One final tech feature that we like is the integration of a removable flashlight into the cargo area's interior light: perfect for searching the cooler for another can before the night game begins. The 2007 Jeep Compass has an exterior design that combines sporty and rugged elements. Jeep's distinctive seven-slot grille is framed by color-coded front fenders housing circular fog lamps, which along with a front air dam give the car a rally-type character. As-standard 18-inch alloy wheels and strips of faux brushed metal (beneath the front grille, below the doors on each side, and across the back) also serve to give the Compass a look that is much sportier than any other Jeep to date. Chrome-clad 18-inch wheels are available as an $825 option for those wishing to add some bling. Flat-topped flared fenders and a high ground clearance make the Compass look like it is ready for the trials of the trail.
However, all this is little more than cosmetic, as the Compass is a car that feels neither sporty nor rugged from behind the wheel. DaimlerChrysler's 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter World engine is the only option available for the Compass in both its Sport and Limited incarnations, and the car feels conspicuously underpowered, especially when fully laden.
One reason our tester delivered such a lackluster ride may be its continuously variable transmission (CVT)--a sizable $1,150 addition to the sticker price. While this advanced technology (which relies on infinitely variable ratios rather than discrete gears) is great for fuel efficiency and ride smoothness, the effect in the Compass is a very sedate ride, with the driver getting little direct control over engine inputs. The CVT option on the Compass Limited comes with an ice cream cone-shaped Autostick, which gives some drive flexibility through adjusting the CVT ratio either up or down; these pseudo shifts are far less responsive than with a manual--or even manumatic--stick. For those wanting to avoid the CVT and save money, a lower-tech 5-speed manual transmission comes standard on the Compass.
The one feature that gives the Compass a chance at claiming some off-road credibility is its integration of Jeep's Freedom Drive I four-wheel drive system, which responds to wheel slippage by sending torque to the wheels that have the most traction. In normal drive mode, the system works automatically to divide power input according to where it's most needed, and for more challenging environments, the system includes a lockable central coupling--activated by a T-shaped lever in the central console--to ensure that torque is distributed to all four wheels. The Compass also comes with an impressive suspension configuration comprising independent MacPherson struts on all four wheels as well as multilink rear suspension.
Nevertheless, in our experience driving the Compass on some of San Francisco's rougher streets, we found it a jarring ride with minimal damping over potholes. Our advice is to crank the bass up and keep this urban cruiser on the asphalt. If you do, you can expect to get a creditable EPA-rated 23mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. Passive safety is the one area in which the 2007 Jeep Compass stands out from its competitors. In addition to multistage front airbags, the Compass offers standard side-curtain airbags for both front and rear seats (optional on the 2006 Rav4 Sport, a crossover competitor), and three-point seat belts for all five passengers. Supplemental front seat side airbags are available for an additional $250.
The Compass comes with an electronic stability program and traction control to moderate braking and throttle inputs when the car detects a loss of control. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes and electronic roll mitigation also come standard. The NHTSA gives the Compass four stars for frontal impact ratings and five stars for side impact: it is not yet rated for rollover safety.
The 2007 Jeep Compass Limited comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic limited warranty, which includes limited towing assistance.