Photos by Mark Stevenson and courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
“So, what do you drive?”
“Really?! What one?!”
Buying a Jeep Compass usually says a few things about a person, like the fact they don’t know it’s related to the Dodge Caliber and those Trail Rated badges affixed to the body work were probably purchased from the same store you and I can buy one of those foam strongman suits.
It also says, “I’ve given up a little bit in life and this ‘Jeep’ is totally acceptable transportation. But, I haven’t given up so much that I’ve desired an off-lease Dodge Avenger.”
We were at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in Michigan getting samples of all the new 2015 products. For some reason, our Jonathan Yarkony thought it would be important for me to drive the least Jeep-like Jeep you can buy today.
After driving the Alfa Romeo 4C, Dodge Viper GTS, and Fiat 500 Abarth (with both manual and automatic transmissions), it was time to take a break from the adrenaline rush and go for a leisurely cruise around the test track. And it was then I saw the Jeep Compass off in the distance, completely alone and being treated by automotive journalists as if it were some kind of communicable disease.
The Compass was built on the same platform as the long-departed Dodge Caliber and twin-brother Jeep Patriot. Chances are both the Compass and Patriot will get phased out sometime after the Renegade arrives next year. That’s probably a good thing.
Why? Because even though the Wrangler is rough on the road and known for shaking teeth out of the mouths of drivers (I can only assume as most Wrangler drivers here are missing a few chicklets), at least it has capability and character. The Compass is completely devoid of character, capability, ride quality, handling, or anything that’s a possible precursor to excitement.
Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t horrible. I’ve driven much, much worse. But, the Compass just…exists. It’s totally content with being…a car.
2015 Jeep Compass Limited, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
During my few minutes spent around one of the longer testing ovals in the Compass, I can’t for the life of me remember a single inspiring thing about it. Nor do I remember anything particularly horrifying. My mind was probably still reminiscing about the Alfa Romeo 4C.
The ride is compliant but not smooth. The handling is acceptable but not confidence inspiring. Performance from the 2.4L engine is enough to pass large trucks on two-lane highways but your butt will pucker for the last 10-feet of 18-wheeler. And the brakes, well, they bring you to a stop.
So, if you are looking for something fun to drive, this really isn’t the car for you.
However, the Jeep Compass does have an amazing trump card.