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  • 2007 Jeep Compass Sport 4X2

    Posted on July 15th, 2007 ninarussin

    Affordable Crossover
    By Nina Russin

    2007 Jeep Compass

    2007 Jeep Compass

    Jeep calls the compass a sport-utility vehicle, but it’s more of a crossover. The first front-wheel drive Jeep shares chassis components with the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Patriot. All three vehicles are produced on the same assembly line: flexible manufacturing allows engineers to tweak each car for a different purpose. The Caliber is the most car-like platform, intended primarily for paved roads, while the trail-rated Patriot has good off-road traction thanks to all-wheel drive, hill descent control and crawl ratio gearing.

    The Compass falls somewhere in-between. It has the Patriot’s high ground clearance, and when equipped with optional all-wheel drive, can navigate some moderate trails and sand dunes. While both Patriot and Compass share the same automatic transmission, the Compass is not available with the optional crawl ratio. It also lacks the underbody cladding that protects chassis components from rock damage, and allows the Patriot to ford deep water.

    The front-wheel drive Compass has some advantages over the Patriot for buyers who rarely drive off-road. Fuel economy is a big one. While the all-wheel drive Patriot averages twenty-two miles-per-gallon, the Compass gets almost twenty-six. The Compass is also more affordable: almost five thousand less for the front-wheel drive base model than the four-wheel drive Patriot.

    Both cars run on a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine developed as a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler, Hyundai and Mitsubishi. The manufacturers reduce production costs by pooling their collective engineering resources, and producing the engines in large numbers as a dedicated assembly plant.

    While the 172-horsepower engine isn’t exactly a barn burner, it has enough power for urban driving: decent acceleration off the line, and enough high-end power to pass other cars on the highway. Variable valve timing allows engineers to maximize fuel economy while maintaining enough torque to make the car accelerate hard.

    The continuously variable transmission lacks the shift shock of normal automatic transmissions, and also contributes to better gas mileage. There was a noticeable chuggle on the test car during deceleration: probably the torque converter clutch solenoid disengaging.

    In order to save gas mileage the transmission uses a friction coupling when the car is cruising, and converts back to a liquid coupling when the driver speeds up or slows down. The torque converter clutch solenoid engages and disengages the friction coupling.

    I also noticed some rough idle, especially when the air conditioner was set at maximum. The air conditioner places additional load on the engine, so it comes close to running too lean. The symptom is more vibration than normal: not great performance, but probably something an owner could learn to live with.

    Seventeen-inch wheels and all-season tires are standard on the sport model. They provide a wide and stable footprint for driving on paved roads. The standard undersized spare works fine on paved roads, but isn’t as good as a full-sized spare on trails and graded dirt roads. Buyers who plan to drive any distance off-road should probably opt for all-terrain tires and a full-sized spare: available from the factory. Standard discs give the Compass firm, linear braking, while the four-wheel independent suspension allows both rows of passengers to ride in comfort.

    Rack-and-pinion steering provides good handling characteristics on the highway. It is easy to maneuver through traffic, and has a positive on-center feel for making quick lane changes or emergency maneuvers. Turning radius is a touch over 35 feet.

    Ground clearance is just over eight inches: enough to clear errant rocks and roots on a dirt road. Engineers positioned the wheels close to the corners of the car to keep the front and rear overhangs short. The angles of approach and departure are sufficient to ascend and descend the types of steep hills one finds on dirt roads and trails.

    The Compass is not a good car for towing, partly because it’s front-wheel drive, and also because the engine lacks sufficient power. Even with the optional trailer tow package, towing capacity is only 2000 pounds: far below our minimum active lifestyle vehicle standards.

    Standard safety features include traction control, antilock brakes, electronic roll mitigation and electronic stability program. Front and side curtain airbags protect both rows of passengers in the event of a serious collision.

    Durable interior

    I love the interior of the Compass because it’s simple and practical. The test car has optional YES essentials fabric that resists stains and odors. As someone who often enters cars dripping with sweat, it’s a huge benefit. I didn’t have to keep a towel on the driver’s seat to avoid staining the fabric. In the southwestern summers, cloth upholstery is far more comfortable than leather.

    The manually adjustable seats are easy to use and comfortable. A standard tilt steering column allows me to find a comfortable driving position, and keep the wheel low enough so not to obscure my view of the road. The center armrest slides fore and aft to accommodate drivers of different sizes. The armrest lid opens to reveal a small pocket for holding a MP3 player, PDA or cell phone. Passengers will find the large map pocket above the glove box a handy storage spot.

    The test car has the standard sound system: an AM/FM/CD changer with a MP3 jack. Audiophiles can upgrade to a Boston premium sound system with Sirius satellite radio.

    The second-row seats are comfortable enough for a long road trip, although taller passengers may be squeezed for legroom. While the Compass has three seating positions in back, it holds two adults comfortably. Second-row passengers get their own cupholders, in the back of the center console: they are large enough to stow water bottles. All four doors have map pockets.

    Anyone who lives in a warm climate will want to purchase air conditioning: a $2850 option package on the Compass Sport. The option includes tinted glass, power mirrors, windows and locks, a 115-volt power point, remote keyless entry, and a rechargeable lamp that can be removed from the car and used as a flashlight.

    The other major option on the test car is a driver convenience group package that adds an ambient temperature display, fuel meter, and tire pressure monitor. The fuel meter shows the predicted driving range. For reasons I don’t quite understand, it seemed to jump around a lot. I would turn off the ignition with the meter reading “200 miles to empty,” and find it at “220 miles to empty” when I turned the ignition back on. For that reason, it seemed more annoying than useful. I would rather look at the analog gas gauge, and fill the tank before it’s running on fumes.

    The vinyl load floor in the cargo area is removable for cleaning: another great feature for anyone with an active lifestyle. The rear seats fold down using straps to the sides of the seat cushions. It’s an easy system to use. With the rear seats flat, the Compass will easily hold a bike or two with the front wheels removed. The liftgate is easy to use for people of most sizes, and reveals a large opening that makes the back easy to load up. Roof rails are standard on all models.

    Total price on the test car is just over $20,000, making the Compass an affordable car for people who want some extra cash in the bank for athletic gear. The Compass is produced at Chrysler’s Belvedere, Illinois plant, and is currently on display at Jeep dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: Affordable, versatile crossover with good fuel economy, an attractive and practical interior, and plenty of room for four adults. While it is not trail rated, the Compass has enough ground clearance and standard traction control, for driving in snow or on unimproved dirt roads.

    Dislikes: The second-row seats may be short on legroom for taller passengers.

    Quick facts:

    Base price: $15,550
    Price as tested: $20,615
    Horsepower: 172 Hp @ 6000 r.p.m.
    Torque: 165 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 r.p.m.
    0 to 60: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Fuel economy: 24/27 m.p.g. city/highway


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