2008 Jeep Compass Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 1, 2008

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.

TheCarConnction.com’s team of car experts studied reviews from across the Web to put together this conclusive review of the 2008 Jeep Compass. Editors from TheCarConnection.com drove the Compass on- and off-road to add insight and firsthand experience to this review. This review also compares the 2008 Jeep to other vehicles in its class, to help you make a more informed shopping decision.

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.

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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.

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2008 Jeep Compass

Styling

The 2008 Jeep Compass has an uncharacteristic style that’s not pleasing to most reviewers; the interior is stark, but purposeful.

Stylistically, the 2008 Jeep Compass is a softer version of the Jeep Patriot on the outside, with less of the traditional boxy Jeep look, more rounded corners, and a carlike appearance. The CarConnection.com prefers the exterior styling of the Patriot to the 2008 Jeep Compass. Inside, the Compass has bargain-basement interior styling like its Patriot and Caliber cousins.

The Jeep Compass shares its architecture with the Dodge Caliber and the Jeep Patriot. Of the Jeep variants, Kelley Blue Book characterizes the Compass as more suited to the buyer looking for a more carlike small SUV and says the 2008 Jeep Compass "Looks exactly like what it is -- a cross between a station wagon and a sport utility vehicle, made by Jeep." The exterior style of the Jeep Compass has some elements shared with the entire 2008 Jeep line, including round headlights and the familiar slotted vertical grille. Most viewing angles will reveal uncharacteristically rounded corners and some bloated proportions that are "unusual" and "not rugged" looking, according to Edmunds, while "Jeep Modern" is the phrase chosen by Kelley Blue Book. Cars.com mentions that the aluminum trim pieces on the bumpers and doors help distinguish the Jeep Compass from the other small crossovers in the segment.

Moving to the interior of the car, Cars.com finds more metallic accents, with standard chrome accents added to the door locks, door handles, and radio knobs, which give a little pizzazz to the Compass. Jeep equips the Compass with a two-tone interior as well, which helps break up the monotony created by a monochrome interior. Regarding the interior styling, however, the vast quantities of hard plastic lead the editors of Edmunds to describe the cabin of the 2008 Jeep Compass as "less inviting" than its Japanese and Korean rivals, a sentiment shared by ConsumerGuide. Kelley Blue Book has nothing bad to say about the interior, simply referring to it as "contemporarily styled" and "straightforward" in design.

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2008 Jeep Compass

Performance

The 2008 Jeep Compass suffers from subpar powertrains, but compensates with decent road manners.

The Jeep Compass is designed as an affordable and efficient alternative to shoppers looking for a carlike drive in a small SUV. The 2008 Jeep Compass models offer only modest power but with a well-controlled ride.

There are two engines available on the 2008 Jeep Compass: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 174 hp. No V-6 is offered. Unfortunately, Edmunds describes even the larger engine as weak. ConsumerGuide only tests all-wheel-drive models, but even with the quicker five-speed manual transmission could merely manage a 0-60-mph time of 9.3 seconds. In fact, all the Jeep Compass models tested by ConsumerGuide score significantly below the peer averages on their rating scale for acceleration. Kelley Blue Book is less critical of the 2.4-liter, stating that the "172-horsepower engine works well in the Compass platform and returns above-average gas mileage" but admitting that "passing takes planning" due to the engine's small size.

Regarding transmissions, apparently the best way to extract performance from this 2008 Jeep is to buy the five-speed manual. ConsumerGuide notes slightly better performance from the manual transmission, but mentions one of their testers had a "ragged clutch action." Kelley Blue Book describes the optional CVT as an automatic that "Takes some getting used to" due to the transmission's ability to keep the engine at a full boil, without the distinct shift points of a traditional automatic transmission. Edmunds describes the optional CVT as noisy, and "Not one of the better applications of this technology."

Kelley Blue Book describes the optional 2008 Jeep Freedom Drive I, which is a full-time, fully automatic all-wheel-drive system that can distribute up to 50 percent of the engine's power to the rear wheels as conditions warrant. AutoWeek finds its locking differential superfluous in a street-oriented vehicle such as this, with the standard traction of the 4x4 sufficient for even deep snow. Although the 2008 Jeep Compass is not available in a Trail Rated version like the Patriot, this model offers a simple solution for those who just need additional traction as weather demands.

For fuel economy, Edmunds mentions the 2008 Jeep Compass might be a viable alternative for suburbanites willing trade power for fuel efficiency. ConsumerGuide rates the Jeep Compass models just about average for the class for fuel efficiency, with actual fuel use of regular-grade gas that ranges from 17.2 to 24.4 mpg. The EPA ratings for the Compass range from 21-23 mpg city, and 24-28 mpg highway, depending on engine and transmission configuration.

Although the engine and CVT are not impressive, things get better when it comes to the suspension and ride. Cars.com mentions the Compass and Patriot are Jeep's first models with four-wheel-independent suspensions. Edmunds describes the car-derived fully independent suspension as providing a smooth ride with "stable handling around corners." Ride quality is one area where ConsumerGuide rates the Compass highly, and even with the optional 18-inch wheels, they find the ride to be comfortable and stable. Although the Patriot is not sporty in feel, ConsumerGuide also finds the steering to be accurate and the brakes to have good feel. Car and Driver describes the new Compass from their initial testing in 2007 as "Bred for suburban streets...slaloms like a car," which is a notable achievement for a brand so devoted to off-road prowess.

