2007 Jeep Compass Photo
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2000 Ford Focus Sedan

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As sales of full-size SUVs continue to falter, and automakers are beginning to admit that what we’re seeing is a shift in the market rather than a knee-jerk reaction to higher gas prices, several brands that have previously skipped over compact, carlike SUVs are getting in the game.


One of them is Jeep, a brand that’s long been known for its tough and trucky SUVs. For decades it’s sold cushier models, such as the Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer, but they’ve still been far from carlike.


Enter the Compass. Essentially Jeep’s version of the new Dodge Caliber, the car-based Compass is the first Jeep in recent history to emphasize on-road performance over boulder-hopping off-road feats.


Already anticipating the cries of outrage from CJ-5 owners and Rubicon Trail devotees that the brand is yielding to the anti-SUV crowd or sissifying its image, Jeep officials pointed out that this isn’t an entirely new idea; some offerings from the brand’s history have strayed from the hardcore off-road emphasis — the prime example being the classic, city-friendly Willys Jeepster convertible of the postwar period.


Recognizing that Jeep needs to appeal to a wide range of customers while preserving the rough-and-ready image, DaimlerChrysler is vying for Jeep’s continued success by expanding and diversifying. The new strategy includes focusing Jeep’s models into two separate design directions: Classic and Modern. The Classic models include the boxy, rugged-looking Wrangler, Commander, and the upcoming Patriot, while the Modern models, which will follow a softer design theme, include the Grand Cherokee, Liberty , and the new Compass.

Reviewed by Bengt Halvorson
Deputy Editor, The Car Connection
$3,995 - $13,998
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