Executive Wheels: A Little Edge to the Compass

Comparing the 2018 Jeep Compass 4x4 and the 2018 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0T Premium

These two vehicles are really nothing alike, as the first is a compact SUV/crossover and the second is a beefy compact hatchback, but since both (can) feature all-wheel-drive and off-road capabilities, and are priced very much alike, there are some similarities. But I have a personal reason for putting them together in a review: They were both on my list – in fact, these two vehicles made up the entire list – that my wife and I used to buy a new car just last month. We have that car now and subsequently, reviewing both vehicles just solidified the choice we made: The Jeep Compass.

We had been planning to buy a new car for some time, and several months ago decided we’d get serious about it in late winter/early spring. We talked about a lot of possibilities, although we knew we wanted AWD, and we something we’d feel comfortable about on a road trip and, of course, we wanted something we could afford, which in today’s car market (and given our requirements) isn’t easy.

Then we got lucky.

We inherited some furniture in Michigan last fall. So, we flew to Detroit, got a rental car, which we expected to be a Chevy Malibu, and planned to fill it as much as we could and drive it all the way back to Colorado. When we got to the rental car desk, the clerk asked us if we would‘t mind taking a Jeep Compass, and we were thrilled because we assumed an SUV would hold more. That proved to be true – the storage space in the Compass with the second-row seat folded down was beyond impressive – but we were also simply thrilled by the vehicle itself. We both loved driving it, for a few days around Michigan, and then we took it all across the country back to Colorado and we loved it again as a road car. It was a five-day, six-state test drive with special circumstances, and the Compass passed every test.

That pretty much cut it for us, although we wanted to try something else to make sure, so we investigated the Crosstrek. As luck would have it again, my sister was also in the market for a new car, and her first choice was the Subaru Crosstrek. About a month after we purchased our Compass, and on the very day Subaru brought me the Crosstrek to review, my sister took delivery of her new Crosstrek. This was a months-long process for both us and my sister, and we are all very happy with our purchases.

The cool thing is that when they sent me this Jeep Compass Limited 4X4, it is the upgraded model from what I bought. We got the Sport trim, with a manual transmission, so I got the unusual opportunity to compare first-hand. I really liked the Limited, but to be honest there isn’t really much difference. Same engine: 2.4-liter I4 M-Air, sporting 180 hp –zippy, both in town and on the highway, in either the 9-speed automatic on the Limited or the 6-speed manual on mine. Mine has cloth seats, and the Limited features leather trimmed bucket seats. Speaking of the seats, the Limited, of course, features power front seats, where mine has manually adjusted seats, and in the Limited the seats up front are heated (as is the steering wheel); mine has no butt, nor hand warmers.

Basically, when you get right down to it, the base sticker price on the Limited is $29,095, about $5k more than the sticker on mine, and for that $5k you get the auto transmission, the leather, an upgraded audio package, and it just feels fancier. On my test-drive Limited model, they added on about $5,800 ($1,095 in destination charges), for some nice stuff, including: lane departure warning, full-speed forward collision warning, bi-xenon headlamps, blind-spot and cross-path detection, GPS navigation, a power liftgate and a panoramic sunroof. The bottom line here is $34,860, and I didn’t pay anywhere near that – in fact, some $10k less – so, to be honest, I don’t really see the value in going for the Limited.

Having said that, I love the Jeep Compass.

It’s a smart vehicle, fun and easy to drive. The AWD system is cool. Operated by a dial on the console, when the vehicle is in Auto, it is, so the dealer told me, about 90/10 Front-wheel-drive/AWD, and it makes its own adjustments depending on road conditions, so it can adjust to a little more AWD if needed. If you want added assurance, there is a “Snow” setting, where the ratio goes to about 60/40 – FWD/AWD, and the “Mud” and “Sand” settings that adjust the ratio further to meet conditions. Very easy to use – shift on the fly – and quite effective.

The beauty here is since most of the time it is essentially a FWD vehicle, it has great gas mileage ratings: 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. I like the way it handles, and while it is no speed demon, it has more than adequate power for city, highway and mountain driving – even pretty loaded up. About my only objection is that the Compass I rented was a 2017 model, and it had this very handy shelf just above the glove box for all manner of things; they have removed it for 2018 in a “freshening,” alas. Because of the AWD dial on the console, the Compass is short on cubbies and places for smart phones.

All in all, I very much like the Compass – heck, I bought one – but I’m glad I went with the more pedestrian model.

