2009 Jeep Compass

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Review: 2007 Jeep Compass

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2010.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Jeep finally adds a compact car-like sport-utility vehicle to its line.
Pros:
  • Car-like
  • Roomy
  • Stylish
Cons:
  • Not as rugged as other Jeeps
  • Average highway performance
  • Manual windows and locks for base trim level

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.

Jeep Firsts
The stylish Compass is the first Jeep that isn't trail-rated. It's also the first Jeep with front-wheel drive and a fully independent suspension for car-like ride and handling.

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
The 4-door Compass has sufficient Jeep styling cues, such as round headlights, a 7-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel openings. But it looks sleeker than other Jeeps with its new silhouette, which includes a steeply raked windshield. Rear door handles are integrated in the rear roof supports, as such handles have been for years in several Nissan SUVs such as the Pathfinder.

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.

Potential Customers
Most buyers are expected to be single or recently married "educated family-oriented professionals" in their early 20s to early 40s with a $60,000 median income. That's quite a demographic spread. Oh, and throw in the projection that more than half of Compass buyers are expected to be women.

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
Powering the new Jeep is a 2.4-liter 172-horsepower 4-cylinder engine that DaimlerChrysler jointly developed with Mitsubishi and Hyundai. It provides good in-town acceleration, but just average highway performance because it isn't very large and the Compass is fairly heavy for its size at 3,071 to 3,351 pounds, depending on the trim level.

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
All Compass trim levels have standard anti-lock brakes with a brake assist feature for surer panic stops and traction control and an anti-skid system with rollover sensors. Also standard are side-curtain airbags, although front-seat side airbags cost $250.

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
Almost everyone expects power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry these days, even on lower cost autos, but you must move up to the Limited to get those items as standard.

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
Several upgraded sound systems are available. One is a $460 Boston Acoustics Premium Sound Group with two unique flip-down speakers in the tailgate that can face rearward for such activities as tailgate parties.

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.

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BB01 - 7/23/2014 1:56:14 PM