Review: 2007 Jeep Compass
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
If you have a vehicle with the same iconic brand name recognition as Coca-Cola, why not take advantage of that name? The Chrysler unit of DaimlerChrysler has done just that by adding the car-like 2007 Compass to its Jeep line.
Chrysler knew that expanding the market for Jeep would eventually involve introducing more car-like models, and that would be tricky if it didn't want Jeep to lose its go-anywhere "trail-rated" off-road reputation.
That reputation helps distinguish Jeeps from many other SUVs, although only a small percentage of SUV owners go off-road or do serious off-road driving. It's the fact that those owners could tackle rugged terrain with a Jeep that adds to the appeal of this SUV.
Also, Chrysler needed a new vehicle on which to base a car-like Jeep so it wouldn't have to spend a small fortune developing an all-new entry. One really didn't become available until the compact Dodge Caliber crossover vehicle (some call it a car or station wagon) went on sale this year.
The Compass 4-door hatchback is based on the utilitarian Caliber 4-door hatchback. So it's no surprise that both are made in the same Belvidere, Ill., plant that long made the discontinued Dodge Neon.
Both the Caliber and Compass have front-wheel drive or available all-wheel drive. But the Compass is offered with an electronic all-wheel-drive system not shared with the Caliber. This system lacks low-range gearing for serious off-road use, but can be locked via a small console lever in a 50/50 front-rear torque split to mainly handle deep snow, sand and other low-traction surfaces.
It's not that you can't take the Compass off-road. It just that it's not built to be taken too far off-road.
The base Compass Sport costs $15,425 with front-wheel drive and $17,025 with all-wheel drive. The upscale Limited is $19,580 with front-wheel drive and $21,180 with all-wheel drive.
Coming later this year for production at the Belvidere facility is the new Jeep Patriot, which will look more rugged than the Compass with traditional Jeep-style square lines and offer items such as skid plates to help it safely handle rugged terrain.
Jeep Styling Cues
Who will buy a Compass? Jeep is aiming it at folks who want Jeep's free-spirited image, but also the comfort and roominess of a modern, space-efficient compact car/crossover—along with fairly good fuel economy.
Sliding in and out of the fairly low Compass is easy. Four tall adults fit comfortably. This Jeep is called a 5-passenger vehicle, but the center of the rear seat is too stiff for comfort.
Gauges can be easily read. Climate controls are large, and the small sound system controls are fairly easy to use once you get used to them. Most cockpit storage areas are small, and rear headrests partly block driver visibility.
The Compass is one of those vehicles that pretty much sells itself when potential customers take it for a spin from a dealership because it's easy to maneuver and fun to drive. The steering system puts the Compass right where you want it, the ride is supple and handling and braking are good.
Average Highway Performance
Estimated fuel economy doesn't touch the 30 mpg level, which would be a good selling point. Rather, weight holds down estimated economy to 25 mpg in the city and 29 on highways with the standard 5-speed manual gearbox and 23 and 26 with the responsive continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that was in my test Compass.
The CVT costs $1,000 for the base Sport trim level and $1,150 for the upscale Limited version. Only 87-octane gasoline is required.
Significant Safety Features
Handy items include a console sliding armrest that moves 3 inches for shorter drivers and has a flip pocket for storing a cell phone. There's also an available 115-volt power outlet, grab handles above all doors with clothes hooks on the rear handles and a removable self-charging lamp in the roof above the cargo area that can be used as a flashlight.
The open storage bin above the glove box may seem like a good idea, but items in it will end up on a front passenger's lap or the floor during a sudden stop.
Also standard for the Sport are an AM/FM/CD player, a tilt steering wheel, supportive front bucket seats, a console, tachometer, rear defroster, split-folding rear seat and 17-inch tires.
The Limited adds air conditioning, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, height-adjustable driver's seat, fold-flat front seat, reclining rear seat and 18-inch tires—along with more exterior glitz such as bright front/rear fascia overlays.
Finding Power Windows
Sport trim level buyers who want those power accessories can order a $2,600 Luxury package, which includes the height-adjustable driver's seat and fold-flat front seat. However, they can get just the power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote entry in a $995 Sport option group.
Air conditioning for the Sport is an $850 stand-alone option, and a power sunroof costs $800 for the Sport and Limited. Sirius satellite radio is $195.
Rear Facing Speakers
The moderately high, but wide, cargo opening has only a one-piece tailgate, but it opens easily. The cargo area is decently sized and can be enlarged by simply flipping the rear seatbacks forward.
The Compass is especially appealing because it's in the hot market for crossover vehicles that combine SUV and car features—and carries the revered Jeep nameplate.