COMPASS RATING (FOR THE LIMITED): THREE AND THREE-QUARTERS WHEELS


The Subaru Crosstrek is another matter entirely. When this model debuted, at the New York International Auto Show in 2012 as a 2013 model, it was called the XV Crosstrek, and two years ago they dropped the XV and just went with Crosstrek. But the vehicle itself has been around much, much longer. It is built on the platform of Subaru’s smaller hatchback, the Impreza, launched in 1992, and for several years before becoming its own vehicle, it was the “Outback Sport” trim of the Impreza, with the line’s off-road package of stiffer suspension, and greater ground clearance. The popular Subaru Outback that everyone knows these days – a beefy wagon – was similarly just a trim of the legacy wagon for years. However, most consumers got confused and simply referred to the wagon as the Outback anyway, although there were Legacy wagons that weren’t Outbacks, so Subaru did the smart thing in making its own, separate vehicle.  That’s what they have done here in the Crosstrek.

According to the Subaru website, the Crosstrek is “all-new” for 2018, built on a new Global Platform, “redesigned from the ground up with an all-new structure, using more high-strength steel to deliver over 70 percent more rigidity, a quieter and smoother ride, and long-lasting quality.”

Okay, but I have driven a Crosstrek every year since it came out and I could discern very little difference. It seemed like the same old thing to me.

And that is not a bad thing.

I like Subarus very much, and the Crosstrek in particular, because of the all-wheel-drive, its small-to-medium size, its ruggedness and the overall feel driving it. If I had bought a Crosstrek instead of a Compass, I would have been very happy, just as my sister is with her new one.

And in the spirit of “I had the Compass and Crosstrek back-to-back and I bought a Compass” kind of bias, here’s what I thought of the Crosstrek:

  • A little underpowered. It has a 2.0-liter 4-banger, rated at 152 hp, coupled with a Lineartronic Continuously variable Transmission (automatic), and while I found it adequate for around town driving, I felt it “gapped” or gasped as I was entering the highway.
  • Very nice gas mileage ratings: 27 mpg city/33 mpg highway/29 mpg combined.
  • Comfortable. The cloth seats are firm and supportive, and the hearted seat feature got them really hot, really fast. Also, plenty of leg room and comfort in the second row seating.
  • The car feels very solid and well-built and – like most Subarus – is very quiet except for that distinctive “hummmmmmm” of the Subaru boxer engine.
  • The Crosstrek had two information screens: the top one, a the top of the dash, was stagnant and had readouts for temperature, time and average miles-per-gallon; the lower screen, which I assume can get fancier with a more expensive trim, did the radio, phone, a few apps, a rear view camera, and “media,” meaning iPhone music/podcasts, etc. Sparse, but easy to use.
  • Old-school climate control: mode dial, fan dial, heat/cool dial. What was missing was the ubiquitous screen read-out so prevalent these days of what temp you set it to. You have to turn it up or down and just go by feel.
  • Good cubbies. One up front in console with a power source and plenty of room for phone, and one in the arm rest with power, USB, acc and plenty of room. Smart.

This version of the Crosstrek – the middle of the pack Premium (there’s the 2.0i, starting at $21,795, this Premium 2.0i, starting at $22,595, and the Limited 2.0i, starting at $26,296 – was a little on in that it had a key fob that unlocked and locked the doors, it did not have push-button start, which almost everything has nowadays. I didn’t mid it, I just used the key like I have for many years, but it seems anti-trend. Also, it had power windows, mirrors and door locks, but manual seats. I guess what I am mentioning is what you get if you step up to Limited. On this one they added the $1,000 for the CVT tranny, and $2,395 for an option package with a power moonroof, EyeSight Driver Assist System (pre-collision braking, throttle management, lane departure, adaptive cruise control, blind spot with rear cross traffic alert, and lane change assist), and $915 in destination, for a bottom line of $26,905.

A couple of other points. Since I had the Compass and the Crosstrek back-to-back, and they were both on may-buy list, I made more than the usual comparative observations. Two differences stood out. First, in the interior, the trim on the doors, console, dashboard, shifter, all the stuff, everything seemed more substantial on the Compass and more plastic and potentially less long-lasting on the Crosstrek. Second, while both models tout their ruggedness and all, the towing capacity on the Compass is 2,000 lbs., while on the Crosstrek 1,500 lbs., explain, I guess, the difference in engines.

In the end, as I said, I bought the Compass, but I wouldn’t be unhappy with the Crosstrek.

CROSSTREK RATING: THREE-AND-A-HALF WHEELS (OUT OF FOUR)

Categories: Industry Trends, Transportation