2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4 x 4: Better, but there’s room for improvement
By Don Hammonds Jeeps' 2013 Compass is one of those products that, because you see them everywhere, it's easy to overlook. But that would be a mistake for consumers. Here's a good, basic compact product with a calling card that few other compacts can claim: Four wheel drive. In addition, the Compass is comfortable, a perfect fit for those of us living in big cities who want something reasonably sized with decent room and a generous equipment list. But the challenge for Compass is that there are so many terrific compacts and subcompacts around that are newer, with more up to date technology, more updated interiors, and quite frankly, less awkward looks. For those who want a bargain, and who live in snowy areas, and who don't want a compact SUV, the Compass is pretty tough to beat. Ours was the new Latitude model which carried a base price of $23,445. Standard equipment included climate control, full power accessories, heated front seats ear 60/40 split reclining rear seat, tilt steering column, interior/removable, rechargable lamp, illuminated cup holders, aluminum wheels, power heated mirrors witih manual fold away feature stability control, and a host of safety equipment. Options on our test model included an all weather capability group UConnect Voice Command system with BlueTooth, remote start, satellite radio and a number of other options that all brought the bottom line to $26,630. We should also point out that another advantage to the Compass is that it is one of the few--maybe the only-- compact crossover that offers a choice of two all wheel drive systems, thus giving you the change to decide which more closely fits your lifestyle. Perhaps this isn't surprising because it's a Jeep, but it is a distinct advantage when it comes to personalizing a car that meets precisely your requirements. The light-duty "Freedom Drive I" system operates in front-wheel-drive mode under normal conditions and automatically sends power to the rear wheels only when needed. The Freedom-Drive II Off-Road package (available on 4WD versions) includes a low-range mode for the CVT, hill ascent/descent assist and a host of other all-terrain equipment. Driving the Compass is a pleasant experience generally because it's comfortable, easy to manuever in crowded conditions and it feels rugged without being unpleasant. However, we found the 2.4 liter, 172 horsepower four cylinder engine to be a little noisier and rougher than competitive models, and the acceleration is an issue, particularly in hilly cities like Pittsburgh. By the way, the 2.4 liter engine is ated at 21/26, with a combined rating of 23 miles per gallon. Annual fuel cost is estimated to be $2,300 based on 15,000 miles of driving at $3.55 a gallon. To Chrysler's credit, the Compass has been greatly improved over the last few years, with a more attractive, more Jeep-like front end, better interior appointments, and some pretty nice packaging alternatives to give the car some pizazz. Quality control has improved considerably, but still has a little ways to go; we experienced a balky ignition which caused the key to stick when it was shut off and the removable lamp continually fell out of its mooring and was tough to put back in place aqain. And the shut lines of the hood and front fenders looked to have rather large gaps, though we weren't sure if that was by design or just the model that we drove. Really, the Compass is a product of the "old" Chrysler which doesn't impress nearly as much as Chrysler's newer models under Fiat's ownership, and those models are far better designed, are technologically way better built, are much better styled and generally light years ahead of products like the Compass. It will be interesting to see what happens to Compass in years to come; though it's a decent product, it's got an uphill battle ahead of it in the market.