KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Timing may not be everything, but it certainly counts for something. Consumers have shown a definite penchant for crossover utility vehicles recently, so Jeep's decision last year to field not one but two new crossovers may prove exceptionally wise. Of the two, the Jeep Compass is designed for buyers who seek on-road comfort and convenience with a dash of Jeep off-road heritage, while the Jeep Patriot, though based on the same vehicle platform, is a more traditional, off-road-capable Jeep with styling to match.
You'll Like This Car If...
The 2008 Jeep Compass is a Jeep for people who don't own one. A compass, that is. So we think you'll like the Compass if you're drawn to the Jeep brand but don't consider yourself a serious off-road enthusiast.
You May Not Like This Car If...
If your taste runs towards the SUV side of the sport utility-station wagon continuum, you may want to pass on the contemporary, car-like contours of the Compass in favor of something with a more conventional four-wheel-drive shape and more definite off-highway credentials.
What's Significant About This Car?
All models receive standard air conditioning, chrome lock knobs and a tire pressure monitoring system. The CVT2 automatic transmission is fitted with AutoStick manual-shift mode and the Limited trim now offers navigation.
One reason for the popularity of crossovers is that many people are discovering they can have the added traction of all-wheel drive wrapped in the comfort and roadability of a car, not a truck. Though it's offered in both front and all-wheel-drive models, Jeep expects many buyers to opt for all-wheel drive, especially in snow-belt states. Jeep's Freedom Drive I is a full-time, fully-automatic all-wheel drive system, requiring no input from the driver. On dry pavement, it channels up to 100 percent of available engine power through the front wheels, but it is continuously variable in response to driving conditions and, when needed, can direct as much as 50 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels. Drivers can also engage a 4WD lock mode, for better grip in deep snow, sand or mud.
Crossover styling runs the gamut from spruced-up wagons to shrunken SUVs. The 2008 Jeep Compass design hits a nice note, closer to the former than the latter. The body tells you that this is a car-based, street-oriented vehicle (not a truck-based off-roader). And there are just enough styling features (front end, trapezoidal wheel flares) to identify it as a Jeep.
As a breed, SUV's are not known for operating efficiency. Seen in this light, the compact Compass' fuel economy numbers look very respectable.
The contemporary interior of the 2008 Jeep Compass seats four to five adults. Six-footers fit easily up front, though they'll find legroom snug in back, especially if like-size folks are in front of them. All controls and switchgear are straightforward in design and easy to reach. The seats are cloth in the Sport and leather-trimmed in the Limited version. Plenty of on-board storage spots are available to stow water bottles, CDs and what-have-you. Split rear seatbacks (standard on Limited, optional on Sport) and a fold-flat front seat increase hauling options. Cargo capacity ranges from 22.7 to 53.6 cubic feet, depending upon how the seats are configured. Drivers must deal with rear quarter blind spots created by the wide rear pillars.
Jeep describes its designs as falling into two categories: Jeep Classic and Jeep Modern. Count the Compass as in the latter category, compact division. The 2008 Jeep Compass is close kin to the Dodge Caliber, and the two vehicles share the same basic shape, with a laid-back windshield and a curving roofline. Jeep's variation on the theme starts with a familiar face. The seven-slot grille, clamshell hood and round headlamps immediately mark the Compass as part of the Jeep clan. A high, beveled beltline and trapezoidal wheel openings add an updated take on traditional Jeep design. The wedge-shaped rear pillar, asymmetrical tail lamps and beefy bumper tie the package together in back. When you get right down to it, the Compass looks exactly like what it is -- a cross between a station wagon and a sport utility vehicle, made by Jeep.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2008 Jeep Compass is offered in Sport and Limited models; in both trim levels, front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optionally available. Notable among the Compass Sport's standard features are a handful of safety-related items, including side-curtain airbags, Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and Traction Control. Limited models add leather-trimmed heated front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel fitted with redundant controls for the sound system. Eighteen-inch aluminum wheels (in place of 17-inchers) are also standard on Limited.
Notable Optional Equipment
Cousin to Dodge's Caliber, the Compass shares many of the interesting interior options available in the Caliber. Among them: A flip-up holster built into the center armrest for an MP3 player or cell phone and, in back, a cargo bay ceiling light that doubles as a pop-out flashlight. Curiously, the over-the-glove-box cooler option offered on the Caliber is not offered on the Compass. The available Boston Acoustics premium sound system (nine speakers, 458 watts) includes a pair of speakers mounted on the lift gate that do dual duty; open the hatch and you can swing down the speakers to provide the soundtrack to your next tailgate party.
Under the Hood
The 2008 Jeep Compass is offered with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a choice of two transmissions; a five-speed manual or the optional Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT2) automatic. The 172-horsepower engine works well in the Compass platform and returns above-average gas mileage. The engine is a little loud at full throttle and, as with any small displacement engine, passing takes planning. With the manual transmission, steep grades may require downshifting to maintain speed. Driving the optional CVT2 takes some getting used to because it doesn't have the distinct shift points that our ears are conditioned to hearing.
2.4-liter in-line 4
172 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
165 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 (FWD, manual), 23/27 (FWD, automatic)
22/27 (4WD, manual), 21/24 (4WD, automatic)
The MSRP for the 2008 Jeep Compass Sport with front-wheel drive starts at about $17,000, while a four-wheel-drive version is about $1,700 more. To see what consumers are currently paying for Jeep Compass models in your area, we suggest you click on the Fair Purchase Prices link. In the ever-expanding compact crossover category, the Compass faces a significant amount of competition, some of it from within its own family. The Jeep Patriot has a lower starting price, while the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are two similar crossovers at about the same price. The upper end of the Compass price range coincides with the entry level of three established crossovers: Subaru Forrester, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. In terms of resale value, we don't expect the Compass to do quite as well as the leaders in the segment, but it does retain its value on par with the Korean-brand offerings.