Review: (2007) Jeep Compass Take Two

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
review 2007 jeep compass take two

Walking up to the Jeep dealership, I nearly bumped into the Compass, idling in the gloom. Before I could assimilate its sheetmetal’s unintentional humor, Mike emerged from the fishbowl. His leather coat and tie were almost as dour as his face. My hand disappeared in his meaty paw as he greeted me with two words: “Take it.” My arched eyebrow worked its usual magic. “No really,” Mike insisted. “It’s got half a tank of gas. Take it for a long drive.” I waited for “and never come back.” No such luck. I mean, it would be lucky wouldn’t it? A free vehicle? I’d never driven a Compass. How bad could it be?

The Compass looks a fright. I have no idea of the designer’s remit. I assume it was something along the lines of “shrink a Cherokee, clad it like a Pontiac (clad it like it’s hot, clad it like its hot) and throw in some Audi Quattro cues. And cover up that rear window with some duct tape until we can call the supplier.” The result puts the patsy in pastiche.

The Compass’ interior is brought to you by ChryCo’s one-size-fits-all parts bin, assembled by workers who couldn’t care less if they were paid not to (as if). That said, I’m a big fan of minimalism– even it owes its existence to the kind of corporate cost-cutting that would fill Santa’s sack with coal. To my mind a Jeep– especially a cheap Jeep– has no business being fussy. Unfortunately, the design’s simplicity is assembled using the latest advances in paper-mâché plastics. The fake rivets on the fake aluminum piece on top of the almost dash-mounted autobox knob tells you all you need to know about that.

Once underway, the Compass’ central locking system emits an almighty KA-CHUNK. Having almost ripped off the graunching door on the way in (29k on the odometer), it was a reassuringly solid sound– that quickly revealed itself as something more sinister. I was trapped inside a cacophony of cheap. Incessant tire roar eliminated any idea that Jeep had traded off-road expertise for refinement. Turning onto a country road, the bouncing and jouncing suspension issued a series of muffled reports that sounded like a distant Civil War reenactment, and felt like a drug store shiatsu pad.

Our William C. Montgomery complained that the Compass’ 2.4-liter 172hp four-cylinder “world engine” didn’t have enough grunt to motivate the porky Jeeplet. My CVT-equipped model seemed fast enough for government work. If you use it to deliver mail in a gated suburb, you’re good to go. Despite the salesman’s implications, I felt no compulsion whatsoever to drive the Compass like I stole it. As the French would say (after a Gallic shrug) ca marche. And driving the Compass slowly brings you closer to optimal comfort (i.e. parked). If the Compass was a fuel-efficient vehicle, I’d cut it some slack. Jeep claims the non-Trail Rated four-seater’s 23/27 EPA numbers make it best in class. What class would that be? Detention?

Buying a Jeep for on-road handling is like downloading porn to savor the cinematography. That said, the Compass doesn’t roll excessively through the corners. If you’re pushing the vehicle beyond its safe, predictable limits, one way or another, you’re headed to the emergency room. On the other hand, the Compass’ four-wheel disc brakes are the exact opposite of my brother’s first wife: aggressive – passive. After a ferocious initial bite, they’re worryingly squidgy and vague. If a car is only as good as its brakes, d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

OK, off-road. Are you kidding? No? Setting aside Mike’s formidable size and the lingering scent of eau de desperation… no problem. Up, down and around. Bit of mud, some rocks. Fine. Obviously, we’re not talking about “real” off-roading. Just messing around in some fields and dirt tracks like you would with an old Toyota Corolla. Flooring it when you’re in danger of bogging down. Laughing like Hell if you are.

And here’s where fans of the Jeep brand get their rock-crawling knickers in a twist. A “real” Jeep is supposed to leap tall boundings in a single build. Goldly Bo where no Derrick has gone before. Brand zealot that I am, I couldn’t agree more. But I can agree less. The real problem with the Compass: it’s a thoroughly miserable car: noisy, slow, uncomfortable, inefficient and cheaply made, with A pillars large enough to support the colossus of roads.

I have no idea why anyone would choose a Compass over any number of similarly-priced new or used cars, SUVs or CUVs. Anyone doesn’t. When faced with a Compass, even Jeep snobs don”t lose their bearings. In fact, you’d have to have lost your marbles to buy one.

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  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Dec 30, 2008

    I have a better name for this pile. The Jeep Mistake!

  • Akear Akear on Dec 30, 2008

    This would actually be a decent looking vehicle if they got rid of those bumper flairs below the front headlights. Those flairs actually make the Compass look less muscular. Sometimes in car design it only takes a few misguided lines to throw the overall look of a vehicle off.

  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”
  • Random1 Pretty excited about this update, I didn't see it available in mine this morning, but any day now... I think only Apple maps will be on the center display, and not Waze yet, but I assume that'll come soon enough. As to the unnecessary Tesla comment above : I'll take the build quality, the looks, and generally normal items that all cars should have over the M3 any day of the week.
  • Jonathan H. The ES production is going back to Japan so it's safe to assume its assembly building will be utilized for the new EV. Seems like a good fit for what will probably be fairly low volume compared to the Camry/Rav4 assembly lines.