The Jeep Compass receives minor updates for 2014. Chief among them is a switch from the continuously variable transmission (CVT) of years past to a new 6-speed automatic with a manual shifting mode. Elsewhere, Jeep added a new acoustic-laminate windshield to help cut down on road noise, new bi-halogen projector headlamps to improve nighttime forward visibility, body color side mirrors, and chrome accents on the grille surrounds and fog lamp bezels. Finally, Jeep has added seat-mounted side airbags as standard on all Compass models.
The 2014 Compass is offered in three different levels--Sport, Latitude and Limited. Within all three of these, between base front-wheel-drive form, the available Freedom Drive I full-time active 4-wheel-drive system, and the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package and its upgrades, the Compass spans a wide range of ability from what's essentially a city-friendly tall small car up to a surprisingly serious and able off-roader.
Sport and Latitude models of the Compass include a 158-horsepower, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, while the 2.4L four in Limited models (and optional on the others) makes 172 hp and 165 pound-feet of torque. The Sport comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission, while a new 6-speed automatic with manual mode is fitted to the other Compass models save one: Those Compasses with Freedom Drive II utilize a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). EPA ratings estimate the 2.0L models at 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 23/28 mpg for the 2.4L.
The most noteworthy option in the Compass--and what sets it apart from other small crossovers--is the availability of the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. It includes a special version of the CVT with a true low range that engages in off-road mode, plus many of the features you'd find in traditional SUVs, like skid plates and tow hooks, as well as fog lamps, a raised suspension, all-terrain tires and a full-size spare. Other models with 4-wheel drive get the Freedom Drive I system, which is an active, road-oriented system that will help send engine power to the wheels where it can best be used. Both 4x4 systems include a 4-wheel-drive lock mode to help power through deep snow, mud or sand.
The Compass otherwise has a layout that bears some commonality with small cars and its compact size combined with relatively responsive handling, great maneuverability and ease of parking altogether make this a good city vehicle. Rear seatbacks are split 60/40, and they flip forward to a flat floor. Manual-transmission models include Hill-Start Assist, while active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags, and seat-mounted side airbags are included in all models.
Base Sport versions of the Compass come about as well-equipped as small-car models in this price range, with power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, and alloy wheels. Illuminated cupholders, projector for lamps and a rechargeable flashlight system for the cargo area are among the other standout features included here. Latitude models add remote start, heated front seats, a height-adjustable driver's seat, recline adjustment for the backseat, steering-wheel audio controls and a 115-volt power inverter, while at the Limited level you get leather seats, 4-wheel disc brakes, a 6-way-adjustable driver's seat, automatic climate control, an information center and an upgraded sound system with 6-disc changer. Limited models can be distinguished on the outside by their bright exhaust tip and additional rear-fascia brightwork. A 9-speaker system with liftgate speakers, navigation with SiriusXM Travel Link and a UConnect Bluetooth hands-free calling interface are highlights from the options list.