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New Compass Looks to Increase Jeep Sales

Dealers are just now getting the first shipments of the latest new Jeep. The Compass is a four-door SUV ready to go up against Kia Sportage, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Saturn Vue, when those are equipped with a four-cylinder engine. VehicleVoice contributors and AutoPacific staff drove the vehicle in picturesque Oregon, found here. In the meantime, here is what the Compass is all about.


With proven market demand for small, front-wheel-drive-based SUVs and Jeep’s need for a model to slow below the Wrangler, Jeep decided to jump in the segment. Wrangler has long served as the entry Jeep, but it is rougher, more capable, and thirstier at the pump than many in the small SUV market need or want. The Compass means to grab buyers looking for a small, fuel-efficient, compact SUV, particularly Jeep intenders not ready for the expense or attitude of the Wrangler. There should be many out there; the question Jeep will be answering over the next year is: Are there enough?
The question becomes more complicated this fall, when Patriot joins the Compass. The Patriot is wrapped in classic Jeep cues and provides more off-road ability, but uses the same platform and drivetrain.

Compass is the first front-drive-based Jeep, but Jeep has not forgotten where its image begins and ends. The new-for-2007MY Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited retain traditional features like the fold-down windshield and removable doors and Jeep promises all the Wrangler capability of past models, only more.

Inspired by the 2002 Compass Concept
The first Compass concept, a two-door, was unveiled in Paris in September 2002. The production car is true to that theme, though the execution compromises for legality and the switch from two to four doors. Compass sports a Jeep face with round headlights and a seven-slot grille. The four-door takes the muscular body-side flares from the concept, with rear door handles in the C-pillar. Overall, the production Compass seems clumsy compared with the concept.



Compass gets a fast windshield and the standard five-tie-down roof rack helps the illusion of a faster rear roofline. The sculpted hood and front fenders incorporate Liberty cued. But headlights, foglamps, and turn indicators seem overwhelmed by the grille and wedgy lower front bumper. Quite opposite of the front lights, the substantial and chunky taillights seem just right on the rear fenders. The taillamps hug the fenders and take on a solid, rugged Jeep look.
Features and Models
Jeep continues its excellent job of making all models look good from the outside with the new Compass Sport and Limited. Though the Sport gets standard seventeen-inch aluminum wheels while the Limited gets standard aluminum eighteens with optional chrome-finish eighteens, the wheel design itself is similar from model to model. Those in the know can easily tell a Sport or a Limited from the wheel, but most passersby will simply appreciate the way they fill out the wheel wells. Both get body-color bumpers, but Limited gets a bright silver garnishes front, rear, and side. These upscale-look accents give the Limited a streetside look compared with the ready-for-business Sport. Whichever model most appeals to you, efforts like these are leading out of the days when base models meant ugly wheel covers and lots of black rubber.

Buying the $16,000 base Sport doesn’t mean less style. With only one engine offered (172HP 2.4L DOHC 16v I4), it doesn’t mean lesser performance, either. The Freedom Drive I system, available on Sport or Limited, gets a lockable center coupling for improved grip on low-traction surfaces like snow and sand. Compass offers a CVT in two forms, standard and AutoStick. The AutoStick CVT gives you six ratios to shift through, if the mood strikes. A standard five-speed manual transmission is available on all models, and choosing the 4×4 with the manual gets an added bonus of a 25 city/29 highway mpg rating.
Electronic Roll Mitigation is standard, along with side-curtain airbags, stability control, ABS with rough-road detection, hydraulic brake assist, and brake traction control.
Sharing Makes Three Possible
The Compass and Patriot share a platform and drivetrain with the recently launched five-door Dodge Caliber (click for our Caliber driving impressions and for a deeper discussion of the platform partners). Caliber sits four inches lower than the Compass and gets a less-aggressive optional AWD system. Though each carries a distinct look, all three benefit from many features. Outside, the only parts shared between the Compass and Patriot are the headlights, foglights, and the strip above the license plate that houses a light and the latch for opening the tailgate. Dodge sheetmetal is not shared with the Jeep products.

Compass and Patriot get nearly identical interiors from dashboard to cargo area. Caliber gets a different dashboard and instrument panel, but all share seats, door handles, front and rear headrests, tie downs, and rear speakers. The Jeep products have a pattern that Jeep calls diamond-plate in the cargo area, the easy-clean, tough vinyl used is the same as in the Caliber. The YES easy-clean optional cloth interior is available on all three, as are the flip-down tailgate speakers and the rear cargo light that serves double-duty as a flashlight.

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