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2007 Jeep Compass Limited 4x4 Review

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The Jeep Family’s Cute-Ute
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Having the Dodge Caliber and its fraternal twin, Jeep Compass, for evaluation back-to-back allowed us to make a good comparison. Built off the same platform they share some components but are very different vehicles. As you may have read last week, I was singularly unimpressed with the Caliber’s fit, finish, performance and overall quality but I liked its design a lot. Most evaluators put both these vehicles in the category of ‘cute-ute’ with its small crossover sport-utility design.

It certainly looks Jeepy with traditional vertical 7-bar grille, round headlights and angular demeanor. The rear door handle is camouflaged into the C-pillar and its angular styling looks purposeful. The DCX folks couldn’t resist the opportunity to take this new crossover platform and make the most of it – and who can blame them. The often-dissed technique of ‘badge engineering’ isn’t always a bad thing, if the products can be reasonably differentiated. I think these are.

This front-engined, front-wheel-drive (with 4X4 option), five-passenger Compass has much better SUV credentials than Caliber but certainly not the competence of other Jeep stable mates. With its 8.1-inch ground clearance and much better approach, breakover and departure angles, along with a standard on-demand four-wheel-drive system called Freedom Drive 1 that can distribute power where needed, Compass is the much better choice for someone who lives in a snowy climate or just likes to explore on modestly challenging trails.

Though only 2 inches taller than Caliber, the Compass feels much bigger, more comfortable and tighter. Many of the interior details are the same but the quality, fit and finish were much better in the Compass for some unexplained reason. After all, they come from the same factory. I’m beginning to wonder if the lack of decent fit and finish on last week’s Caliber was an anomaly. Controls in both cars are simple and intuitive – no complaints there – but the Compass had just an overall better feel as exemplified by the much sturdier door slam.

We were fortunate to have a substantial road trip planned while the Compass was in our fleet to Northern Michigan’s Gold Coast, Traverse City, to cover the annual auto industry conference called the Management Briefing Seminars. I hope you all read the reports here on We lived with the Compass for about 800 miles, a tad more than usual, so we gained a good feel for the vehicle.

The 2.4-liter, in-line 4-cylinder pulls Compass down the road with 172 horsepower and 165-lb.-ft. of torque. It feels much stronger than the 2-liter unit powering the Caliber as well, though horsepower ratings are not much different. A big share of that better, stronger feel, I’m sure, has to do with the 5-speed stick in the Compass compared to the wheezy CVT in the Caliber. Both engines have dual overhead cams, 4-valves/cylinder and variable valve timing. Zero-60/mph is reached in a leisurely 10.5 seconds. EPA ratings indicate we should be able to get 25 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway, on regular fuel, of course. We managed around 22 in our city driving and about 27 on the highway. Even with the rather small 13.6-gallon fuel tank we had a range of around 300 miles. As a high-mileage driver I’d like a little more.

Handling is quite good for this off-road-wannabe. The unibody construction and conventional McPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspensions make for fine road manners. The reason these designs are so common, of course, is that they work so well. Spring and shock rates are nicely balanced for paved roads and not at all squirrelly on the bumpy stuff. Good balance overall.

Rear cargo capacity in the Compass is admirable with more than 60 cubic-feet of volume with the seats folded. The rear seats fold nearly flat, although it takes two hands to operate the seat backs - one hand to pull the release and the other to pull the seat back down. It wouldn’t take much to spring-load that mechanism. And, either poorly designed or a tad out of adjustment, the rear hatch only latched tightly about half the time.

The basic 2-wheel-drive Compass starts at a little over $16,000 and comes standard with 4-wheel ABS, tire pressure monitors and electronic roll mitigation. Our Limited 4X4 test car starts at $21,925 and includes the engine/transmission combo described above, leather trim inside, lots of airbags, power windows, locks and mirrors, cruise control, heated seats. AC, leather-wrapped steering wheel, AM/FM/CD with auxiliary input jack, tilt steering column, 18”x7” aluminum wheels shod with 55-series AS performance tires, halogen headlamps and fog lamps. Option on our tester include: a driver convenience group, $30 premium floor mats and chrome wheels for $825. With the destination charge of $560 the bottom line on the sticker shows $32,765. It appears that Jeep’s 0% financing scheme doesn’t apply to this Compass though there may be a $1,000 spiff available. You’ll have to check with your local dealer for that info.

Some neat features include the easily accessible auxiliary audio input and a slick little flashlight built into the rear cargo light. Compass does not, however, have that unique little four-slot drink cooler built into the glove box like the Caliber.

This little Jeep’s towing capacity is only 1,000 pounds, or 2,000 pounds with the optional towing package.

Basic warranty coverage is 3-years/36,000 miles – nothing to write home about.

The Jeep Compass was a pleasant vehicle to live with for a week and a good road trip. The seats and driving position were comfortable, minimal road noise crept in, we had plenty of room inside and could have taken a couple of friends and their stuff along. At the price, I’d call it a solid contender in its class.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved.