All-new for 2007, the Compass is a radical departure for Jeep: a small vehicle that’s more four-door sedan than rugged SUV.

The Compass shares its platform with the equally new Dodge Caliber, as well as its “World” engine, built in Michigan by GEMA (Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance), a cooperation of DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai. Configuration is front-wheel drive, or “Freedom Drive I” an on-demand 4WD system which runs in FWD until it senses slippage and sends torque to the rear wheels. The system can also be locked into 50/50 mode at speeds up to 15 km/h at which time it automatically disengages.

The Compass comes with a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, mated to a five-speed manual or optional continuously variable transmission (CVT). All trim lines are available in FWD or 4WD.

The base Sport model features 17-inch aluminum wheels, curtain airbags, electronic stability control, ABS, cloth seats, CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack, 60/40 fold-flat rear seats, manual windows and locks, floor mats, tilt steering column, rear window wiper/washer and fog lamps.

The Compass North, a package available only in Canada, adds air conditioning, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, rechargeable rear-cargo flashlight, driver’s seat-height adjuster, reclining rear seats, 115V electrical outlet and deep-tint sunscreen glass.

The Limited adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, heated leather seats, foldaway power mirrors, fold-flat front passenger seat, passenger assist handles, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, garage door opener, temperature and compass gauge, tire pressure monitoring system, and vehicle information centre.

Available options on the various models include heated cloth seats, seat side airbags, power sunroof, six-CD stereo, YES essentials stain-resistant fabric, satellite radio, 17-inch all-terrain tires, hands-free telephone connection and navigation system.

While off-road Jeep purists will undoubtedly shun this newest model, it should do well for itself: it’s well-sized for urban areas, it’s roomy inside, its seats fold flat for extra cargo practicality, its FWD configuration means better fuel economy, and the 4WD system should work well enough for the snowy streets or rutted cottage roads that generally make up the worst of what most drivers face, especially when locked into 50/50 torque-split mode. It’s also a nice touch that the Limited comes in both 2WD and 4WD, instead of just in four-wheel configuration, allowing buyers to upgrade to all the interior items without automatically having to take the more expensive driveline.

The 2.4-litre provides snappy response and the CVT works well; the styling is attractive, and there are several neat standard or optional gadgets, including an auxiliary glovebox that keeps drinks cool when the air conditioning’s on, a stereo boombox that folds down from the open liftgate, a vinyl and rubber cargo area, and a rear cargo light that can be removed and used as a rechargeable flashlight.

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