The un-Jeep-est of Jeeps has suddenly found its way to becoming a more respectable member of Chrysler’s family of off-roaders.
Based on the Dodge Caliber platform, both the Compass and the similarly-sized Patriot arrived for the 2007 model year.
The Compass was marketed as a non-offroader and Jeep purists cried foul over this heritage-robbing travesty, perhaps forgetting that several decades ago Jeep produced the rear-wheel-drive Jeepster designed strictly for on-road fun.
Meanwhile, with the right gear, the Patriot could venture where the Compass dared not tread.
Following a lengthy delay, the 2011 Compass has finally found its bearings and, to nearly everyone’s surprise, now looks like a proper Jeep. More importantly, it also now matches the Patriot for off-road aptitude and attitude.
The changes bestowed upon Jeep’s cute ute likely won’t be enough to satisfy hard core fanatics, but, honestly, they’re not likely the intended target audience anyway.
It’s still not the Jeep-est of Jeeps, but this upgraded Compass is a good bet for buyers seeking out a handsome, fuel-efficient and affordable machine that will take just about anything thrown at it.
No powertrain upgrade
Unfortunately, there’s no upgrade in the powertrain department for the new Jeep Compass model.
The base front-wheel-drive Compass comes with the usual 158-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder. A 172-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder is optional, but standard in 4x4 models. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine, while a continuously variable unit (with no set gearing) is optional.
After viewing the new Compass head-on, you could be forgiven for confusing it with the stouter Grand Cherokee, which was brand new for the 2011 model year. From the windshield forward, the Compass is a totally new rig and a very attractive one to boot. The vertical grille slots are adorned with tasteful chrome surrounds and the projector-style headlights literally reflect a more upscale image.
A Jeep for your situation
Those who don’t plan on playing in the mud can roll with a front-wheel-drive Compass. But for coping with all-weather and bad-road scenarios, you’ll need to order Freedom Drive I. With it, you can “lock up” all four wheels in synchronous drive mode for maximum traction.
The more adventurous can now add the Freedom Drive II package, which includes a driver-selectable low-range gear, all-terrain tires, protective skid plates and a beefier suspension setup that’s designed for more severe off-trail use.