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2021 Jeep Compass Review

The 2021 Jeep Compass small SUV has a lot in its favor. It comes reasonably well equipped with a standard 7-in infotainment touchscreen and is generally pleasant to drive. It has more space than the subcompact Renegade but is priced below the compact Cherokee.

It’s styled to evoke the even larger Grand Cherokee, bringing a certain gravitas to a field of small crossovers. If only this was backed up by authoritative engine power. Sadly, the Compass makes do with one unimpressive 4-cylinder engine.

It’s in other, less familiar areas where we find a real point to the Compass. As well as that distinctive Jeep ruggedness, the Trailhawk version’s off-road ability gives it a real advantage over most competitors.

Speaking of competitors, there are many. And if Jeep style and off-road ability are not priorities, then checking out rivals from Subaru, Kia, Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota is time well spent.

What’s New for 2021?

Limited and Trailhawk trims gain many driver aids as standard equipment, including full-speed forward collision warning with active braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, lane-departure warning/lane-keeping assistance, rear parking sensors with automatic emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic high beams. The Trailhawk also gains a self-dimming rearview mirror and an alarm.  

A special 80th Anniversary Edition debuts, based on the Latitude trim, but packed with many features found in the higher Limited trim.

The Jeep Compass no longer offers a manual transmission. See the 2021 Jeep Compass models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Distinct Jeep styling
  • Ample user-friendly technology
  • Off-road-ready Trailhawk model

What We Don’t

  • Tepid performance and unremarkable fuel economy
  • Sluggish 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Limited small-item storage

How Much?

$25,390–$32,290

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Compass has a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard in front-wheel-drive (FWD) versions. All-wheel-drive (AWD) models have a 9-speed automatic.

With the front-drive/6-speed auto combination, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in combined driving. With all-wheel drive and the 9-speed transmission in the mix, highway consumption dips by one mile per gallon, but the combined figure remains the same. 

Standard Features and Options

The 2021 Jeep Compass comes in Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk trim levels. Where it’s optional, all-wheel drive is an extra $1,500.

Sport ($25,390) has 16-in steel wheels, roof rails, hill-start assist, heated side mirrors, push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, height-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, height-adjustable loadspace floor, 7-in infotainment touchscreen, USB port, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Bluetooth, auxiliary input, and a 6-speaker audio system.

With optional all-wheel drive, the Sport gains Selec-Terrain traction settings that include auto, snow, sand, and mud. Sport trim is also eligible for alloy wheels, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. The newly standard driver aids in the Limited are not available in this trim, but optional in the Latitude.

Latitude ($27,390) comes 17-in alloy wheels, cornering fog lights, keyless entry/ignition, ambient LED cabin lighting, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cloth/vinyl upholstery, and satellite radio.

The 80th Anniversary Edition adds $2,300 to the Latitude trim and brings 19-inch alloy wheels, remote start, leather upholstery, self-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable driver’s seat, Berber mats, 115-volt outlet, navigation, and an 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen.

Limited ($30,790) has 18-in alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, remote start, self-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, manual height-adjustable front passenger seat, heated steering wheel, 115-volt outlet, 8.4-in infotainment touchscreen, rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors with automatic emergency braking, automatic on/off headlights, and the driver aids mentioned in the “What’s New” section above.

Trailhawk ($32,290) has all-wheel drive as standard 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), all-terrain tires, wiper de-icer, 17-in alloy wheels, full-size spare, special styling, cloth/leather upholstery, and all-season rubber mats.

All three trims can be ordered with a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, trailer tow package, navigation, and an Alpine 9-speaker audio upgrade. The top two trims are also eligible for a power-adjustable front passenger seat and a powered liftgate.

Safety

Standard safety features include anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control, and seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knees).

The Compass received four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), including 4-star frontal and 5-star side-impact ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it Good top scores in most major categories but marked down the headlights to Marginal at best.

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 class, the resulting acceleration ultimately is not. It also sounds coarse and unrefined from behind the wheel.

Not helping things is the 9-speed automatic transmission that pairs with all-wheel drive. This unit is slow when responding to throttle inputs. Passing maneuvers can be frustrating. This is a shame since the all-wheel drive is a Jeep specialty, and the Compass is otherwise a pleasant little SUV to drive.

Not as comfortable or refined as the similarly-sized Cherokee nor as agile as some compact SUV rivals, the Compass is otherwise confident and secure. The seating position is also quite high, which is often why people want an SUV in the first place.

A big reason why people want a Jeep, in particular, is off-road ability. For this, the Compass Trailhawk delivers. It’s not a Wrangler, but for a small crossover, it’s exceptional.

Besides all-terrain tires, plus simulated low-range gearing with crawl mode, the Trailhawk enjoys ground clearance of 8.5 inches (as opposed to 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. Be mindful, though, that the Trailhawk’s specialized tires and off-road-oriented suspension have a negative effect on ride and handling compared with other Compass trims.

Inside, the Compass is agreeable and well equipped, especially its user-friendly technology. Materials quality is merely acceptable, though, and there isn’t the sort of clever small-item storage up front as in much of the competition.

There’s also comparatively 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 rivals have at least 10 cu ft. more, which is significant. However, Compass actually has 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

2021 Subaru Crosstrek — The Crosstrek is an excellent alternative that comes with all-wheel drive as standard as well as many safety features.

2021 Jeep Cherokee — Paying a bit more for greater refinement and a stronger engine could be a good call, like upgrading to the similarly sized Cherokee. Our article from 2018 explains the differences between the Compass and Cherokee.

2021 Kia Sportage — The value-rich Sportage provides a better on-road drive and a higher-quality interior than the similarly sized and priced Compass. Its warranty is also longer.

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.

Questions You May Ask

How big is the 2021 Jeep Compass?

The 2021 Compass is larger than the subcompact Renegade but not as large as the compact Jeep Cherokee. Pricing and fuel economy are in line with slightly roomier crossovers like the Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue Sport, and Subaru Crosstrek.

Is the 2021 Jeep Compass a good car?

In terms of features, comfort, and overall driving experience, the Compass rates about average. On a positive note, it can venture off-road, offers more personalization choices than the competition, and has that rugged mini-Grand Cherokee appeal. However, the Compass isn’t as reliable, nor does it hold its resale value and the Honda HR-V, Subaru Crosstrek, or Nissan Rogue Sport.

Is the 2021 Jeep Compass expensive?

The entry-level models cost about the same as their competitors, but higher up the ladder to Limited and Trailhawk versions; the Compass can easily pass the $35,000 mark with options.

Autotrader’s Advice

The Compass reaches peak Jeep-ness in the Trailhawk version, so that’s the most appealing. There’s nothing else quite like it for the price. Find a Jeep Compass for sale

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