Test Drive: 2010 Jeep Compass 4x4 North Edition car test drives jeep
2010 Jeep Compass North Edition. Click image to enlarge

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Jeep Compass

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2010 Jeep Compass

One could argue that the Jeep Compass is not a real Jeep. Based on the Dodge Caliber compact hatchback, the unit body Compass comes standard with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive (not 4WD) and doesn’t meet Jeep’s own “Trail-rated” standards for off-road proficiency.

Still, that’s probably not a concern to entry-level buyers who won’t be doing much off-road driving, if any, and who want an affordable Jeep hatchback for typical commuting needs. Starting at just $15,795 with the base 2.0-litre engine and manual transmission, the 2010 Compass Sport is the cheapest Jeep you can buy. However, with popular options, that price can rise quickly: a nicely equipped Compass goes out the door in the mid $20,000 range.

Which brings me to this week’s test vehicle, the exclusive-to-Canada 2010 Jeep Compass North Edition ($18,795): it fits between the base Compass Sport ($15,795) and the top-of-line Compass Limited ($21,195). Standard features on the North include air conditioning, stain resistant fabric seats, power windows, power door locks, power heated mirrors, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, height adjustable driver’s seat, fold-flat front passenger seat, split folding rear seatbacks, two front and two curtain airbags, 115-volt power outlet, 17-inch tires and alloy wheels, front fog lights, electronic stability control, roll-over mitigation sensor, and four disc brakes with ABS.

Test Drive: 2010 Jeep Compass 4x4 North Edition car test drives jeep
Test Drive: 2010 Jeep Compass 4x4 North Edition car test drives jeep
2010 Jeep Compass North Edition. Click image to enlarge

It’s available with an optional 158-hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, but that model comes only with front-wheel drive. If you want the optional “Freedom 1” all-wheel drive system ($2,200), you’ll need to order the standard 172-hp 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. Optional too is a continuously variable transmission ($1,400) rather than a conventional automatic transmission. With AWD and CVT, the Compass North is now priced at $20,995.

My test vehicle also had $3,650 worth of options: the Security and Cargo Convenience Group ($950) includes side airbags in the front seats, heated front seats, rear cargo cover, alarm, remote starter, universal garage door opener, tire pressure monitoring display, driver information display, compass, and auto dimming rear-view mirror; the premium Media Centre 430 audio system ($750) includes a 30-GB hard drive, DVD player, and 6.5-inch touch-screen; the Sun & Sound Group ($1,250) has a power sunroof, Sirius satellite radio with one-year free subscription, nine Boston Acoustics speakers and subwoofer, two flip-down tailgate speakers, audio controls on steering wheel, leather wrapped steering wheel; Cruise control ($275) includes steering wheel controls; the Trailer Tow Prep Group ($225) includes a wiring harness and engine oil cooler; and a full-size spare tire ($200) seems rather pricey. All in, the total price of my test vehicle, including a $1,400 Freight charge and $100 a/c tax, came to $27,545.

As of this writing, Jeep Canada is offering a $3,000 cash rebate on the Compass, so that would bring the price down to under $25,000, all in (plus taxes).

Driving impressions

In the driver’s seat, visibility is generally good, helped by the height adjustable driver’s seat and big windows – the only exception is the right rear window pillar which partly blocks vision when changing lanes. The rear window has a defroster and rear wiper with a fixed intermittent wipe setting which will undoubtedly come in handy next winter.

Test Drive: 2010 Jeep Compass 4x4 North Edition car test drives jeep
Test Drive: 2010 Jeep Compass 4x4 North Edition car test drives jeep
Test Drive: 2010 Jeep Compass 4x4 North Edition car test drives jeep
2010 Jeep Compass North Edition. Click image to enlarge

The 2.4-litre engine develops 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque but as other reviewers have commented, the continuously variable transmission seems to suck the power out of this engine. The Compass is quick enough from a standing start, but accelerating onto the freeway or passing another, it seems weak. The engine drones on at 4,000 to 5,000 r.p.m. when accelerating hard and then settles down to lower r.p.m.s when cruising. The CVT does have a manual shift mode which includes six ‘gears’, and that does pick up the performance when needed.

One of the benefits of a CVT is lower engine speeds at cruising speeds. At 100 km/h, the 2.4-litre engine in the Compass does just 2,300 r.p.m. and is smooth and quiet. Another benefit of a CVT is that there are no gear changes, so in normal around-town driving, powertrain operation is smooth and shift-free.

The Energuide fuel consumption rating for the Compass 2.4 CVT is 9.9 L/100 km city and 8.2 L/100 km highway, but my onboard fuel consumption display averaged around 10.4 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving.

The Compass optional information display also includes a compass, outside temperature, tire pressure, distance to empty, and elapsed time.

The optional Freedom Drive 1 all-wheel drive system operates in front-wheel drive most of the time, but sends up to 60 per cent of the power to the rear wheels via a two-stage clutch when sensors indicate loss of traction at the front. The system also includes a driver-selectable four-wheel drive Lock lever which locks the centre clutch in a 50/50 front/rear split for low speed four-wheel drive operation in slippery conditions such as deep snow.

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