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Jeep adventure at a low price

<p>My good friend Shirley has long dreamed of owning a Jeep Liberty, but with three mouths to feed on only a teacher’s salary, she can’t afford to fork out the $30,000 required. Could the Jeep Compass be an acceptable alternative? It could very well be.</p>


My good friend Shirley has long dreamed of owning a Jeep Liberty, but with three mouths to feed on only a teacher’s salary, she can’t afford to fork out the $30,000 required. Could the Jeep Compass be an acceptable alternative? It could very well be.


Assembled on the platform of the Dodge Caliber, the Compass starts at $17,995 and, ahem, includes standard curtain airbags and a stability control system. “But at that price, does it still have the small, round headlights?” asked Shirley. You bet. It even features Jeep’s trademark seven-bar grille.


Nevertheless, purists will be mortified to learn that the Compass’s base trim is only front-wheel drive. For an extra $2,000, you get what Jeep calls a four-wheel drive system, but what I personally consider to be more of an all-wheel drive system.


By that, I don’t mean anything bad: The Compass did just fine in the sand dunes along the Pacific coast, and I’m convinced that it will do equally well when faced with our snowbanks. The mechanism for locking torque split 50/50 front/rear — making you ready for almost anything — deserves special mention.


“So, fully loaded, what are we talking, here?” asked Shirley. “Fully loaded” means leather interior, heated seats, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and 18-inch wheels. Would you be surprised to learn that you can get all this for under $25,000? I was most pleasantly surprised.


Unlike the Dodge Caliber (June 14 column), an endless number of compromises did not have to be made in terms of equipment to compensate for the very aggressive market price. The only sacrifice made on the Jeep Compass was to handling: When I was behind the wheel, I didn’t get that “Jeep” feeling of wanting to conquer mountains.


Incidentally, the Compass has good road handling and power. Thankfully, the “good” Caliber engine, namely the 2.4-L four-cylinder 172-HP engine, was chosen. The five-speed manual transmission (which was a tad difficult to shift) is part of the standard package, and the optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) allows the Compass to get decent fuel economy.


Have you ever heard of a Jeep with an average consumption of 8.4 L/100 km? Me neither!


The Compass can be summed up as follows: You get the Jeep image without the high base price or gas guzzling tendencies.


Shirley will be happy.













closer look


PROS:



  • Very aggressive price range

  • Standard curtains airbags and stability control system

  • Mechanism for locking torque split 50/50 (front/rear)

  • Average fuel consumption of 8.4 L/100 km

  • “North” version exclusive to Canada

  • Jeep image without the price


CONS:



  • No “Jeep” feeling when it comes to handling

  • No true 4WD system

  • Manual transmission difficult to shift















specifications



  • Compact SUV, 5-passenger

  • Engine: 4-cylinder, 2.4-L

  • Performances: 172HP, 165 lbs/ft

  • 5-speed manual, CVT (optional)

  • Transmission: two or four wheel drive

  • Suspension: independent

  • Wheels: 17-inch and 18-inch

  • Cargo: 1.52 cubic meter (rear seat folded)

  • Built in Belvidere, Ill.

  • Starting at: $17,995


 
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