If you are looking for an off-road capable Jeep, and are not sure if you need a subcompact or compact SUV for your weekend adventures and weekday duties, the 2020 Jeep Compass might just be the perfect vehicle for you. Slotting between the subcompact and compact segments means that the Compass offers more interior room than its competitors while also not being too large to sacrifice fuel efficiency. Where the Jeep Compass really leaves its competitors behind, however, is where the pavement ends. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk model is one of the more competent off-roaders on the market. Not even the Subaru Crosstrek can follow the Compass’ lead. And today, we are going to look at all of the characteristics that make this one of the best SUVs on the market.
The Practical Side
Before we get to the fun stuff, let’s dispense of the practical, weekday things that make the 2020 Jeep Compass such a good find. You don’t often run into SUVs in this segment that offer so much for such a low starting price. The list of standard equipment is impressive, as is the list of features offered to customize the Compass to your lifestyle and needs. Standard features include a rearview camera, a 6-speaker infotainment system and 7-inch touch-screen, keyless entry, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For such an affordable off-roader, this is an impressive list of standard tech and convenience features.
Moving up to the Latitude trim brings automatic headlights, cornering fog lights, 17-inch wheels, ambient interior lighting, illuminated vanity mirrors, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, proximity key with push-button start, and navigation. Safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision alert are also available on all trim levels. And if you really want to outfit your Compass, you can add features such as an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, an Alpine premium audio system, panoramic sunroof, a tow package and active-safety features such as lane-keep assistance, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
The interior is another place where the 2020 Jeep Compass shines. Jeep Uconnect 4 infotainment system is one of the best in the business and is paired with an available 8.4-inch touch-screen in the Compass to make this an ultra-convenient and user-friendly system. With quick response times and easy-to-understand graphics, as well as smartphone integration, this one of the better setups on the market. You will also appreciate the abundance of space in the Compass. Rear-seat passengers enjoy 38.3 inches of legroom, which is more than most midsize sedans. There’s also a large amount of cargo space, with 27 cu.ft. with the rear seats up and a maximum of just under 60 cu.ft. with the seats folded. This vehicle is the epitome of both comfort and convenience.
When the Weekend Finally Arrives
For those enthusiasts who like to test the boundaries of their vehicle’s off-road limits, the 2020 Jeep Compass will prove quite the subject. Designed for even the thickest of off-road conditions, the Compass might surprise with its abilities. The Compass features a Selec-Terrain system that can adapt to different conditions, with settings for mud, snow, and rock. Not many compact SUVs have rock settings, and that’s for a reason. They are not designed for crawling, and no one would ever think of taking them crawling unless they were heavily modified, but the Compass is. It’s built to take on the trails you might only consider taking a Wrangler on. It has a 20:1 crawl ratio just to put you at ease when you hit the boulders and uneven ground. If you are looking for a compact-crossover SUV that you can take just about anywhere, this is your only option. No other car in its segment can come close to matching the off-road chops of the Jeep Compass.
Of course, you cannot rock crawl without a few more things on board. The Jeep Compass Trailhawk comes standard with a 2-speed transfer case with low-range gearing and 4WD Lock for heavy-duty off-road work. It also comes with a raised ride height for better ground clearance. Other off-road features include hill start assist, hill descent control, skid plates, and tow hooks. With the low gear, or “crawler” gear ratio, as Jeep calls it, and a Rock mode, the Compass stays in first gear and directs torque only to the wheels that can find grip. Anyone who has spent negotiating a trail knows how necessary this can be to keep you moving up the trail.
The 2020 Jeep Compass features only one engine choice but many powertrain options. A manual transmission is offered, making the Compass one of the only vehicles to provide this in the segment. You can also find the Compass in 2- and 4-wheel-drive variations, while a 9-speed automatic transmission comes standard on the Limited and Trailhawk models. All models with automatic transmissions also include start/stop technology, which idles the engine when the Compass comes to a stop.
The engine powering the Jeep Compass is a 2.4-liter inline-4 with 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. This engine returns 22 MPG in the city and 32 MPG on the highway. It’s easy to see why the Compass only offers one engine because this is a good one, and when outfitted with four-wheel-drive, the Compass can tow up to 2,000 pounds. With such a rare combination of power and efficiency, the Compass shows its value in the carpool lane and on trails. And with the added utility of being able to tow a lightweight camping trailer or trailer for yard work around the house, the Compass does pretty well for its size.
The 2020 Jeep Compass also features something you would not expect from such a competent off-roader: a refined ride. So, while it performs well on the trail, can climb over boulders, and take you safely down the mountain, it can also take you to soccer practice and work in comfort. You do not expect a vehicle this capable off-road to possess such driving manners. With the soft suspension, it can absorb small and large bumps in the road, making it a pleasant SUV to drive around town.
What Model is Right for Me?
With so many different variations to choose from, this is not an easy question. The easiest answer is the Jeep Compass Trailhawk because of its off-road capability and luxurious interior. But the Trailhawk starts just shy of $30,000, which might be too much for some budgets. Of course, you certainly get what you pay for with this model—more off-road capability than any other in its class and lots of safety and tech upgrades, not to mention leather interior and an 8.4-inch Uconnect center display with a 1-year subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio. The value is certainly there.
The base model—the Sport trim—is another excellent value. With a manual transmission and lots of standard tech and convenience features, along with outstanding fuel efficiency, it’s hard to go wrong at a starting price just under $23,000. No matter which model you choose, you are getting a vehicle with Jeep’s pedigree for exploring the unknown, and a tremendous value. It’s nice to see that someone finally built an SUV in the segment that is truly off-road capable. So next time you find yourself searching for compact or subcompact SUVs, you might want to keep the 2020 Jeep Compass Trailhawk in the back of your mind because it can do what others can’t.