- Fuel efficiency compared to SUVs
- Street-friendly all-wheel drive
- Cheap-feeling cabin materials
- Ill-suited CVT automatic
- Noisy, buzzy interior
The Jeep Compass steers the brand toward a new on-road audience but falls short, pleasing neither off-roaders nor drivers who never hit the trails.
The 2009 Jeep Compass is closely related to the Dodge Caliber, along with the boxier Jeep Patriot, and it has essentially the same instrument panel as the Patriot. The 2009 Jeep Compass wears a traditional Jeep face, but this SUV (or car) could be from any automaker, and it lacks a strong identity.
For 2009 Chrysler has tried to spruce up the Compass, already plenty drab inside. The Jeep Compass now features a redesigned instrument panel with a smoother look and chrome accents brightening new, round vents, shift bezel, door spears, and cluster rings. A new center console has a split lid for added storage space, while new door trim panels feature padded armrests. A new engine compartment and interior floor insulation reduce noise, while revised suspension tuning helps provide a smoother, more comfortable ride.
TheCarConnection.com’s editors note that the Compass is not particularly quick with the larger 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine, compared to the smaller 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower—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.
The smaller 2.0-liter Compass is also available with an optional CVT. The CVT, however, tends to exacerbate the unrefined nature of Chrysler's small four-cylinder engines. Jeep does offer an AutoStick shifting function that makes the gearbox shift more like a traditional fixed-gear transmission.
Comfort is more than acceptable for this size vehicle, with plenty of room for four and even five in a pinch. The roof is tall, and this helps enhance the spacious feeling, though problems do exist inside the cabin of the 2009 Jeep Compass. 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.
Hard-core off-roaders will want to steer clear of the Compass, but 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.
Performance in most government crash tests was good. Standard safety features on the 2009 Jeep Compass include: 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. Front-seat-mounted side airbags are optional.
The very extensive options list on the Compass includes Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius Satellite Radio, 18-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, a moonroof, and an upgrade audio system with six-disc CD changer.