Rough-Road Ready: 2014 Jeep Compass

By Sue Mead, August 10th, 2013

The 2014 Jeep Compass is rough-road ready with appealing new features, updated powertrain and notable off-road credentials. If compact SUVs are the new station wagons, then Compass is certainly competing in a fiercely contested race to set the new standard in everyday, family friendly, mpg-conscious driving.

Manufacturer photo: The exterior of the 2014 Jeep Compass has been refined with specific updates that move the design forward
Manufacturer photo: The exterior of the 2014 Jeep Compass has been refined with specific updates that move the design forward

New are a six-speed PowerTech automatic transmission; more than 30 safety features, including standard front-seat side-mounted airbags; and an available ParkView rear backup camera. With fuel economy ratings of up to 30 mpg on the highway, the 2014 Jeep Compass starts at $18,495.

Outside, Compass is cute without being precious, a little ute whose familiar wide-eyed toothy grin -- Jeep's signature vertically-slatted grille and big headlamps -- has been updated with more angular lights and a deep front air dam. Like many modern SUVs, its front and rear ends have been softly curved, rather than sheared at blocky angles that contributes to both curb appeal and aerodynamics.

The rear liftgate is wide and accommodating to beefy cargo, and dual heated fold-away mirrors are a nice upscale touch. Fog lamps and side roof rails are standard.

Inside, the 2014 Compass is refreshed -- not gutted -- and remodeled. Among the upgrades in this accommodating cabin are vinyl-wrapped armrests and center console, new graphics on the instrument cluster and satin chrome finish around the shifter. Cloth bucket seats are standard, as is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system. There's a 12-volt outlet on all models, and a 115-volt power point comes with higher-end models. The steering wheel tilts and includes integrated audio and cruise controls.

Manufacturer photo: The exterior of the 2014 Jeep Compass has been refined with specific updates that move the design forward

Compass comes with a choice of two powertrains: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 158 horsepower and 141 lb.-ft. of torque (standard on lower-end 4x2 models), or a 172-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that delivers 165 lb.-ft. and is standard on all models with 4WD, as well as all Compass Limited models at the highest end of the trim line. The bigger four-cylinder also is available as an option on base 4x2 Compasses (Sport and Latitude).

A five-speed automatic transmission is standard except on the Limited, which comes with a new six-speed automatic that also can be ordered as an option for all other models. A continuously variable automatic also is available, however, it can only be tacked on to Sport models with Freedom Drive II.

Compass models come with front-wheel drive, but all models can be ordered with 4x4. The 4x4 can be augmented with one of two all-wheel drive systems; Jeep calls the systems Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II. Freedom Drive I is full-time, active 4WD with the ability to "lock." This is good for daily use in situations of heavy rain and snow, as well as more traction-compromised situations, such as ice and deep sand.

Freedom Drive II comes with the continuously variable transmission, with a low range set of gears (CVT2L) that are engaged when the off-road mode is activated; it has 17-inch all-terrain tires and aluminum wheels, a one-inch raised ride height, a full-size spare tire, skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps and a manual seat height adjuster. Compass is primarily a daily commuter and around-town car, but the Freedom Drive II package gives it legitimate off-road chops for climbing logs, skirting boulders and traversing gulches.

Independent front and rear multi-link suspension components are complemented by stabilizer bars and gas-charged shock absorbers. Steering is rack-and-pinion power assist, while the brake system includes four-wheel ABS: front disc with rear drum on entry-level 4x2 models, four-wheel discs on all others. Hill Start Assist and stability control are standard, as is electronic roll migration management.

Manufacturer photo: The exterior of the 2014 Jeep Compass has been refined with specific updates that move the design forward

We are very familiar with the Jeep Compass and have driven it both on-road and off-the-road, during its last major upgrade. It's not only capable with a likeable interior and good stowage, but it also appeals to buyers who want a vehicle that retains the heritage Jeep Cherokee look.

The 2014 Compass still strikes a somewhat boxy pose -- and, at the same time, keeps decent fuel economy. We drove the uplevel Jeep Compass Limited on the Chrysler Proving Grounds recently, which gave us an opportunity to remember its smooth-driving 2WD and capable-handing 4WD versions. The three models and two 4x4 systems provide something for almost everyone with an aptitude for family hauling and proficiency along woodland trails or hauling small recreation toys, as it can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

Specifications

Base price (as tested: $25,495)
Curb weight 3,325 lbs.
Displacement 2.4-liter
Epa mileage rating 21 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 13.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 172 at 6000 rpm
Motor type 16-valve 4-cylinder w/SMPFI
Overall length 175.1 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 165 at 4400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact 4WD SUV
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