Auto Review: The true urban Jeep

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Mar. 7, 2013
- Contributed Photo

When Jeep first launched the Compass for the 2007 model year, I was not exactly enamored with the overall vehicle, but I did appreciate what the company was trying to achieve. When it entered the compact SUV class, it was to bring a measure of Jeep off-road capability to what were really all-weather vehicles, but it didn’t quite get there. The rather iconic front styling (represented these days by the Jeep Wrangler) looked out of place, and the vehicle was very limited in its off-road prowess and wasn’t as refined on the road compared with the competition. But the current version of the Compass has grown up and improved in just about every way. This includes the styling, for instead of evoking the Wrangler, the vehicle now resembles a downsized Grand Cherokee, which is far more fitting, giving a more road-based personality (yet with off-road capability when properly equipped).

Our Compass Latitude model was the mid-level trim in the three-version lineup, and was powered by a 2.4-Liter Inline Four World Engine with 172 horsepower that was allied with a Continuously Variable Transmission. The Compass can be had with either Front-Wheel Drive or two All-Wheel Drive versions (Freedom Drive I & II, the II being more suited to light off-roading). Our 4X4 tester came with Freedom Drive I, and this system operates full-time in Front Drive mode until slippage occurs, and then the rear wheels also deliver power. A T-shaped lever locks the system’s center coupling, giving drivers “the ability to put the Jeep Compass in four-wheel-drive lock mode to handle deep snow, sand and other low-traction surfaces,” as Jeep puts it.

Overall, the drivetrain delivers good but not stirring acceleration, and the All-Wheel Drive system insures sure-footedness in slick conditions. The engine/CVT combination is fairly vocal, though far from excessively noisy. Handling is agile (but this is no sports car), and the ride quality splits the comfort/control pie right down the middle for decent overall performance. The brakes were another bright spot, as they delivered short, well-controlled stops with an average stopping distance from 60 mph of 119 feet.

The interior offers excellent versatility in keeping with the Compass’ overall personality. Control interfaces are the now familiar mix of touch screen and conventional buttons and knobs, which works fine once you locate everything. The heated cloth seats on the Latitude are comfortable and appear good at resisting dirt and liquids, although some may find them a tad on the flat side. The rear seats are likewise mesa-like, but room is acceptable and seatbacks fold forward in 60/40 increments to increase cargo area to 67.2 cubic feet. Another brilliant feature we first discovered on the Compass is still present: a detachable rear interior light that functions as a flashlight when you need it and charges when docked in the vehicle. Brilliant.

The 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 is EPA rated 21 MPG city/26 highway and has a base price of $23,445. With options, our sticker came to $26,885.

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