The Jeep Compass is a 4x4 compact crossover, which came to market alongside the Jeep Patriot to extend the manufacturer’s reach at the smaller end of the 4x4 market. Based on the Chrysler GS platform, the two are differentiated by their interior and exterior styling and the market segment to which they are marketed. While the Patriot is positioned as a traditional 4x4 Jeep model, the Compass keeps different company, competing with the sporty crossover vehicles that are equally comfortable posing at traffic lights on urban roads as they are working their way through rugged terrain out of town.
The fact that the Compass is targeted at first-time Jeep buyers and townies is evident in the fact that, for the early model years at least, it did not carry the ‘Trail Rated’ badge found on the manufacturer’s other 4x4s, although this does feature on newer models from 2011 onwards. The Compass was discontinued here in 2009 due to poor sales, perhaps down to marketing or the fact that the Compass simply didn’t quite offer what the market was looking for.
The 2011 redesign brought the Compass more into line visually with the Grand Cherokee, whilst still sufficiently differentiated to be unmistakeably a Compass. This is a definite move by Jeep to appeal to the younger end of the market while building on the strong legacy of the Grand Cherokee, and it is a move that has been met with some notable success.
The Compass offers decent performance, with a four-wheel drive or two-wheel drive option. In its 2007 to 2009 guise, it comes with a 2.4L GEMA petrol engine, giving 128kW of power, or a 2.0L CRD diesel, giving 103kW.
The 2011 model year saw some revisions to the suspension and an increase of 2 centimetres to the ground clearance to assist off road, making for better handling. In general, the Compass offers decent off-road ability in line with other Jeep models, with plenty of traction, good ground clearance, and decent manoeuvrability.
The 2011 base model comes with a 2.0L petrol engine giving 115kW of power at 6300rpm and 190Nm of torque at 5100rpm. This two-wheel drive entry-level model comes with 5-speed manual transmission with optional CVT (continually variable transmission), which simulates the low range that is more commonly found in vehicles with dedicated transfer cases.
A more powerful petrol engine giving 12 kW at 6000rpm and 220Nm of torque at 4500rpm is fitted to the four-wheel drive Sport models, but a diesel option for the revamped Compass is yet to come to the market here.
Four airbags are fitted to the Compass as standard, with additional bags available as options. For a vehicle that is competing in the crossover market and therefore expected to be used a fair bit around town, the lack of a reversing camera is notable, as is the limited rear visibility. The 2007 models, in particular, score low for safety, indicating that this has not been a key focus area for Jeep in recent years.
The 2011 model year brought with it a revised interior, with more equipment included as standard and the addition of more options including the Freedom Drive II off-road package with CVT. The base model also comes as front-wheel drive only, which is a first for Jeep. All models also offer 17-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tyres, skid plates, and front and rear fog lamps. Inside the cabin expect to find manual air-conditioning, leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio controls and cruise control buttons, a 4-speaker stereo system with CD, DVD, and auxiliary jack.
The Sport model is a step up from the entry-level Compass, coming with four-wheel drive as standard, although the equipment and trim are essentially the same in both. The Limited trim sits at the top of the range, carrying the larger petrol engine, four-wheel drive and CVT, plus 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome-tipped exhaust, tinted windows, climate control, auto-dimming mirror, leather/vinyl upholstery, power driver’s seat and heated front seats, high-quality audio system with 40GB hard drive and voice control, plus a 16.5-cm touchscreen, USB port, and Bluetooth.
There is a certain amount of competition for the Compass from within the Chrysler/Jeep camp. The Patriot is an obvious contender, based on the same platform and sharing many features, though pitched at the more rugged off-road market than the Compass. The Toyota Matrix also gives it a run for its money in this regard. Other competition comes from the Nissan Dualis, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi ASX, and Skoda Yeti, none of which really have the badge appeal of the Compass, making it a compelling option as an entry-level 4x4.