version comes with a decent warranty.
The Trailhawk represents the Compass at its most distinctive and therefore most appealing. Alternatively, the new Upland Edition could be a good call: It offers much of the Trailhawk’s look but trades capability and equipment for a lower price point. Find a Jeep Compass for sale