If a Jeep fails in the city, does anyone care?
The long-term test of the 2007 Jeep Compass Limited has come to an end at Edmunds Edmunds.com. Even after a 16-month stay with us — four months longer than our customary long-term test — the junior Jeep barely cracked 13,000 miles.
Of course, you just don't expect to rack up too many miles on an adventure vehicle. But the truth is, the 2007 Jeep Compass Limited didn't lead us on too many adventures in the city, this vehicle's natural habitat. In fact, we're not sure that the whole idea of driving this Jeep around the city was very smart on our part to begin with.
This compact crossover has tried to give the Jeep brand a foothold in the asphalt jungle, but we're not sure the market for compact utility vehicles is right for Jeep to begin with.
Why We Bought It
We would be the first to tell you that uproar and pandemonium would ensue if a Jeep Wrangler came to market without a badge that certified it as Trail Rated. Or if it appeared with small squishy tires, a supple suspension and a sprightly, short-legged ride that made easy work of asphalt byways.
Fortunately Chrysler knows better than to throw away 60 years of Jeep heritage, those years of big tires, solid axles and rock-bashing, dirt-eating CJ and Wrangler history. Even in these times of changing purposes and definitions, the Wrangler proved safe from crossover-ification. Yet this didn't mean that Chrysler wasn't interested in leading Jeep down a different kind of trail.
The emerging market for compact crossover utility vehicles (think hatchback with more ground clearance) surely could accommodate a Jeep product, could it not? Of course, the Chrysler people knew that such a compact CUV would need to ride like a car and offer all the comforts and conveniences of a car, something that a traditional Jeep, with all of its rugged utility, could never provide. A Jeep CUV would also need to be smaller and more fuel-efficient. So Chrysler found itself with the perfect opportunity to build something out of the parts bin from which the Dodge Caliber is assembled, slap a Jeep-y body on it and ride the wave of CUV enthusiasm. It was also a chance for Jeep to do a little market evaluation with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
A streetwise Jeep that promised better fuel economy and a livable ride, and still offered that cool Jeepness? We were in on the ground floor and signed up for a long-term test of a 2007 Jeep Compass Limited.
The litmus test for the popularity of long-term vehicles in our test fleet is the odometer. Cars we like get driven — a lot. While we aim for 20,000 miles over a 12-month period, some vehicles get significantly more. But our Jeep spent nearly all its time with us as an urban errand-runner, packing groceries and kids around the suburbs. With just 7,971 miles on the clock at the 11-month mark, no road trip short of New York via Argentina was going to get us to 20,000 miles. So we extended its stay another six months.
Yet even after a total of 16 months, the Compass still only managed 13,632 miles. We blame part of this on sluggish performance that sucked the fun out of driving. As Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Pardilla wrote for the Jeep's long-term blog, "Wow, I so don't like our 2007 Jeep Compass. It has no guts whatsoever. Whenever I tried passing someone last night on the freeway — pressing the accelerator, then stomping on it — it wouldn't respond."
But then again, we're not always all about the performance. Maybe the reason for the lack of enthusiasm regarding the Compass could be found on the inside, something about the cabin environment of this crossover utility. Automotive Content Editor Warren Clarke noted in the blog, "The cabin's good looks won't dull the pain when you bang your elbow on the Jeep's hard-as-a-rock center armrest. Save for the roof and the seats, the cabin of the Compass is 100 percent hard plastic. I realize this SUV has a low price tag, but other vehicles in this price range (like the Nissan Versa) manage to give you a little padding where it counts. A severe look can be cool when it comes to interiors. A severe feel, not so much."
Edmunds.com Senior Editor Erin Riches also faulted the cabin: "The 2007 Jeep Compass makes no great strides in interior design, materials quality, or fit and finish." Riches also added, "I don't especially enjoy sitting in the vehicle, but I realized today that I don't like it any less than the cabins of all the Cherokees (regular, not Grand) that various friends and family members have owned. My dad still drives a Cherokee, and it's obvious he gets a kick out of its rugged image. He looks for any opportunity to shift into 4 Lo. Cash-strapped friends from college were much the same way.... They didn't care that they ended up with a base trim vehicle with a manual gearbox; they just wanted in on the Jeep life. But when you drive the Compass, it's obvious the decision-makers at Jeep failed to understand this trade-off."
Or maybe it wasn't what you could see in the Compass that was the problem, but what you couldn't see out of it. Numerous staffers complained about the lack of rearward visibility owing to large pillars and a minuscule rear window. Said Senior Copy Editor Doug Lloyd, "And then there's that damn C-pillar, with the enormous blind spot, reminiscent of the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Why? What's wrong with a little glass and, you know, rear visibility?"
Visibility and turning radius were at the forefront of the conversation the day the Compass had an unfortunate meeting with a concrete pillar in a parking garage. The damage was substantial and caused the Compass to be out of service for seven days. Our clumsiness also set us back a cool $1,567.
