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The controversial Jeep Compass was an odd mix of car and SUV — not to mention Jeep and Mitsubishi. Though they were Jeep’s first front wheel drive crossovers, and the first modern Jeeps that were not Rubicon-capable, the first Compass was also not the “mall rated car” of forum trash-talk.
Along with its siblings (the Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber), the Compass had independent front-strut and multi-link rear suspensions. It took years for a “Trail Rated” model, capable of more than casual off-roading, to finally appear — complete with tough and rigid bodies. Inside, the Patriot and Compass shared dashboards and other parts.
The Mitsubishi connection came from the basic platform, which was modified from the Galant family. The Japanese company’s version is the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Even the engine was a joint venture — based on a Hyundai block, and modified by Mitsubishi and DaimlerChrysler (each company had their own heads, electronics, and fuel delivery).
In 2007, the Jeep Compass started at $17,805; in the 2017, it hadn’t grown that much pricier, starting at $19,940 with more standard equipment.
Power came from the new 172-horsepower 2.4-liter “World Engine;” critics claimed its high peak horsepower came at the cost of overall drivability, and that it sounded like a sewing machine when revved high (as it needed to be). The manual was a T355 five-speed, and the automatic was a Continuously Variable Transaxle (CVT) that accentuated the engine’s natural buzziness, unless buyers used the optional simulated-six-speed manual control. In some countries, but not the US or Canada, Jeep used a Volkswagen diesel.
The Compass had 52.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded flat; atypical features (at launch) were an optional flip-down rear speaker setup for tailgating, a fold-flat front passenger seat, optional reclining rear seats, and standard side airbags. It had an antimicrobial, anti-stain seat fabric — tough and scratchy — that was eventually replaced.
Compass’ optional full-time all wheel drive system had a “Lock” mode for deep snow, sand, and such. The car had traction and stability control with roll mitigation, and anti-lock brakes with rough-road detection; 60-0 mph stopping distance was 125 feet.
Wheels were 17 or 18 inches. Standard equipment included fog lamps, CD radio with an audio jack, foldaway mirrors, tilt steering, and a center console sliding armrest that moved forward 3 inches to accommodate shorter drivers.
* Auto, 21/27; CVT, 21/26 mpg
There were numerous body colors at launch — green, khaki, two reds, two blues, silver, black, and white — but all had a two-tone interior of dark and lighter shades of gray or beige. The cabin was criticized for looking blocky and unfinished; some of the plastic had sharp edges.
Just after the Compass was released, Chrysler was handed to Cerberus, which started an interior redesign, adding better materials and more graceful lines, and retuning suspensions for a better on-road feel. The results could be seen in the 2009 Jeep Compass and Patriot, which shared the same interiors.
New gizmos were LED-illuminated cupholders and an optional 30-gigabyte-hard-drive music system which could play movies or provide navigation with traffic. Many changes were made to options packages, including a Freedom Drive II AWD system.
Jeep slashed noise by adding sound insulation and adding a resonator on AWD cars; the FWD resonator was enlarged. Revised suspension tuning on Sport smoothed the ride. Compass buyers were 51% female, with a median age of 39, according to Automotive News.
The upgrades continued with the 2010 Jeep Compass, which gained active head restraints, optional remote start, and automatic climate control on the Limited. Adding a 2.0 liter engine raised entry-level gas mileage. The Canadian North Plus added heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and speed control to the North Edition.
The 2009-10 changes, being under the skin and inside the cabin, weren’t visible from outside; so Jeep, now under Fiat control, changed the outer appearance, while upgrading the interior again.
Jeep upgraded the steering and suspension, and made the Freedom Drive II package more serious: the ride height was raised by one inch, and the bundle included a full size spare, skid plates, tow hooks, and a manual seat adjuster. Now, the Compass could finally earn Trail Rated status — it showed up on Press Day at the Chelsea Proving Grounds’ off-road course.
These changes clearly changed demand for the Compass, which scored its best-ever sales and, aside from a drop back in 2012, would keep its upward momentum.
Interior upgrades included a steering wheel with audio and phone controls, standard cruise, and control backlighting; air conditioning became standard, along with power windows and locks, power mirrors, fog lamps, body-color spoiler, and LED tail-lights.
The Compass gained hill start assist with the manual transmission; the brakes would stay on for a few seconds, until the clutch engaged, to prevent rollbacks on hills. Other changes included a new hood, front fenders, fascias, headlamps, grille, projector fog lamps, brightwork, and roof rails.
The 2-liter pushed out 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque to the Chrysler-engineered T355 manual transaxle; the 2.4 was unchanged. Towing capacity rose to 2,000 pounds, aided by higher spring and damping rates, added rebound springs, and a heavier duty rear sway bar on all models.
With a new generation still being developed, Jeep invested further into the Compass, addressing the biggest complaint of many customers and potential buyers: the CVT.
The company put a six-speed Hyundai automatic into the 2014 Jeep Compass, using the Magna Dynamax all wheel drive system for “Freedom Drive I.” The 6F24 automatic had a 5.46 gear spread, with a 4.21:1 first gear and 0.77:1 top gear (see all gear ratios on Dart-Mouth). The transmission was a “fill-for-life” design.
Trail Rated models had to stick with the CVT.
Other changes were an optional backup camera, plated upper grille trim and colored-silver grille texture on Latitude and Limited, a black inner bezel in the headlamps (with projector halogens on Limited), “smoked” inner bezels on tail-lights, and a plated chrome insert on the tailgate.
Inside, saddle brown perforated leather seats were optional on Limited, while Latitude got a new mesh-and-vinyl seat; regardless, buyers got a refaced gauge cluster and satin chrome finishes.
In 2015, Jeep added a “blacked out” theme to the Altitude, and created a new “High Altitude” with Freedom Drive I, leather, power sunroof, power six-way driver seat, and 17-inch wheels. A dome light finally replaced the removable flashlight.
For 2016, the models were Sport, Sport SE, and Latitude. 2017, the final and rather brief year, saw some changes to the packages, and no more Sport SE. See the second generation 2017 Jeep Compass.
The constant redesigns under Cerberus and Fiat had borne fruit: sales shot up in 2011, and kept rising. Ironically, both the Compass and Patriot had their best year of U.S. sales in 2016 — their final year.
All first-generation Jeep Compasses were made in Belvidere, Illinois.
The Jeep Compass Rallye concept car debuted at the same time as the Jeep Rescue; it was styled more like the Liberty, and was intended to have a rally-car image, that was, fast dirt off-roading rather than slow rock-climbing and water-traversing.
The Compass styling was intended to look athletic and sleek, so that while it shared the same basic platform as the Patriot, it did look like a completely different chassis. Like the Patriot, it had electronic four wheel drive and off-road components.
2007 Jeep Compass review • 2014 Compass review/test drive • 2013 Compass off-road2012 review • 2008 Jeep Patriot FWD off-road
You can see some similarities in the redesign...
You can see some similarities in the redesign...
CVT details • 2005 Jeep concept ride-and-drive
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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