$13,482 - $16,482

2016 Jeep Compass Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Jeep Compass was new.


Performance: 5.6

The 2016 Jeep Compass features an uninspiring pair of engine options that don't feel particularly potent, according to automotive writers. They dislike the mundane handling the Compass offers, and some add that the steering offers too little feedback. Some critics complain that the ride is rough and that the Compass handles bumpy roads poorly. When equipped with the Freedom Drive II four-wheel drive system, reviewers say the Compass delivers respectable off-road performance.

  • The 2015 Jeep Compass offers a choice of two 4-cylinder engines, neither of which is terribly refined or powerful. The larger 2.4-liter that's standard in top-line Limited models and optional on Sport and Latitude trims would be our first choice since it delivers respectable acceleration and fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "The Compass has some neat features, but it's not exactly a car that makes you want to take the long way home -- unless you have Freedom Drive II, we suppose, though that means you're stuck with the CVT." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "Notable weaknesses remain, including lackluster powertrains that fall short in terms of acceleration, fuel economy and overall refinement." -- Edmunds (2012) 
  • "Despite improvements for 2011, Compass remains one of the louder vehicles in its class. Wind rush is decently squelched, but road noise is fairly prominent, especially at highway speeds. An unrefined engine growl intrudes during acceleration." -- Consumer Guide (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Compass features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder base engine that puts out 158 horsepower. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder that puts out 172 horsepower is available. A five-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automatic or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which is a type of automatic, is available depending on other drivetrain selections. The Compass gets an EPA-estimated 23/30 mpg city/highway, which is average for the class.

Test drivers report that the Compass’ base engine is underpowered and delivers poor acceleration. They say the available 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine fares only slightly better, and they add that both engines are loud. The manual and six-speed automatic transmissions draw praise from some critics, but most advise avoiding a model with the CVT if you can.

  • "The 2016 Compass' 2.0-liter engine keeps the cost down, but it's rowdy, underpowered and not all that great for fuel economy considering its modest output. Remember, too, that if you can't drive a stick shift, you're stuck with the decidedly uninspired CVT. The 2.4-liter engine, on the other hand, has enough pep to keep up with traffic, and there's little fuel economy penalty compared to the 2.0, though refinement isn't much better. The six-speed automatic is a big improvement over the CVT, but it still shifts too slowly for our tastes." -- Edmunds
  • "The newer 6-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmission on the Sport model help enhance the Compass' performance. Unfortunately, the most desirable off-road package, Freedom Drive II, remains saddled with the lackluster CVT2 continuously variable automatic transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "It's a dog at high speeds -- spotted an interesting car on the expressway (a manufacturer-plated Ford Ranger T6) and wanted to get a closer look, and I really, really had to flog the Compass to catch up. The powertrain protested the entire way; though I did close the gap between the pickup and me, I can't remember the last time I felt so helpless behind the wheel." -- AutoWeek (2014)
  • "Neither engine accelerates well, and both are rather crude and loud. The new 6-speed automatic is more satisfying than the CVT, but a heavy foot still yields more noise than forward progress." -- AutoTrader (2014)

Handling and Braking

Some test drivers think the Compass delivers a rough ride, especially over worn or uneven roads. Most agree that the Compass delivers unimpressive handling, and they note that the steering offers little feedback.

  • "Ride quality is another weak spot for the Compass. The basic suspension design was sourced many years ago from the underwhelming Dodge Caliber hatchback, and it struggles to cope with today's well-worn urban roads. Expect a nervous, bouncy ride on such surfaces, with more impact harshness than you'll feel in most rivals. Handling is also below average, with an initial sense of control giving way to excessive body roll and vague steering in corners." -- Edmunds
  • "Of course, the beauty of a car-based crossover SUV is its on-road composure, and in that regard the steering and suspension of Jeep's crossover SUV provide decent connectivity to the road." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "While the Compass delivers a fairly smooth ride, its steering is vague, with lots of play in the wheel and slow response time." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "While Compass rides slightly lower than most compact SUVs, it feels no more nimble. A large turning circle hurts close-quarters maneuverability." -- Consumer Guide (2012)


The 2016 Compass comes standard with front-wheel drive; two different four-wheel drive systems are optional. Freedom Drive I is ideally suited for handling inclement weather like rain and snow and resembles the all-wheel drive systems found in other compact SUVs. Freedom Drive II is better-designed for off-road performance by adding low-range gearing, skid plates, tow hooks and all-terrain tires. Critics say that models equipped with Freedom Drive II are capable off-road vehicles, although some dislike that the CVT is the only transmission available with this setup.

  • To be fair to the Compass, it will go farther off-road than most compact crossovers if you select the Freedom Drive II off-road package. To get that capability, however, you'll have to make do with the power-sapping and generally unpleasant CVT." -- Edmunds
  • While it's true that a Trail-Rated version can claim some off-road cred, the Compass is at heart more a front-wheel-drive-based hatchback than boulder-hopping Jeep Wrangler." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "The result is a surprisingly capable Compass. On a test drive outside Jackson, Wyoming, the Compass was able to keep up with the rest of the Jeep lineup on moderately difficult snow-covered trails that saw steep descents, rocky riverbeds, and muddy hill climbs, even if it had to make a few runs at some obstacles." -- Motor Trend (2011)

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