You may have noticed that I don't rip cars to shreds in these reviews---that generally, I find the upside to most of the vehicles I drive.
The biggest reason for that goes back to when I was 14, growing up in Bishop, on the other side of the Sierra. The local Ford dealer was a family friend, and I was a teenage car freak who would ride my bike out to the dealership near the edge of town once a week to see what new stuff had come in. Not old enough to drive, but full of opinions about what was cool and what was not, I was spouting off one day about what I thought were the inadequacies of a new car on the lot.
Jim Ellis put a fatherly hand on my shoulder and said "Mike, there's a butt for every seat".
What Jim meant by that, and what I've used as a guiding principle in 22 years of writing and talking about cars is that every car is the right car for someone. And that's true, until you get to a segment with so much competition and encounter a vehicle for which, on pretty much every count, there's a better alternative.
I'm sorry to tell you, that's the case when it comes to the 2019 Jeep Compass Limited High Altitude 4X4.
It looks the part, borrowing its styling largely from its big brother Jeep Cherokee. But, even with four-wheel drive, unless you go all the way to the top-of-the-line Trailhawk, it doesn't have the Jeep off-roading prowess that sets the brand apart.
The 2.4-liter Multiair four-cylinder engine's 180 horsepower is underpowered for a vehicle that, depending on how you equip it, is within a few hundred pounds either way of two tons. And the nine-speed automatic transmission seems to always be in the wrong gear for whatever it is you want at that moment. It's especially noticeable in passing situations. Fuel economy is decent---an EPA-estimated 22 city/30 highway.
The Compass interior looks modern and well thought-out, but in practical use, it doesn't deliver.
Apart from the cupholders, theres only a small indentation for change or a phone or whatever---just forward of the gear selector.
And the seats have the most aggressively-angled headrests I can recall in any vehicle. I'm generally comfortable in most cars and, a bit of adjustment usually fixes any minor issue. I could not find a position where the headrest, even rotated to its most upright position, wasn't either pushing into my upper shoulder blades or putting unnatural downward force on the back of my head.
Our tester was the 2019 Jeep Compass Limited High Altitude 4X4---the top trim line. The base price is $29.695 and it comes with quite a bit standard:
- Keyless entry.
- Pushbutton start.
- Speed-sensitive power locks.
- Rear back-up camera.
- Windshield wiper de-icer.
- Deep-tint sunscreen glass.
- Security alarm.
- Selec-Terrain system.
- Electronic stability control.
- Electric parking brake.
- Electronic roll mitigation.
- Remote start.
- 8.4-inch Uconnect infotaiment system.
- One-year subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel.
- Steering-wheel mounted audio controls.
- Heated steering wheel.
- Heated front seats.
- Power eight-way driver seat with power four-way lumbar adjustment.
- Manual six-way front passenger seat.
- Power front windows.
Our tester also had extra-cost options:
- Customer Preferred Package 27F (19-inch satin granite aluminum wheels, LED taillamps, Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with LED signature, navigation, black side roof rails, black grille with satin granite rings, black/body color exterior mirrors, Beats premium audio system, SiriusXM Traffic Plus, a one-year subscription to SiriusXM's Guardian service, a five-year subscription to SiriusXM Travel Link, tungsten accent stitching, a black "4X4" tailgate badge, a gloss black "Compass" badge and "Jeep" badge, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, black day light opening moldings, gunmetal interior accents, a media hub with USB and AUX inputs, a second-row USB port, satin granite exterior accents and satin granite fog lamp bezels): $1,995.
- Safety and Security Group ( ParkSense rear park assist system, blind-spot and cross-path detection, rain-sensitive intermittent wipers): $745.
- Advanced Safety Group (Automatic high-beam control, adaptive cruise control with stop & go, lane departure warning, full-speed forward collision warning, advanced brake assist): $795.
- Full sunroof with power front and fixed rear: $1,595.
- Power liftgate: $695.
- Compact spare tire: $345.
With $1,495 destination charge, the bottom line on the window sticker read $37,360.
There are just so many better choices at that price. In fact, you could buy a nicely optioned Jeep Cherokee at that price, gain some real off-road ability and move up a size class in the process.