These days, it’s nearly impossible to travel across Southeastern Michigan without tripping over a Fiat-based Chrysler test mule. Sure enough, we managed to stumble across a very early test mule for what will ultimately replace the Jeep Compass and Patriot CUVs.
That platform, which also underpins the 2013 Dodge Dart, is a longer, wider variant of Fiat’s C-EVO platform, which is used in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta. As such, it’s not surprising to see this early test mule use a Giulietta body that has obviously been both widened and lengthened to fit. As is always the case with engineering mules like this, expect the finished product to share no sheetmetal with the mule seen here.
We’ve seen similar bodies used on both Chrysler 100 and 2013 Jeep Liberty mules, but this particular tester does without the 100’s Chrysler-like grille insert, and the Liberty mule’s substantial ride height.
That change in ground clearance may indicate how Jeep plans on differentiating two models spawned from the same platform. Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has repeatedly pledged that the new 2013 Liberty will be “a trail-rated, full-blooded Jeep.” The Compass/Patriot replacement could then be more car-like, catering to shoppers more concerned with traveling to the mall than conquering Moab.
Both model lines could still share a number of powertrain options. Although we’ve heard rumors that the CUSW platform could support a downsized, 3.2-liter version of Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6, expect these compact utilities to instead make use of a wide array of four-cylinder options, including the revised Tigershark 2.4-liter I-4, along with Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4-liter Multiair I-4. A ZF-licensed nine-speed automatic has already been confirmed for the Liberty, and it’s a safe bet that it will also appear in the Compass/Patriot successor.
The two will not share either production timing or manufacturing facilities. The Liberty will be built in Toledo, Ohio, starting in the third quarter of 2013. The 2014 Compass/Patriot, however, won’t enter full production until late 2014, and will be built alongside the Dodge Dart in Belvedere, Illinois.