While the 2007 Jeep Compass shares a good deal of its parts and DNA with the 2007 Dodge Caliber, its distinctive front grille reminds you that it is a Jeep, even if some of the more rugged family traits are conspicuously lacking. Aside from the new Patriot, the Compass is the cheapest new car you can buy that comes with a Jeep badge (the base-level Sport version starts at less than $16K) and frankly, you get what you pay for.
Like the Caliber R/T, the Compass Limited is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder variable-valve timed engine, coupled to a continuously variable transmission, which comes as a $1,150 option. While we have to pay DaimlerChrysler some homage for the inclusion of CVT technology on these entry-level vehicles, the execution is not as great as the idea. Both the Compass and the Caliber are conspicuously underpowered--even in their largest-engine configurations--and, while it delivers smooth acceleration, the CVT transmission gives you the feeling that you are driving a lawnmower, an impression reinforced by the car's brittle suspensions and unresponsive steering.
Inside, our Compass Limited came with a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics premium sound system with subwoofer and two flip-down speakers. As we noted in our review of the Caliber, the presence of the tailgate speakers and the fact that the audio system is extremely bass-heavy suggests that the car is designed for a target market more at home with Beyonce than Bizet. Despite the $460 premium for the premium sound system, our tester was equipped with only a standard single-disc CD player, which didn't know what to do with either MP3- or WMA-encoded discs. One bonus of the standard stereo unit, however, is the presence of an auxiliary input jack, which is curiously not offered with the upgraded six-disc system. The aux-in enabled us to plug and play our iPod Nano while storing it in the purpose-made center-armrest-mounted fold-out cradle. This would be a good idea were it not for the fact that, when fully deployed, the cradle obstructs control of nearly everything to the right of the driver, including the shifter, the parking brake, and even the central cup holders.
There are some redeeming qualities, however: The Compass Limited offers some commendable comfort features as standard, including heated front leather seats, air conditioning, and an auxiliary 115-volt power outlet in the central console for powering electrical devices on the move. Overall, it all adds up to a competitively priced Jeep that was designed for the mall and the ball game parking lot: just don't take it anywhere near an off-road trail.