With a little help from the Fiat 500X.
There are a lot of things to like about the 2020 Jeep Compass. It looks like a baby Grand Cherokee, has some credible off-road chops in its segment, and offers a quiet, comfortable driving experience. But after recently testing a Compass High Altitude for a week, we found its engine and transmission to be the most glaring weak point. Jeep only offers the 2020 Compass with an aging 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque.
This feels like a sluggish amount to move more than 3,500 pounds, especially when paired to the nine-speed automatic transmission that's slow to downshift. The powertrain keeps what is otherwise a pretty compelling little crossover from being highly recommendable but we have a hunch that Jeep that could soon offer a fix with a little help from Fiat.
Fiat recently refreshed the 500X for the 2020 model year with some new styling, but it was the update back in 2019 that was more significant. The 2019 500X saw its 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder replaced by a smaller, more efficient 1.3-liter turbocharged unit. This turbocharged engine actually produces a bit less power than the old 2.4 (177 hp), though it produces much more torque (210 lb-ft). Fiat also retuned the nine-speed automatic transmission to offer faster response times.
So how does this relate to the Jeep Compass? Well, the two cars actually share a platform so it would make sense for the Compass to receive the same engine update. In fact, the European market Jeep Compass will now be assembled in Italy rather than Mexico and will be powered by the 1.3-liter engine mated to either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The European Compass is less powerful than the US model with 130-hp and 150-hp states of tune but we see no reason why Jeep couldn't make the more powerful 177-hp version available in the US. We doubt Jeep would offer the dual-clutch instead of the nine-speed automatic but we would not be surprised if the 1.3-liter was announced as the new top engine choice for the 2021 model year.
We reached out to Jeep for comment on a potential engine change but received a pretty standard answer. "We can't comment on potential future product actions," said Todd Goyer, Head of Jeep Brand Communication. But we have a feeling they'll be announcing a new engine option in the near future.