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CARS REVIEW - 2007 Jeep Compass


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Introduction

 

Jeep Compass – Review: Minus navigation systems, travel is aided by two handy inventions – the map, and the compass. A compass will point you toward a general direction, yet fails to represent alternate routes or more suitable destinations. The map lays out the road for travel and unveils countless alternatives along the way. So, to bring things back around, buying a Jeep Compass is like using a compass: if all you want is to go in the general crossover direction, pick the Jeep and go. Smarter travelers, however, may want to use a map and find better alternatives at destinations like Honda, Hyundai, and Suzuki.


What We Drove
 

Over the course of one week we put in several hundred miles behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive 2007 Jeep Compass Sport, which carried a sticker price of $22,180. Though a front-wheel drive Compass starts at $15,985 (including a $560 destination charge), our four-wheeler started at $17,735 and climbed with the addition of a continuously-variable automatic transmission ($1,000); Package E, which included air conditioning, power items, keyless entry, and more ($2,600); a Boston Acoustics sound system ($595); a power sunroof ($800); and cruise control ($250). The Compass is significant for two reasons: it represents the first car-based Jeep not destined for off-road use, and it marks Jeep's jump into the increasingly popular crossover market.


Performance
 

Except for the Grand Cherokee SRT-8, few Jeeps have been recognized for on-road performance, and the four-cylinder Compass isn't about to change that. Of course, it won't be known for off-road performance either, but that's another issue. The 172-horsepower 2.4-liter engine does its best to motivate 3,089 – 3,351 pounds of curb weight, and actually is acceptable in getting the Compass up to speed around town and on the highway. With the standard five-speed manual transmission, drivers might have the opportunity to play with the revs and tap some fun from the Compass. Unfortunately, we experienced a CVT-equipped model, which took its time in transforming high-revving engine power into forward momentum. Fuel economy averaged 22.4 mpg.


Handling
 

It's a Jeep thing. You wouldn't understand. That's what we've all heard when trying to discuss modern handling and comfort with a Jeep fan, individuals who willingly trade those unmanly traits for some of the best four-bys on the planet. With the Compass, Jeep steers into on-street territory, exchanging a good chunk of off-road ability for daily commute duty. But what they end up with is a Jeep that doesn't tackle boulders, nor does it tackle Main Street with any finesse. The ride is stiff over bumps but soft when pushed in the corners and the steering is as responsive as watery Jello. That being said, the Compass is far superior to an old CJ, but miles behind its contemporary competition.


Visibility
 

Taken as a whole, visibility from within the 2007 Jeep Compass is only so-so. On the plus side, there are large exterior rearview mirrors that aid in the cause, as well as small rear quarter windows which help shed some light on what's traveling beside your tail. And then there are the negatives, like those wide rear pillars, the jumbo rear headrest that consume more than their share of valuable viewing area out the back window, and thick A-pillars which are responsible for limiting the front quarter view. Add in a steeply raked windshield, and you've got all the ingredients for some poor visibility pie.


Fun to Drive
 

If you're an asthmatic who has had the joy of running full-tilt in a soccer game without first taking a few hauls off of your trusty inhaler, you've got an idea of what it's like to be the 2007 Jeep Compass. You'd be much happier walking at a slow pace, or even sitting down for awhile. Just like a punch of this Jeep's go pedal suggests that it would rather be sitting idle in traffic, or maybe parked somewhere looking, well, ugly. Making the experience even worse are a CVT transmission that fails to effectively deliver what little power there is, mediocre handling, and seats that are about as hospitable as a splintery park bench.


Front Comfort
 

The 2007 Jeep Compass' seats are firm but supportive, though a squeeze of the insubstantial lower side bolsters quickly reveals the hard backing underneath. Lower cushions are short and flat, with the backrests only a smidge better thanks to slightly improved bolsters. Plastic-wrapped open-loop headrests serve a purpose but are lacking in the comfort department, as is the center armrest that slides forward for a custom fit but is decorated in -- you guessed it -- hard plastic. That same material is used on the door sills and armrests, though the former are low and wide enough for resting forearms. Drivers will appreciate the tilt steering wheel and height-adjustable seat.


Rear Comfort
 

Hospitable is one way to describe the Compass's rear seat. It'd be the wrong way to describe it, though, given the flat and stiff bench seat, the foot room that's hampered by ugly and obvious front seat brackets, knee-banging hard front seatbacks, and legroom that comes up short of generous. Add in doors that fail to open wide and you've got the makings of a rather inhospitable ride. However, there are some pluses, including a contoured headliner that makes room for the ol' noggin and plenty of space for ten toes once you get your feet planted between those seat brackets.


Interior Noise
 

Huh? What's that you're saying? Sorry, we couldn't hear you over the excessive road and tire noise, not to mention the engine's harmonic dissonance. That little four-banger bangs out some high-decibel racket under normal conditions, and the continuously-variable automatic transmission goes one better by eliciting peaky, unrefined revs whenever the throttle is goosed a bit, while things get downright frenetic when the go pedal meets the floor.


