The 2020 Jeep Compass is unrivaled among compact SUVs when it comes to all-terrain capability. In the Compass Trailhawk we recently tested, go-anywhere features included four-wheel drive with low-range gearing, underbody skid plates, tow hooks, a beefed-up suspension and all-terrain tires. But is this enough to keep pace with strong rivals like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4?
Of those vehicles, only the RAV4 offers a rugged trim, the TRD Off-Road, similar in style and substance to the Compass Trailhawk. Even this toughened RAV4 doesn’t have the Jeep’s grip and tenacity once paved roads end, which is great — except most people don’t power though muddy bogs or clamber over boulders in everyday driving.
As we discovered during our time with the Compass, its adventure-seeking niche status doesn’t mask that it has some serious catching up to do in many other departments. You can read Cars.com’s Jennifer Geiger in her full review by clicking on the related link above. Easier yet, you can get a rapid recap of the 2020 Jeep Compass’ pros and cons by continuing to scroll.
Things We Like
1. Trailhawk Has Off-Roader Credentials
Nice try, Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road, but the Compass remains the compact SUV to beat when it comes to off-road equipment. (Other Jeep models, including the Renegade and Cherokee, have similarly strong all-terrain credentials.) In Trailhawk trim, our Compass not only had the tools to handle unpaved adventures, it looked rugged thanks to its available two-tone paint job with blacked-out roof and hood, chunky 17-inch aluminum wheels and red tow hooks. And let’s not forget things you can’t see, such as four-wheel drive, skid plates, low-range gearing and a more rugged suspension.
2. Excellent Uconnect Infotainment System
The Uconnect infotainment system fitted to the Compass is one of the best in the business. This system is simple to use; it features large graphics and clear menus that are within easy reach for the driver or front passenger. Our test vehicle came with the larger 8.4-inch screen, versus the 7-inch touchscreen that comes standard. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth and a pair of USB ports are also fitted on the base model.
3. Comfortable on Paved Roads
Don’t worry about the Compass falling to pieces when you’re not in the mood to venture deep into the woods. In normal driving, this Jeep is a willing partner; its small size and light steering make positioning it a breeze. The suspension soaks up bumps nicely and, while it’s not class-leading in terms of overall comfort, the Compass does enough to remain competitive among fierce competition.
4. Stretch-Out Space for Passengers
Unless you’re commuting with the starting lineup of the Denver Nuggets, there’s plenty of room for anyone seated in the front or rear. This four-passenger Jeep has available cabin features like heated front seats, heated steering wheel, leather seating surfaces, a dual-pane moonroof and upgraded Alpine audio system.
5. Low Base Price
The Jeep Compass undercuts many rivals with a base price that starts at around $24,000 (with destination fee). That’s the good news. But keep in mind this is for the base front-wheel-drive Sport trim equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. Most Compass buyers will want the six-speed automatic (for FWD variants) or nine-speed automatic that comes when you order four-wheel drive. Many active-safety features that are standard on rival compact SUVs are lumped into extra-cost option packages on the Compass.
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Things We Don’t
1. Lack of Horsepower
The Compass Trailhawk we tested looks the part of a trail-ready SUV, but the 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder under the hood doesn’t want any part of the action. Simply put, this engine is underpowered no matter where you’re venturing. We found the nine-speed automatic was also easily confused when it came to finding the right gear. Shifts were inconsistent and unrefined.
2. Poor Gas Mileage
Being low on power is one thing. Combining this with a thirst for fuel? Well, that’s one flaw too many. Despite having lazy acceleration, the Compass is quick to drink gasoline. In FWD format equipped with the six-speed automatic, it posts an EPA-estimated city/highway/combined average of 22/31/25 mpg. That’s significantly behind competitors like the Honda CR-V, which returns 28/34/30 mpg.
3. Needs More Standard Safety Features
The Compass has a healthy amount of available active-safety items, except you must pay extra to get them on the base model. Unlike many base-level compact SUVs that come with a wide range of standard active-safety features — including automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and automatic high beams — all you get on the base Compass is a rearview camera.
4. Cargo Space Falls Short of the Competition
It’s not claustrophobic in the cargo hold; there’s more than 27 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row. But that’s much less than what you’ll find in the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan and many other competitors.
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