- - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A little tweaking with the style and an optional six-speed automatic transmission and what do you have? The new and improved 2014 Jeep Compass.

Safety is also improved, as the new version of the Compass now offers front-seat side airbags as standard.

A compact crossover, this Jeep can hang with the best of ’em, since the Jeep moniker means built tough — tough, however, with comfort and style. It’s no problem with the 2014 Jeep Compass.

Competition for this small but durable crossover includes the 2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Nissan Rogue Select, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-5.

The 2014 Jeep Compass seats five passengers and comes in three trim levels — Sport, Latitude and Limited.

With the Sport trim, the standards include 16-inch alloy wheels (or 17-inch wheels with the larger engine), fog lights, roof rails, air-conditioning, cruise control, split-folding rear seats and a tilt-only steering wheel. You can opt for the Power Value Group, which will add all the needed power accessories, heated mirrors and keyless entry. The Altitude Edition package ups the wheels by an inch and gives you mesh cloth and heated front seats.

The Latitude trim includes the Sport features and 17-inch wheels, cool interior trim, height-adjustable driver seat, front passenger seat that folds flat and a classy leather-wrapped steering wheel that also comes complete with audio knobs for easier control when driving. Packages for the Latitude include the High Altitude Edition, which will give you 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, six-way power driver seat and a sunroof.

On the high-end, the Limited trim includes all the standards from the High Altitude Edition and adds automatic climate control, driver information display, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a rearview camera. There is also a 6.5-inch touchscreen display and the music server is equipped with an optional navigation system.

The Freedom Drive II Off-Road group adds on to any four-wheel-drive trim all-terrain tires with 17-inch wheels, tow hooks, and the option for an off-road mode with underbody skid plates, hill-descent and start assist.

If you go with the slightly more expensive Latitude and Limited trims, there are the Security and Cargo Convenience groups to choose from. With the Latitude, this gets you auto-dimming rearview mirror and a security alarm. With the Limited, it’s remote start and techno additions like USB input and Bluetooth phone and audio connect.

Finally, the Jeep Compass pulls out all the stops on the top trims if you choose the Sun and Sound group, which includes a sunroof and two flip-down tailgate speakers. Trailer Tow Prep group adds what’s needed for off-roading, such as an oil cooler, trailer tow wiring harness and a full-size spare.

Under the hood, there is front-wheel-drive on the Sport and Latitude that includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. You also have the choice of three transmissions, but the five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport, you can choose the six-speed automatic or CVT too. On the Latitude it’s a six-speed automatic, but the CVT is required on the Sport and Latitude that have added the Altitude or High Altitude packages.

Another option if you choose the front-wheel-drive Sport or and Latitude trim is the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that gives you a little more horsepower at 172 and 165 pound-feet of torque. If you opt for an all-wheel-drive, this is the standard engine and on the Compass Limited as well.

For a vehicle that takes the road for a ride safety is all important and the features on the 2014 Jeep Compass include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side and side curtain airbags. There is also the rearview camera on the Limited standard and can be had as an option on the other trims as well as the hill descent and hill start control on the Freedom Drive II Off-Road package.

On the 2014 Jeep Compass there are several positive changes inside, including better material — a stand out with leather and impressive stitching inside for the Latitude and Limited trims. Also notice the cooled glovebox and a rechargeable LED cargo light that you can use as a flashlight in a pinch.

The seats are comfortable for long hauls; however, leg room is tighter than a taller passenger might be comfortable with in the back seat. For hauling, you have 62.7 cubic feet at the maximum.

This Jeep, of course, drives like any tough Jeep would — a bit rough to remind you to take it off road. There is a bit more outside noise than some might appreciate. Even so, on the highway you still have plenty of power as needed and handling is fine. But do consider taking the 2014 Jeep Compass off road to understand what this vehicle is all about.

Should You Need to Know: If you opt for the Freedom Drive II group, this is what 4WD is all about.

Miles Per Gallon: On the 2014 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 I drove, the gas mileage came in low at 20 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

Cost: The 2014 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 price tag was $29,020 with the extras, the base price was at $24,295.

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