- Capable of light off-roading
- Roomy interior
- Practical design
- Good visibility
- Buzzy engine
- Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
- Not really a traditional Jeep
- Interior appears cheap
The 2008 Jeep Compass tries to take the brand to a new on-road audience, but falls short of pleasing drivers who never hit the trails.
The Jeep Compass could help take the Jeep Brand in one of two directions. The Compass (introduced as a 2007 model) could expand Jeep's market share by selling to people who have no need to go off-road but still want a Jeep. On the other hand, the Compass could kill Jeep's special aura and dilute its heritage by straying far from what a Jeep should be, thereby ruining the brand's historical marketing appeal.
Only time will tell, but here's what's going on for 2008; the Jeep Compass is a compact crossover SUV that seats five. Various iterations of Sport and Limited models feature front- or all-wheel drive. While the 2008 Jeep Compass wears a traditional Jeep face, from the side or rear, the SUV could be from any automaker. Editors from TheCarConnection.com think this could be a problem for the Compass.
Inside the 2008 Jeep Compass, there are other problems. Simply, there are systemic issues with the plastic surfaces, which don't have a high-quality feel. Worse, there are several prominent areas where the edges show and are not well finished. On the other hand, comfort is more than acceptable for this size vehicle, with plenty of room for four and five in a pinch. The roof is tall, and this helps enhance the spacious feeling.
The 2008 Jeep Compass offers two engines: 2.0- and 2.4-liter four-cylinders. The smaller engine produces 158 horsepower and is the "price leader." Experts from TheCarConnection.com note that the Compass is not particularly quick with the larger 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine, so draw your own conclusions about the impact of 14 fewer horsepower and 24 fewer pound-feet of torque on acceleration. Additionally, there is no fuel economy gain for the smaller engine when the larger engine is equipped with the five-speed manual transmission.
In addition to the manual, there is also a CVT offered. (The CVT is the only transmission offered on the 2.0 liter.) The CVT tends to exacerbate the unrefined nature of Chrysler's small four-cylinder engines. For 2008, Jeep does offer an AutoStick shifting function that makes the gearbox shift more like a traditional fixed-gear transmission.
For Jeep, 2008 Compass models ride pretty well for a small vehicle. When the engine isn't working too hard, all is fairly quiet. But push it and things get louder. Surprisingly for a crossover, when you opt for the Freedom Drive I, the Compass can actually tackle light off-road situations. One editor from TheCarConnection.com drove on some West Coast sand dunes and quite enjoyed himself.
Side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection are all standard on the 2008 Jeep Compass. Front-seat mounted side airbags are optional. Performance in most government crash tests was good.
Options include 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a moonroof, and an upgrade audio system with six-disc CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Jeep also offers a close cousin to the Compass that is based on same underbody. It's called the Patriot and is decidedly more Jeep-like, with some models even earning Jeep's "trail-rated" badge certifying that it is ready for off-road driving. Apparently, "Jeepness" matters to buyers because the Patriot handily outsells the Compass.
The Tucson benefits from Hyundai's aggressive pricing-vs.-feature equation (low price with lots of features). A V-6 is available, but we find the styling somewhat awkward. The Tucson's excellent warranty may make you ignore anything you don't like about the styling.
It's easy to group the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 together, as they represent the best of the small crossover SUVs in several respects. The Honda is more carlike and delivers refinement in all areas where the 2008 Jeep Compass fails. Ditto for the RAV4, but in a vehicle with some off-road capabilities.
A new competitor to consider is the 2008 Nissan Rogue. The Rogue is similar to the 2008 Jeep Compass because the Nissan utilizes a four-cylinder engine and a CVT for its powertrain. This combination works better in the Rogue than in the Compass. The Rogue, while simple in its presentation, did not feel or look cheaply screwed together.