After years as an automotive also-ran, the 2018 Jeep Compass has transformed into a stylish, well-equipped compact crossover SUV that slots in neatly between the baby Renegade and the brawny Cherokee. But a disagreeable and noisy powertrain continue to be a significant disappointment in Jeep’s smaller offerings.

Best Value

Jeep offers the Compass in four trim levels. The base Sport is best avoided, while the Latitude and Limited will represent the bulk of Compass on the road. The rugged Trailhawk, meanwhile, targets consumers that fancy some rough-and-tumble off-roading but don’t need the outright capability or aren’t willing to live with the comfort sacrifices of a Jeep Wrangler.

On the surface, there's a $4,800 difference between the all-wheel-drive versions of the Compass Latitude and Limited, although since the Latitude demands $1,500 for the nine-speed automatic that comes standard on the Limited, the real-world difference is $3,300. Which version you choose ultimately comes down to what you’re willing to live without. But since most of the Limited’s equipment is available via one of the packages available on the Latitude, we’re leaning towards the more affordable entry thanks to its more customizable configuration.

  • Model: 2018 Jeep Compass Latitude 4x4
  • Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
  • Output: 180 hp/175 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic ($1,500)
  • Exterior color: Jazz Blue Pearl Coat w/Black Clear Coat roof
  • Interior color: Black
  • Base Price: $25,390
  • Options: Advanced Safety and Lighting Group ($895, automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, bi-xenon headlights, lane departure warning, auto-dimming rear-view mirror), Cold Weather Group ($695, heated front seats, heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel), Popular Equipment Group ($1,195, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone automatic climate control, seven-inch instrument cluster display, eight-way power driver’s seat, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, remote start, SiriusXM satellite radio), Safety and Security Group ($795, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers)
  • Total Price: $31,165

Performance Pros

Jeep Compass
  • Even in Latitude trim, the Compass is a very capable little crossover. All-wheel-drive models come with selectable driving modes, while a properly-equipped example can tow 2,000 pounds.
  • Despite its off-road ability, the Compass is surprisingly comfortable and composed on paved roads.

Performance Cons

  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles still hasn’t figured its dimwitted nine-speed automatic out. Slow to engage off the line and unwilling to downshift, it’s bad enough to consider the Compass’ standard six-speed manual.
  • The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is a powerful enough engine, but it’s loud and buzzy when exercised.
  • Tall and cumbersome through the bends, consumers looking for an agile compact SUV should look elsewhere (like Mazda).

Interior Pros

  • Logical interior layout that will feel immediately familiar to Renegade or Cherokee drivers.
  • One of the best touchscreen infotainment systems in the business – UConnect is fast, responsive, and with its latest reskin, even more attractive.
  • Backseat improves on the cramped Renegade without impinging on cargo space – there’s 27.2 cubic feet with the second row up and 38.3 inches of legroom.

Interior Cons

Jeep Compass
  • The quality of the switchgear and touch points – particularly the push-button starter and turn-signal/wiper stalks – doesn’t feel appropriate for a $24,000 vehicle.
  • The headrest wouldn’t extend enough, so we were constantly dealing with its bottom sticking into our neck. Taller drivers, beware.
  • The faux leather seat feel awfully cheap, to the point that we’d consider moving up to the Limited and its standard leather.

Our Favorite Thing

After the polarizing Cherokee and Renegade, Jeep’s designers shamelessly ripped off the Grand Cherokee’s look for the new Compass and we couldn’t be happier. This is arguably the best looking Jeep on sale today, especially with the optional black contrasting

Our Least Favorite Thing

The powertrain. FCA, we know you’re capable of some great engines and transmissions, but perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board and abandon the whole nine-speed auto/2.4-liter combination.

Right For

First-time Jeep owners that want the adventurous lifestyle but aren’t ready to commit to a larger or more expensive Cherokee or Grand Cherokee, and would rather not live with the sacrifices demanded by the takes-no-prisoners Wrangler.

Wrong For

Jeep Compass

Drivers that are looking for a more conventional vehicle – the Compass might be based loosely on a car, like its rivals, but there’s very little in the way that it drives to show that off. If you’re simply looking for a tall hatchback with all-wheel drive, nearly any other brand will accommodate you better.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Jeep Compass is a stylish, capable entry that bridges the gap between sub-compact and compact crossover SUVs. A disappointing powertrain is a major flaw, but the Compass’ do-anything capability is enough to outweigh our quibbles over an idiotic transmission or a noisy engine.