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2008 Jeep Compass

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Jeep Compass has comfortable seats and sufficient space, but suffers from cheap interior materials and lackluster cargo space.

The 2008 Jeep Compass’ cheap interior and engine noise offset its decent passenger space and comfort.

Nearly all testers like the passenger accommodations of the Compass. This model offers plenty of room for four occupants, with five not being uncomfortable. Edmunds characterizes the interior of the Jeep Compass as spacious and comfortable. ConsumerGuide is another fan of the interior space offered by the Jeep Compass, describing the headroom and legroom of this 2008 Jeep as "adult-size." They also like the softness of the seating, faulting only the level of support offered by the flat seats. Cars.com mentions the standard cloth upholstery is stain-resistant.

Beyond the passenger accommodations, things get decidedly less rosy for the 2008 Jeep Compass. Edmunds is less complimentary regarding its cargo capacity, which is at the lower end of the spectrum for vehicles in this class at only 53.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. ConsumerGuide rates the Jeep Compass about average for cargo room, with the handy fold-flat seats and a removable floor liner for easy cleaning offsetting the marginal space with the seats up. Still, Kelley Blue Book is impressed with the abundance of storage options, stating, "Plenty of on-board storage spots are available to stow water bottles, CDs and what-have-you."

Regrettably for Jeep, the interior of the Compass does not have the same quality in its components. "Cut-rate" is an often-used term when describing the interior of this particular 2008 Jeep. Edmunds writes, "Cut-rate interior materials pose a significant liability." ConsumerGuide also describes the interior of the Jeep Compass as having a "cut-rate feel." In addition, Edmunds notes unfortunate "build quality issues" in their Compass test vehicles, with visible edges of poorly fitting interior pieces.

The interior noise of the Compass also undercuts any quality feel. Edmunds notes how loud the vehicle is with the optional CVT. Although ConsumerGuide points out some unrefined engine growl when accelerating, they describe the wind noise to be under control, and find the 2008 Jeep Compass to be quieter to the mechanically similar Dodge Caliber.

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2008 Jeep Compass

Safety

The 2008 Jeep Compass has good standard safety features and crash-test ratings, but poor driver visibility.

Although it is a reasonably safe vehicle, TheCarConnection.com scores the 2008 Jeep Compass slightly lower than the similar 2008 Jeep Patriot due to a lower crash-test rating for the front passenger.

The 2008 Jeep Compass received four of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on front impact protection for the driver and passenger as well as rollover resistance (both 2WD and 4WD). The Jeep Compass received five stars for side impact protection for both driver and rear passengers.

Although the Compass has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Dodge Caliber, which shares the Chrysler C-segment platform from which the Jeep Compass and Patriot has been derived, receives a "good" rating for the frontal offset crash test and a "marginal" rating for both the side impact and rear crash protection tests. It is likely that the Jeep Compass will have a similar IIHS rating, but this is not yet confirmed.

In addition to its decent crash-test ratings and rollover avoidance in this Jeep, 2008 models come with many standard safety features like ABS, front airbags, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Jeep also equips the Compass with stability control and full-length side curtain airbags, both of which Edmunds refers to as "important safety features." Kelley Blue Book says traction control is standard. Side airbags are an option on the Compass.

Some reviewers find the roof pillars or seats of the Compass block their view. Kelley Blue Book finds the rear view most obscured, saying, "Drivers must deal with rear quarter blind spots." ConsumerGuide notes more faults with visibility, adding, "Visibility to front corners and over-the-shoulder is impeded by thick roof pillars, and to the rear by tall headrests."

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2008 Jeep Compass

Features

The 2008 Jeep Compass has a broad range of up-to-date features, though many are added-cost options.

There are two models available on the Jeep Compass, a stripped-down Sport model, and a more upscale Limited that provides more standard and available equipment. The MSRP ranges from $16,795 to $22,575, depending on model and configuration.

Although standard equipment on this 2008 Jeep omits some of the features of its peers such as power windows, it does come with some unconventional items. Motor Trend likes the sporty 17-inch aluminum wheels, which are much more desirable than styled steel wheels or wheel covers that adorn some other base models. Although Edmunds describes the base Jeep Compass as pretty basic, they point to the MP3 player input jack as a nicety. Thankfully for this little Jeep, 2008 brings air conditioning as standard equipment to the Sport model as well.

There are many available options for both the Sport and Limited. Both trim levels can be outfitted with Bluetooth and upgraded audio, which feature Boston Acoustic speakers and a speaker bar that can swivel down for tailgate parties. More impressive to Edmunds is the Limited model, which includes leather upholstery and seat heaters. This trim level also offers an optional navigation system. Another notable option available in the Jeep Compass described by Kelley Blue Book is a flip-up holster built into the center armrest for an MP3 player or cell phone, which will be handy for all the iPod fans. Motor Trend describes this feature as "excellent" and says their editor's iPods and Treos fit the area perfectly, but larger devices such as the BlackBerry might not fit.

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August 30, 2016
2008 Jeep Compass 4WD 4-Door Limited

Strong car, comfortable.

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Durable outside and in-- looked brand new after 140,000 miles!
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