The effect of gradient steepness on the kinetic performance limits and peak compression effects has been assessed in gradient mode for the separation of phenol derivatives using columns packed with 2.6μm core-shell particles. The effect of mobile-phase velocity on peak capacity was measured on a column with fixed length while maintaining the retention factor at the moment of elution and the peak-compression factor constant. Next, the performance limits were determined at the maximum system pressure of 100MPa while varying the gradient steepness. For the separation of small molecules applying a linear gradient with a broad span, the best performance limits in terms of peak capacity and analysis time were obtained applying a gradient-time-to-column-dead-time (tG/t0) ratio of 12. The magnitude of the peak-compression factor was assessed by comparing the isocratic performance with that in gradient mode applying different gradient times. Therefore, the retention factors for different analytes were determined in gradient mode and the mobile-phase composition in isocratic mode was tuned such that the difference in retention factor was smaller than 2%. Peak-compression factors were quantitatively determined between 0.95 and 0.65 depending on gradient steepness and the gradient retention factor.