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2013 Jeep Compass Test Drive

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First Impressions

Some things just go together, like Martin and Lewis, chocolate and peanut butter, and based on how things are going at the time of this writing, 5150 and Charlie Sheen.

You can add Jeep and off-roading to that list, as well. For decades, the brand with the unmistakable slotted grille had been associated with adventures starting where the asphalt stops, carving paths through mud bogs, rock quarries, streams and rivers, and timber-strewn acreage.

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And then the Jeep Compass arrived.

Looking back as far as we can remember, no image served to emasculate the historically rugged Jeep name more than the 2007-2010 Compass. A small, cutesy crossover with no off-road cred and what we perceived as few, if any, redeeming qualities? Please.

Equal to that harsh criticism is our praise for what engineers and designers have done with the updated 2013 Compass (view photos). The most obvious change comes by way of the sleek and attractive front end, which dials in Grand Cherokee-esque attitude that you just won’t find on a Toyota RAV4 or Subaru Forester. The flanks remain largely unchanged, and important off-road specs like approach and departure angles have stayed the same, as has maximum ground clearance (8.4 inches). We’re sorry to say that the quirky exterior rear-door handles passed under the revision radar, too. The rockers are a bit different and, as we discovered, so is the rear end. An eagle eye will notice the reshaped bumper, but it wasn’t until we broke one of the taillights that we zeroed in on what we realized were redesigned lamps. Being so new to the market, replacement parts for 2013’s new style hadn’t even been shipped yet…to any dealer, anywhere. Bad luck, it seems, came in twos that day.

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About Our Test Car

As a New England-based editor experiencing one of those old-school winters where snowfall is measured in feet rather than inches, you can imagine my relief when discovering that this 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude test vehicle was indeed equipped with four-wheel-drive capability. In fact, this particular rig wore a Trail Rated badge, signifying the addition of 2013’s new Freedom-Drive Off-Road package ($500) that adds a 140-amp alternator, a locking rear differential, Goodyear all-terrain tires, hill-descent and hill-assist systems, and an off-road mode that essentially acts as a creeper gear. Until now, this small crossover hadn’t been available with anything more than a glorified all-wheel-drive system, making it a Jeep in name only.

Also tacked onto the Compass Latitude tester was a Media Center 30 CD/DVD/MP3/HDD option ($640). Behind the acronym-heavy name are a 30-gigabyte hard drive, a user-friendly touch screen and an auxiliary input jack.

With those two options, the 2013 Compass Latitude model reviewed here carried a sticker price of $24,900 (including a $700 destination charge). That figure also covers standard features such as heated mirrors, fog lights, a tilt steering wheel with secondary audio controls, cruise control, keyless entry, and alloy wheels. You can get all of those goodies on the less expensive base Compass, but the Latitude keeps the standard gravy train rolling with its 115-volt rear outlet that’s great for keeping the kids plugged in, heated front buckets, a fold-flat front passenger seat designed to extend the cargo area, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, and soft leather on the steering wheel.

We were perfectly content with the creature comforts packed into the Latitude, but Jeep does offer a top-of-the-line Compass Limited for those with slightly more upscale tastes. Though not exactly luxury territory, the Limited does avail buyers to an automatic climate control system, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, and 18-inch alloys in lieu of the 17s fitted to lesser models.

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Safety Reliability and Value

Interestingly, despite being on the market since 2007, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not evaluated the Jeep Compass, and with its new scoring method for 2013, we can’t simply say that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2012 ratings can be carried over. Our point? There’s no current crash-test data for the 2013 Jeep Compass (view photos). Well, that’s not entirely true – NHTSA has awarded the little Jeep crossover four out of five stars for rollover protection.

While the verdict is still out on crashworthiness, the Compass certainly comes equipped with its share of safety-related features, and they’re not reserved for the pricier variants. Every base, Latitude and Limited model is fitted with electronic stability and roll mitigation systems, side-curtain airbags, traction control, and tire-pressure sensors with a corresponding warning lamp in the gauge cluster. Front-side airbags are also offered, though unlike some of the competition, they’re optional and not standard. You will find antilock brakes on every Compass that rolls off the assembly line, but only the Limited and four-wheel-drive models can be fitted with rear discs instead of less effective drums. At least those upgraded stoppers are available on the Jeep; the Ford Escape is only offered with the relatively antiquated rear drums.

That’s a good segue into the topic of value. Again, the newness of the 2013 Jeep Compass means hard data have yet to hit the presses, but if previous model years are any indication, this crossover will hold its own amidst the bloated roster of competitors. Referencing 2012 models, Kelley Blue Book claims that the Compass will retain 31 percent of its initial value at the five-year mark, compared to 37 percent for the Toyota RAV4 and 24 percent for the Ford Escape. That doesn’t put Jeep at the head of the class, but it’s not a bottom dweller, either. In terms of Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), the 2013 Compass is on par with others in its class.

That middle-of-the-road theme carries into the area of dependability. Neither Consumer Reports or J.D. Power and Associates have rated the 2013 model, but each predicted that reliability for the 2010 Compass would be average. Unfortunately, it takes more than that to earn a coveted Consumer Reports recommendation. For those buyers who do run into problems with their new Compass, Jeep backs them up with a five-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is less than you’d get with a Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage, comparable to the coverage offered with a Chevrolet Equinox, and better than what’s available with the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.

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