But this was not to be the last of the run-ins the 2007 Jeep Compass endured. While attending an event at her child's school, News Editor Kelly Toepke walked out into the parking lot to discover that the Jeep had been unceremoniously sideswiped. There was no note, so we were stuck with a repair bill of $550.
A windshield also cracked on us. It was a simple fix and the cause was never determined. Some guessed heat, others road debris. Either way, this one was $345.
Routine maintenance — stuff like oil changes, tire patches, various fluids and lightbulbs — ran us a grand total of $170.81.
There was one TSB recall that affected our Jeep: 18-031-07. It was intended to cure sluggish, stumbling acceleration. Vehicle Testing Assistant Mike Magrath handled the dealer visit and had this to say upon his return, "The engine stumble is mercifully gone, but the Compass is still very, very slow."
There was also one unresolved problem. With only 13,000 miles on the odometer, the brakes were emitting a terrible screech whenever we applied them while in reverse. The dealer said that this was normal and should we want the noise gone, we would have to have a brake resurfacing that would cost $129 and was not covered under warranty.
Total Body Repair Costs: $2,117
Total Routine Maintenance Costs (over  months): $170.81
Additional Maintenance Costs: $345.00
Warranty Repairs: 1
Non-Warranty Repairs: 3
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 8
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: 0
Performance and Fuel Economy
At the test track, our 2007 Jeep Compass proved itself as inadequate on pavement as it might have been in the woods. We floored the gas and let the CVT and all-wheel drive do the work, and a dismal 10.6 seconds to 60 mph was our reward. The same technique took us to the quarter-mile mark in 18.1 seconds at 77.4 mph. At the end of the run, our test-driver could only offer, "Holy crap, this thing is slow." Braking from 60 mph required 132 feet.
When you turn the steering wheel, the Compass is no less awkward. Fearful of the consequences of going wrong with this tall, upright utility vehicle, the Jeep engineers ensure that the stability control intervenes at a very low threshold, so the Compass proved capable only of 0.73g on the skid pad and 62.9 mph in the slalom at the end of its term with us.
But as we all know, the Jeep Compass isn't made for the test track. It's made for the average driver looking to save a buck at the gas pump without giving up that Jeepy coolness. And over 13,632 miles, we averaged 17.3 mpg. Our best tank, recorded during a 650-mile highway trek, proved to be 25.9 mpg. Not bad, but results in the 20s were few and far between. The lowest rating of 12.7 mpg was one of dozens of entries between 12 and 15 mpg. Although EPA estimates for the Jeep Compass are 20 mpg city/24 mpg highway with a combined average of 20 mpg, our records show that while such fuel efficiency is possible, it's just not probable.
Best Fuel Economy: 25.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 12.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 17.3 mpg
When we purchased this vehicle from Long Beach Chrysler Jeep, in Signal Hill, California, we paid MSRP. Times were better then and the Jeep Compass was a hot ticket. Good looks will do that for you. We walked away from the dealership that day sans $25,395 — a large portion of which we would never see back.
With its low, low mileage of 13,632 on the odometer, Edmunds True Market Value (TMV®) placed the value of the 2007 Jeep Compass Limited at $15,803. Selling it for that price could have been possible, but Carmax was ready to make a deal the day we went in for $15,000 on the nose. Done deal.
Depreciation of $9,592 is incredibly steep over a 16-month period and represents a staggering 38 percent of the price we paid. When we sold our 2006 Toyota RAV4 last year, we saw only a $7,185 depreciation accounting for a value drop of 27 percent.
Clearly, the want factor for the Jeep Compass has declined as the crossover market has expanded. There are simply too many other excellent choices available for drivers seeking utility and efficiency in a compact package, and it's clear that the Jeep Compass can't measure up against the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 — the most popular vehicles in the segment — much less new entries from all the major manufacturers.
True Market Value at service end: $15,803
What it sold for: $15,000
Depreciation: $9,592 or 38 percent of original paid price ($25,395)
Final Odometer Reading: 13,632
Branding Isn't Enough
As a branding exercise, the 2007 Jeep Compass makes perfect sense. It's small, functional, and has that Jeep look that sells so many Wranglers to suburbanites with more interest in Comic-Con than Rubicon. And, with the current panic over gas prices, the Compass could give Jeep buyers somewhere to go when trading into a more fuel-efficient vehicle.
But if this is indeed the route that Jeep wants to go, it's going to need more than a Compass to do it; the Jeep execs will need a map and a lantern to get out of the thicket they've put themselves in with this vehicle. No matter how logical it might seem on the spreadsheet of a product planner, the Jeep brand can't make up for a mechanical package as uninspiring as the Dodge Caliber.
The crossover utility market has been incredibly successful in the last few years, but the Jeep Compass is just a bit player. Chrysler needs to read the trail maps for this market more carefully and decide what it wants the Compass to be: a Jeep or a Toyota Corolla. It can't be both. At least, it can't be both and be very good.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.