Jeep wants this Compass to be a small SUV competitor, but I have a hard time seeing it as much more than a Dodge Caliber compact car. It may ride a little taller, drive all four wheels, and offer high-end features like navigation, but there’s not much utility here. And as the Compass combines unparalleled levels of ho-hum and ugly, it is certifiable insanity that Jeep would build even one of these cars at a price of $30,130.
The Compass drives reasonably well, but there’s not much to love here. In an attempt to infuse some Jeep feeling into a car platform, you sit tall and fairly upright. Massive A-pillars obstruct your forward view and visually add to the mass of the vehicle. With an intrusive center console, a tall bump in the floor pan, and large plastic cupholders right where your feet belong, the rear seat’s middle section is unusable except as a place for a child seat. The continuously variable transmission is below the standard that Nissan has established-somehow, it manages to occasionally elicit a small clunk like it’s swapping cogs.
I was also offended by the fixed-and-flappy mast antenna mounted on the front fender. You can buy cars for $13,000 that don’t have a steel antenna waving in the wind.
If I had thirty grand to put down on an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a hatch, I’d be looking at an Audi A3; a Subaru Impreza, Outback, or Forester; or one of the many other small sport utilities that make much better use of space. For Jeep, this Compass certainly points in the wrong direction.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I cannot disagree with a single point that my colleague Eric Tingwall has made. We all know that the Compass was one of the least competitive efforts by Chrysler Corporation when it was still owned by the Germans, and time has only accentuated its many weaknesses, foremost among them the ridiculous asking price. I do suspect, though, that no one really pays full asking price for a Compass. But I wouldn’t want one of these for even $20K, let alone the as-tested price of $30K of this example.
Do I have anything good to say? Yes. The Compass performed well in our fresh snowfall this morning, but that’s hardly an achievement; Jeep has been doing four-wheel drive for decades. One other thing: I do like the illuminated cup holders, and the navigation package is a bargain at $1200.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
When they were launched several years ago, Chrysler’s current bevy of mediocre small cars (Jeep Compass and Patriot; Dodge Caliber; Chrysler Sebring/Dodge Avenger) made me feel ashamed to be a self-proclaimed Mopar man. Unfortunately, I can’t argue with any of the points made by Tingwall and DeMatio. Still, after driving this 2010 Compass, I at least was relieved to see that Chrysler has drastically improved the vehicle’s interior, an update that took effect for the ’09 model year. Sure, the cabin remains far from class leading, and there are still a lot of hard plastics, but their quality has been substantially improved. Also, there are far fewer sharp plastic edges, which were everywhere in the earlier interiors.
The Compass debuted for the 2007 model year, when its base price was a hair less than $16,000. Imagine my surprise when I saw the $30,130 price tag of our current test vehicle. $30,130! As my colleagues noted, there are countless better choices for that kind of dough. Choices that offer better ride and handling, acceleration, and fuel economy, not to mention more attractive styling and a back seat that doesn’t require a Tokyo subway pusher to help you squeeze through the tight door openings.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I’m not offended by the idea of a unibody Jeep that can’t crawl its way down the Rubicon Trail, but I’m a little offended to see the Compass pitched as a compact SUV/crossover. Drive this back-to-back with its Dodge Caliber cousin, and it’s really hard to sense a difference.
I wasn’t blown away by the buzzy I-4 or the CVT (which, although also supplied by JATCO, feels less sophisticated than those used in Nissans), but I’m most disappointed with the reworked interior, especially since I saw the wonders worked with the Ram cabins. Sure, the chrome trim may class things up slightly, but the plastics have little, if any, give. I was also annoyed by the persistent rattle that came from the rear hatch’s trim panel striking the sheetmetal stamping.
Newer offerings, like the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox and Hyundai Tucson, offer more space, similar features, and a better value proposition. A similarly equipped 2010 Tuscon Limited comes in just under the $30,000 mark, while an all-wheel-drive Equinox 1LT with comparable content is only an extra $900 over this Compass.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
It’s quite telling that on a day when Ann Arbor was being blanketed with snow, the Compass slipped all the way down to this humble writer. Put a Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, or any other real Jeep on the car board when the white stuff is falling, and I guarantee that an editor with a higher position on the masthead snatches the keys.
In any event, the Compass was as competent in the snow as any cute-ute with all-wheel drive. In most other respects, however, it falls rather short. Like everyone else, I can’t fathom paying $30,000 for such a cheap interior and unrefined powertrain when Honda, Toyota, and Chevy have much fresher offerings. The only way this vehicle makes sense is as a very scarcely equipped and heavily discounted bargain.
It wouldn’t take much to make the Compass more competitive – better dash materials, more insulation, and possibly a conventional automatic transmission would go a long way – but for the sake of the Jeep brand, I hope it simply disappears.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
I was expecting so little when I climbed into the Jeep Compass that I was actually happy to find that it had heated seats, navigation, and satellite radio – it was a prime example of the soft bigotry of low expectations. (At the time, I wasn’t aware of the Compass’s $30,000 price tag. For that amount of money, the aforementioned amenities are a must.)
It would just be piling on to add to the litany of complaints above, but suffice it to say that the Compass has always been sort of the odd man out in Jeep’s lineup. It doesn’t have the off-road ability of Jeep’s other products, and it doesn’t have the refinement or performance of its crossover competitors from Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Chevy, and even Hyundai.
Reports of the Compass’s death were apparently premature, as Chrysler says that the Compass isn’t going away anytime in the near future. In light of the fact that 2009 sales were down 54 percent, we can only say: Are you sure about that?
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
My colleagues have already pointed out the ample disappointments that make up a Jeep Compass so I won’t rant about how offensive this vehicle is wearing a Jeep badge.
Let me echo Joe DeMatio’s comment about the navigation system. We recently paid $2050 for a replacement navigation unit in our Dodge Ram and an identical unit in the Compass is only a $1200 upgrade. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is the best $1200 anyone could spend on a Compass. I suppose it’s a bit ironic to equip a Compass with navigation, but the experience would be pretty dismal without it.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2010 Jeep Compass Limited 4×4
Base price (with destination): $25,765
Price as tested: $30,130
Electronic stability control
Active head restraints
Power, heated, folding mirrors
Auto dimming rear-view mirror
Heated front seats
Leather wrapped steering wheel
Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls
Sirius satellite radio
6-CD/DVD/MP3 radio with audio jack input
Tilt steering column
18-inch aluminum wheels
Options on this vehicle:
Deep water blue pearl coat – $225
Sun and sound group – $1295
– Power sunroof
– Boston acoustics with 9 speakers
Security and convenience group – $545
– Remote start system
– Security alarm
– Daytime running lights
Continuously variable transmission – $1100
Media center 730N CD/DVD/HDD/Nav radio – $1200
– 6.5-inch touch screen
– 30GB hard drive with 4250 song capacity
– GPS navigation
– Uconnect phone with voice command
Key options not on vehicle:
Trailer tow prep group – $250
21 / 24 / 22 mpg
Size: 2.4L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 172 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 165 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Weight: 3411 lb
18 x 7-inch aluminum wheels
P215/55R18 Firestone Firehawk GTA all-season tires