I sat down in my 2014 Jeep Compass Limited tester – and it creaked. Like an arthritic square dancer getting up to do-si-do, it emitted a groan the moment I stepped into it. It was a sound you normally expect from something well-used – not a model fresh off the assembly line.
Furthermore, the tire pressure monitor flashed incessantly – it never shut off, actually – and informed me that two of the tires were at 19.2 pounds, another was at 18.6 and the fourth at 22 pounds. A quick check with my trusty tire gauge revealed that this was incorrect. Not a big thing, but unnecessarily irritating.
And finally, the 2.4-litre four cylinder “world engine” powering the Compass needs to be put out to pasture. This engine, co-utilized by Mitsubishi and Hyundai, is unrefined, loud and down on useable power. Compared to Honda’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder, it’s no contest. Just about every manufacturer in this segment of the market has a superior – and smoother – four-banger in its line-up.
However, the Compass does have an excellent four-wheel-drive system and can handle rough conditions with the best of them. Indeed, close examination of its spec sheet reveals a detailed list of departure angles, ground clearance and “breakover” angles. It is a Jeep, after all, and is definitely meant to be taken off-road.
There are two settings: Freedom Drive I, with a full-time 4x4 system, and Freedom Drive Off-Road, with a “crawl” feature. This latter set-up has a low-range capability and is accessed via a chrome lever located behind the emergency brake on the transmission hump. If you have some serious terrain that needs conquering, the Compass is arguably the pick of the litter in the compact SUV market.
Unfortunately, while the Compass may have a state-of-the-art 4WD system, my tester had a CVT transmission. This, along with the engine, is the vehicle’s undoing. The engine develops 172 horsepower, which is in the ball park, but this cannot be classed as a road warrior by any stretch. That said, you can get either a six-speed automatic or five-speed manual, depending upon the model. Don’t even consider the CVT – over the long haul, it’ll drive you nuts. The six-speed automatic is new for 2014.
As for the interior, the Compass features 1,517 litres of cargo space with the back seat folded down and will seat five. Comparatively, a Honda CR-V has 1,054 litres while a Toyota RAV4 has 2,080. Both of these Japanese segment leaders have more power than the Compass and feature livelier road performance.
They also offer better fuel economy, though not by much. You’d think the CVT transmission in the Limited would be thriftier in town, but you’d be wrong.
In other words, the Compass will take you off-road more confidently than just about anything else, but you’ll pay for that ruggedness around town where, let’s face it, most SUVs spend the majority of their time.
The Limited starts at $27,795, and it’s another $2,500 for the off-road package (which includes a leather interior and Sirius satellite radio). By the time the dust settles, the price is way beyond $30,000, before taxes and extras. For the sake of comparison, the base Sport 4X2 Compass starts at $17,745, but has a smaller 2.0-litre engine with a manual gearbox. Comparatively, a CR-V has AWD and starts at $25,990, while a FWD RAV4 starts at $23,870.
2014 Jeep Compass Limited
Type: Compact SUV
Base Price: $27,795; as tested: $34,425
Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 172 hp/165 ft-lb
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 10.3 city; 8.7 highway
Alternatives: Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander, Chev Equinox, Ford Escape, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sportage.
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