You win some, and you lose some. Given the storied automotive history of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Jeep brand, it’s unsurprising that new Jeep models continue to garner critical and consumer praise. Yet that storied history is not enough to guarantee Jeep doesn’t occasionally turn out a dud or two.
This year, Consumer Reports published results from its owner satisfaction survey. The Jeep Gladiator scored a perfect 5 out of 5. But the Jeep Compass bottomed out with a 1 out of 5. What happened?
Consumer Reports’ customer satisfaction survey
Every year, Consumer Reports conducts its Annual Auto Survey. It asks owners of 1-to-3-year-old vehicles whether they’d buy the vehicle they currently own if they had the chance to do it again. Other questions solicit more detailed feedback about their satisfaction with certain aspects of their vehicle, such as handling and technology.
Consumer Reports then uses that information to create a composite owner satisfaction score between 1 and 5 based on those responses. These scores can be useful to prospective buyers looking to purchase new vehicles. However, it’s worth noting that because the survey targets consumers with new vehicles still under warranty, these scores might not capture significant issues that would become apparent only after several years.
Some brands, notably Tesla, performed well with multiple models. In fact, of the 10 models with top scores, Tesla vehicles took four slots. Lincoln took two, and Mazda, Kia, and Toyota models, along with the Jeep Gladiator, rounded out the list. Those faring the worst included three Infiniti models, two Nissans, a Ford, a Toyota, a Chevy, and a Mazda, along with the Jeep Compass.
So why did the Compass perform so poorly?
The Jeep Compass’s unrealized potential
The Jeep Compass, by all rights, should be a better compact SUV than it is. Starting at $23,915, the 2021 model comes with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. Producing up to 180 hp, the underpowered and noisy motor is slow to accelerate (from 0 to 60 in nearly 10 seconds). And the transmission offers inconsistent downshifting. Though the Compass’s 24 mpg fuel economy is average, the handling isn’t particularly responsive, and the brakes are touch-sensitive when driving relatively slowly.
The standard seven-inch touchscreen is welcome, but it has controls commonly found on the dashboard. And the interior is tight and austere, unworthy of its starting price.
2020, 2019, and 2018 Jeep Compass models have earned similar criticism concerning power, performance, and handling. They also had 2.4-liter engines and nine-speed transmissions with sluggish acceleration and unresponsive handling. And the interiors were similarly cramped and bare. Further, all the advanced safety features are optional instead of standard on the base model. And that’s not the only safety-related issue.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows a recall for the 2020 model regarding a windshield-wiper problem that caused low visibility. That recall also includes the 2019 model, which also had a recall issued for braking problems. And the 2018 Compass had a whopping six recalls for braking, electrical, suspension, visibility, and airbag-related issues. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it ranked last in reliability among 2018 SUVs, according to Consumer Reports.
Thanks to its sibling’s underwhelming performance, the Jeep Gladiator had a low bar to clear. But with a 5-star rating, it outperformed.
What’s so great about the Jeep Gladiator?
Coming in at number two on Consumer Reports‘ list of top compact pickup trucks, the 2021 Jeep Gladiator handles well on- and off-road. Packing a 3.6-liter V6, the Gladiator produces 285 hp. It’s also available in a 3.0-liter turbodiesel version making 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. The Gladiator’s design is based on the Wrangler’s. However, the pickup truck performs better due to a rear suspension setup similar to that on the Ram 1500.
The Gladiator sports removable doors, which is pretty cool and sets it apart from many competitors. A soft-top or removable hardtop covers the spacious cabin. Inside is an easy-to-use infotainment system, whose screen can be upgraded for an additional cost or with higher trim levels. Advanced safety features also come at a price but are worth it to complement the rugged exterior and removable roof and doors.
The 2020 model received similar praise from Consumer Reports. And it ranked number one on CR’s list of most reliable compact trucks. Survey respondents gave the Gladiator high marks for styling and driving experience, with 83 percent indicating they would purchase it again.
With its performance, handling, and unique features, it’s little wonder the Jeep’s compact pickup outperformed the Compass. And if you buy the 2020 or 2021 Gladiator, you’re likely to be highly satisfied.