The tech-focused cabin gives the new Compass a much more upscale feel than the old version — and big improvements in design and materials help, too. The cabin of my top-of-the-line Limited four-wheel-drive trim was lovely — and a big contrast over the outgoing model’s bland, plastic-heavy interior.
Of course, plastic is prevalent here, too, but there’s more of the softer-touch stuff now, and it’s incorporated with more of an eye for design; the overall result is less utilitarian. There’s a handsome two-tone color theme, and nice touches including dashboard stitching and supple leather seats combine to make one of the nicest cabins in the class.
The new cabin also benefits from added creature comforts and improved storage — an area that needed work in the 2020 Compass. Newly available niceties include heated rear seats and a hands-free, foot-activated power liftgate. The new Latitude Lux trim gets extras like wireless charging and a dual-pane panoramic moonroof.
More cabin space for small items is another welcome addition. A revised parking brake helped make way for a large front bin under the touchscreen, which the old model lacked but sorely needed.
When it comes to cargo space, however, the Compass continues to fall short. By Cars.com’s measurements, the Compass has 16.04 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats — considerably less than the Honda CR-V (21.46), Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (20.69) and Nissan Rogue (17.12 in the base trim or 19.29 with an available cargo management system). There’s still a lot to like, though: The cargo opening is wide, and the Limited trim’s big cargo mat helps mitigate messes. I found the space adequate for a large grocery run.
The Compass is mid-pack in terms of backseat legroom and headroom; my 5-foot-6-inch self fit comfortably on the supportive, bolstered seats. The compact SUV earned mostly high grades in our Car Seat Check thanks to easy-access Latch anchors and ample space for two car seats.
All Aboard the Struggle Bus
What hasn’t changed in the Compass is what needs the most work: Its wonky, weak powertrain carries over for 2022, and it’s long overdue for an overhaul. It continues to lag competitors in both responsiveness and refinement.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder plods on as the only available engine, with the only change being a slight drop in horsepower — 180 to 177, thanks to a move toward efficiency (more on that below). Lower-level Sport and Latitude trims have standard front-wheel drive and optional four-wheel drive, while Latitude Lux, Limited and Trailhawk versions all get standard 4WD. Once again this year, the Trailhawk is the most off-road-capable trim level thanks to Jeep’s Active Drive Low 4×4 system with hill descent control, Selec-Terrain Rock mode and 8.6 inches of ground clearance.
Not much feels particularly quick in this class, but the Compass is especially slow, with responsiveness that’s hampered by a clunky engine stop-start system and a clumsy transmission.
Power is adequate from a stop, but on the highway — especially on-ramps and during passing maneuvers — it struggles and complains while getting up to speed louder than my 11-year-old on a Monday morning.
Front-wheel-drive models use a six-speed automatic transmission again for 2022, with 4WD versions using a nine-speed automatic. The Compass I drove was equipped with the unpredictable nine-speed, featuring shifts that were at times lazy and at other times hasty. At no time, however, were they smooth.
The vehicle gets yet another demerit for fuel efficiency: The Compass is EPA-rated 22/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined with 4WD. That’s the same rating as 2021 despite efforts to improve it, and it’s much lower than AWD versions of the Honda CR-V (27/32/29 mpg) and Toyota RAV4 (27/33/29 mpg). It’s also considerably lower than this segment’s big fuel economy winner: the Nissan Rogue, which gets an EPA-estimated 28/35/31 mpg with AWD.
Many automakers are adding hybrids and electric powertrains to their compact SUV lineups, but the Compass has none. The CR-V is available as a hybrid, and the RAV4 can be had as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid. More models are coming, too: Chevrolet is adding an electric variant to the Equinox lineup, and new small electric SUVs are due soon from Toyota and Subaru.
Jeep affiliate brand Chrysler has announced plans to electrify its lineup in the coming years. This bodes well for the Compass, but nothing specific has been announced as of this writing.
Yes, there’s a lot to dislike about the Compass, but it’s not all bad. One high point is its road manners, which are better than average in this class. It has pretty soft tuning, with a ride that’s overall compliant and bump-absorbent, and clean, composed handling. Other small SUVs have firmer rides and don’t deal with impact harshness as well as the Compass does. Although I felt the steering was tuned too lightly and required a lot of corrections, I found the Compass to be maneuverable and comfortable to drive (once the transmission settled down and we managed to get up to speed).
Safety and Value
One other big complaint about the outgoing Compass has been addressed for 2022: safety features. For 2022, all Compass trims have standard forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection; lane departure warning with lane keep assist; and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control, park assist and a 360-degree camera system are optional on mid-level trims and standard on top ones. Traffic sign recognition is also available on upper trims. A semi-autonomous driving system is slated to arrive later in the model year.
The addition of those standard safety features — which the Compass’ main competitors also include — brings a roughly $1,900 price bump compared with the outgoing model. That said, the Compass is still priced competitively. The 2022 model starts at $27,615 for the base Sport trim with 2WD; AWD adds $1,500. That’s roughly on par with base versions of the CR-V ($27,625), RAV4 ($27,740) and Rogue ($27,875). All prices include destination.
The Compass plays in a tightly packed field of competent compact SUVs, and its balance of on-road comfort and off-road chops (particularly the Trailhawk trim) helps it stand out — as do its top-notch multimedia system and quality cabin. Its problem areas, however, remain large, and they’re tough to overlook. Although the updates for 2022 were a good effort, they fail to address some of the Compass’ weakest points.
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