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First Drive: 2012 Jeep Compass

Kamil Kaluski November 15, 2011 First Impressions, Jeep Reviews 31 Comments

One is not like the other

This is the third, and last, installment of quick drives of some 2012 Jeeps. The first was the Wrangler, followed by the Grand Cherokee, and now the Compass. We will also have extended review of the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon as that vehicle has generated a lot of interest. After that, no more Jeeps!

I did not want to drive the Compass. I just did not think I would have anything good to say about it, but the nice Jeep spokesperson insisted that I drive it, so I did. My first impression was similar to my first impression of the 2011 Chrysler 200 I drove some time ago – Chrysler took an existing vehicle and did their best to modernize it without spending the time and money to develop a completely new vehicle. It’s a smart move as it buys them time to develop an all-new product while having something new in the showrooms.

Attaching the handsome front-end of the Grand Cherokee onto the Compass is a brilliant marketing move, which alone will increase sales. The interior been equally upgraded. It’s nothing revolutionary and still has a few quirks, such as a small horizontal compartment under the shifter and seats which don’t offer much support. Also, the Compass is now “Trail-Rated”, which will give anyone with 33” M/Ts and Detroit Locker a good laugh. Jeep explained the trail-rating allows the Compass to ford 19” of water and climb at an increased angle, but to its buyers it will be a feeling of extra assurance when the weatherman calls for flurries.

The Compass, not to be confused with the Patriot, went over pothole-ridden streets very smoothly, absorbing road irregularities very well, much better than the GMC Terrain for instance. Acceleration from the 2.4-liter 172hp engine was also smooth, predicable. Unfortunatly, even with the new front-end, the exterior styling won’t win any “____ of the Year” awards. Jeep did their best with this updated vehicle, finally bringing it to the industry level, albeit it is the avarage level. Having said that, I don’t think Honda executives will lose any sleep over this vehicle stealing sales from the CR-V.

  • SSurfer321

    gone is the pedestrian friendly front bumper, thank goodness. The interior still looks like an abyss though.

  • jeepjeff

    If it were setup like the Lada Niva from the other week, I wouldn't make fun of them.

    Note to any Chrysler executives/employees reading this: What I mean is: No FWD version, a real AWD system with three diffs. It should be symmetric. The center diff should be lockable on the base model, and you should at least be able to upgrade the rear to an LSD. A trim level with a diesel would be highly desirable. Seriously, most Jeep guys would stop making fun of them.

    Yeah, yeah, it would cost too much. Just keep making the two door Wrangler.

  • facelvega

    I think the compass looks great, as long as you stay tightly parked so that nobody can see the sides or rear.

  • pj134

    They could drop back to solid axles all around and that could save them a few bucks.

  • pj134

    The fit and finish on the hood is, well, it's shit.

    So there is that.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Yay, more parts bin cars! 😀

    You know it's a great car when the bet thing you can call it is a "great marketing move."

    To their credit though… it is…

  • Scandinavian Flick

    Yay, more parts bin cars! 😀

    You know it's a great car when the best thing you can call it is a "great marketing move."

    To their credit though… it is…

  • P161911

    Isn't the CompASS based on the Caliber platform? Does it get the CVT too? If nothing else it should last a long time.

  • facelvega

    It's no fair to look closely at mopar products. It's like forcing the slow kid in class to read his essay out loud for everybody.

  • jimmyd

    Dude, it can forge 19 inches of water?! I didn't even know water could be forged!

    Oh, ford. Nevermind, not all that impressive.

  • IronBallsMcG

    Yay! Unlimited Rubicon! Want, want, want!

  • fodder650

    Is the small horizontal compartment under the shifter the same as the one I have in my Mazda5? Is it for holding a cellphone?

  • Can't be. The cell phone is to be held against the driver's head at all times. That's why most humans have a right arm for.

  • pj134

    They're both Jeep Calibers.

  • pj134

    … but I like MOPAR…

  • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

    Where's the transfer case lever?!

    Oh, wait, not a real Jeep.

    Moving on….

  • dukeisduke

    It just doesn't look right without some hip-hop bobbleheads driving it.

    The profile and the greenhouse just look goofy. What was Chrysler thinking when they inflicted this upon us? The Patriot is inoffensive, but this is a joke.

  • rpdred6

    compared to the old Compass, this one is much much better, though it still needs to be refined

  • P161911

    Really not at all. The 275/70R17 s on my 2WD Silverado WT have a OD of 32", so 19" of water would be 3" over the centerline of a truck tire. The CompASS has 215/60/R17s with a 27" OD, so it would be 5.5" of water over the tire centerline. I'll be impressed when at least the tires are underwater.

  • Oops. Thanks.

  • It would just slide out under hard acceleration.

    Oh… hmm, I guess it's a cell phone holder after all.

  • jeepjeff

    I'm still thinking it needs to be less refined.

  • fodder650

    It also has the side benefit of amplifying the cell phone speaker. So if you don't have a line in then you can just put the volume up and listen to it in the cell phone holder. Note this also works with cup holders. Give it a try.

  • Yea, my car does but it has a name…. GreenTeeth or something like that. 😛

  • pj134

    Yeah, BOF, solid axles and a diesel to start.

  • pj134

    Green Sleeves?

  • Scandinavian Flick

    I think the biggest problem with this is the Jeep branding. If it was just marketed as a Dodge or Chrysler, would anyone care? Hell, they might even sell more, since this isn't typically what people walk into a Jeep dealership for. Instead it just cheapens a lineup that is already getting watered down as of late.

    So… what is its purpose?

  • jeepjeff

    I think they could get away with keeping the unitbody, but it definitely needs more solid axle and torque.

  • danleym

    Good point. Ditch the Jeep grill, toss on a Dodge one, and it's a good looking car. I think it looks a lot better than most of it's direct competitors. It just doesn't deserve the Jeep name.

  • Cherokee Owner

    Purpose #1: Fuel economy. At least, that's why they're keeping it around until the Compass/Patriot get killed off (hopefully) next year and get replaced by a new Fiat-derived platform.

    Purpose #2: To get women into Jeep showrooms. The way I read it back when it was introduced, the Patriot was introduced for men and the Compass was for women. It was supposed to be their cute 'ute for housewives on a budget. I know for a fact they failed: I see more women driving base-model Wranglers than I see them driving Compasses here in Colorado.

  • Uncle_Bo

    Three things that are great about the Compass (and Patriot, too) as compared to other small SUV's, not hard core Jeeps or anything like that:

    1. The interior feels much larger than it is. The vehicle itself is not that big, but the design of the interior feels quite roomy, unlike most other small SUV's.

    2. The height adjustable drivers seat in the Latitude model (seen above) makes driving very comfortable for taller drivers. I'm 6-4 and the Compass/Patriot are some of my fave small SUV's because of this feature. I show it to every customer.

    3. The HVAC system blows like a hurricane. The sheer amount of high volume air coming out of the vents is amazing. When its hot and humid out, the Compass AC system is great.

    The redesign & upgrade has really boosted sales for the Compass. The Patriot still outsells the Compass but the split is a little more close. I think if more people see the new Compass on the road, they'll buy them. Having said that, I don't think the car has a long lifespan ahead. I'm sure Sergio will bring over some Fiat thing and rebrand it as a Compass.