Here's yet another crossover set to do battle this fall with long-established compact cute-utes such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape, among others. Jeep's Compass is the brand's attempt to capitalize on this growing segment and to introduce the notion of a more carlike Jeep to the Rubicon-tested lineup.

The addition of the Compass can't come too soon for Jeep, which figures that current compact crossover volumes of 300,000 units for the calendar year 2004 will double or triple during the Compass' life cycle.

The Compass shares its platform with the Dodge Caliber, the upcoming replacement for the compact Neon that appeared in concept form last year at Geneva, and a more traditional "two-box" Patriot concept that appeared with a Compass concept at Frankfurt last fall. The Patriot appears a traditional take on the "trail-rated" Jeep concept. The Dodge is a five-door hatchback, while the Compass attempts to incorporate more Jeep-like styling cues -- at least until you get to the rear hatch, er, liftgate. The Jeep Liberty, to put the Compass in quick perspective, is about five inches longer and 800 pounds heavier.

"The Jeep Compass is an all-new design statement for Jeep," says Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President - Design. Still, the front is clearly Jeep with the traditional seven-slot grille, round headlamps and trapezoidal wheel wells. It's the profile and rear views that depart from traditionally styled Jeep vehicles. It's really the wells and the 17-inch aluminum wheels (optional 18-inch aluminum or chrome-clad wheels) that set it off from the Dodge. Look and take your choice.

An urban ute, Rubicon-free

Underneath the Compass has the requisite hardware to compete successfully with other soft-roaders. The standard engine is a 172-horsepower version of the 2.4-liter four-cylinder built in Michigan at GEMA, a tri-part venture with Mitsubishi Motors Corp and Hyundai Motor Company. Variable timing for both the intake and exhaust valves improves power and fuel economy, and coupled with a balance shaft, should make the engine smoother and quieter than simpler four-cylinders. Standard is a five-speed transaxle with an optional continuously variable transaxle that, in theory, improves fuel economy by five percent. The CVT itself has an "Autostick" option that allows for manual control of a simulated six-speed. A 2.0-liter turbo diesel engine will be available for markets outside North America.

An optional full-time 4x4 system provides the requisite sport-utility talking points. The four-wheel drive "Lock" mode is recommended for deep snow, and other low-traction surfaces. Both full-time and "Lock" modes include many standard features: Brake Traction Control, driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation and anti-lock brakes with rough-road detection. There is off-road ability: the Compass has 8 inches of ground clearance, a 21.1-degree approach angle, 32-degree departure angle and a 21-degree breakover angle. The tire offerings are all-season touring or all-season performance tires; 17-inch all-terrain tires are optional.

Standard equipment includes side-curtain airbags, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, a fold-flat vinyl load floor, an AM/FM CD radio with an auxiliary audio input jack, cloth seats, tilt steering wheel, dome and cargo lights, floor mats and a center console sliding armrest that moves forward three inches to accommodate shorter drivers. The armrest lid features a flip pocket for storing a cell phone or an MP3 player.

And of course there are options: seat-mounted side airbags, heated cloth or leather seats, AM/FM radio with six-disc CD player and MP3 CD play capability, flexible 60/40 split-fold rear seats, SIRIUS satellite radio, air conditioning ad so on. A nine-speaker Boston Acoustics premium sound system has two articulating speakers packaged in the liftgate. When the liftgate is open, the speakers can swing down from the trim panel to face rearward for tailgating and other activities.

Production of the 2007 Jeep Compass begins in the second quarter of 2006 at the newly refurbished Belvidere ( Ill. ) Assembly Plant.

2007 Jeep Compass

Base price: $20,000 (est.)

Engine: 2.4-liter in-line four, 172 hp; 2.0-liter turbodiesel outside North America

Transmission: Five-speed manual or continuously variable transaxle, front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive

Length x width x height: 173.4 x 69.3 x 63.3 inches

Wheelbase: 103.7 inches

Curb weight: 3089 lb base (est.) front-wheel drive; 3351 lb. (est.) Limited four-wheel drive

Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): N/A

Safety equipment: Dual front and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control

Major standard equipment: AM/FM/CD player; tilt steering wheel; 17-inch aluminum wheels and touring tires

Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own — we do not accept sponsored editorial.

Share This Photo X