Loading Cargo
 

Give praise to the little Jeep Compass for providing its share of utility. The tailgate opens high and has a grab handle for easy closing. Loading various items should be a snap thanks to the comfortable height of the bumper, which is saved from scratched by a black pad. Inside, the cargo area is covered in hard plastic, though the floor is slightly rubberized and offers a diamond plate effect. Four tie downs serve to keep items secure. If additional space is required, pull straps will release the rear seatbacks to create a flat load floor; the front passenger seat can also be folded to accommodate especially long items.


Build Quality
 

If one was to gauge the Compass's build quality simply by viewing the exterior, the resulting impression might be neutral. Our tester offered consistent (though wide) gaps, but lost points with vertical rear door handles that felt susceptible to premature failure and bowing edges of the front fascia. So far, not great but not horrible. Move in to the cabin, however, and it goes downhill with ill-fitting door inserts, multiple loose panels, inconsistent gaps throughout, and an abundance of casting on the excessive number of hard plastic bits. Don't forget to check out how the A-pillars bulge out near the headliner. Clearly, precision and attention to detail were not the theme of the day on which our particular Compass was built.


Materials Quality
 

It's possible to walk away feeling positive about a vehicle that features inferior materials that are assembled with the utmost care. It's much harder to do so with vehicles like the 2007 Jeep Compass, which combines sloppy craftsmanship with low-rent interior bits. Hard plastics are everywhere, a point that would be less offensive if they weren't all shiny and coarse. Yes, it's technically a Jeep (if in name only), so a good dose of utilitarianism and ruggedness are to be expected. However, that is not a free pass for stuffing the guts of the Compass with what look and feel like cheap materials. The mesh headliner is nice, but hardly compensates for the rest of the interior.


Styling
 

When someone walks up to a brand new car and just can't believe that what she's looking at is from-the-factory and not a serious dent, chances are the design might be a bit off. Such was the case with our Compass tester, which the staff seemed to collectively agree left its good looks on the drawing table. To impart the hearty Jeep image, the Compass includes the Wrangler-esque round headlights and slotted grille, cues that are lost awkwardly bulging fenders and busy body seams (check out the congested intersection that is the A-pillar). Curves accent the front fascia and grille, while the bulk of the body appears blocky. The result is a design that lacks flow or congruity.


Storage
 

As is the case with the 2007 Jeep Compass's cargo area, interior storage proves to be one of the vehicle's highlights. Up front are door pockets large enough for holding a wallet or digital camera, there's an ample glovebox with a dished pocket above for added storage, and a deep slot below for radio that will swallow a few CD cases. The center console features two cupholders and a few handy nooks for parking cards, a garage door opener, or maybe an extra set of keys. Behind that is a deep storage well and a 115-volt outlet, all of which sits below a center armrest with an integrated iPod holder. Rear passengers get two cupholders and door pockets.


Infotainment Controls
 

Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to the 2007 Jeep Compass' infotainment controls. There's a large dial for power and volume with another for tuning and audio adjustments. Also included are clearly-marked buttons for seek/scan and station presets. All of these functions are duplicated with controls that are curiously placed on the backside of the steering wheel spokes, making them a bit awkward to reach and obviously lacking the benefit of illumination. Borrowing a cue from its sister vehicle, the Dodge Caliber, the Compass houses a fold-out integrated iPod holder in the front center armrest and a set of pop-out speakers in the tailgate for impromptu parties.


Climate Controls
 

Though they've changed in recent years, the new Compass pays homage to its predecessors with basic interior controls. Among them are the three dials for the heating and air conditioning systems – one for mode, one for fan speed, and another for temperature settings. Supplementing the dials are buttons for air recirculation, defrost, and a/c. There may be a shortage of dual-zone climate control setups and heated seats, but what's there is effective and completely in line with the Compass's price point and segment.


Secondary Controls
 

Following the general industry norm, controls for power door locks, power windows, and power mirrors are located on the door. Placed overhead are buttons for the sunroof, including auto open and close, as well as tilt. The stability control off switch is easy to spot forward of the center-mounted shifter, and the 4WD lock is an obvious chrome lever on the center console. Activating the lock mechanism requires a simple pull – pull again to deactivate.


Competition
 

Dodge Caliber
Honda Element
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Sportage
Saturn Vue
Subaru Impreza
Suzuki SX4


Perry's Opinion:
Acceleration from the Compass's four-cylinder engine wasn't dramatic but proved to be sufficient when navigating the freeway, and it proved to be fuel efficient by getting 22।6 mpg during my drive time. This is better than the Saturn Green Line hybrid we just had in the office. While it is hard to overlook the plastics used on the interior, they're almost acceptable when you consider the Compass's low starting price. The Compass will likely never be truly appreciated as a Jeep, but it really does deliver value for your dollar. I could see this being a great vehicle for the college student, especially if attending college in the mid west or on the east coast where winters create difficulties for driving.

Wardlaw's Opinion:
Think about this: our test Compass ran more than $23,000. For that same $23,000, you can get a loaded Mazda 3 with leather, Bose audio, navigation, and a sunroof, and which is an absolute blast to drive. Toss winter tires on that puppy, and snowstorms pose no problem. Select the Jeep and, well, there's an available 4WD system. Yeah, the Boston Acoustics audio in our test SUV sounded great, and those swing-down speakers integrated into the rear gate are cool, but the rest of the Compass is so not.

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