Value-packed SUV gets styling and safety enhancements

2012, Jeep, Compass Latitude

My week behind the wheel consisted primarily of highways and surface streets in Phoenix and Scottsdale. This time of year, the traffic in town swells with tourists, so the roads are always busy.

Although the smaller four-cylinder engine gives the Jeep Compass better gas mileage, I’d recommend the larger block. Curb weight for the test car is 3247 pounds. That, combined with the car’s high-profile and two box architecture makes the engine work hard off the line.

The 2.4-liter engine has enough torque for decent low-end acceleration, but anything smaller would be marginal. When I merged onto the highway, I couldn’t count on being the fastest car in the pack.

The 2.0-liter engine produces 24 less foot-pounds of torque than the 2.4-liter block. My guess is that drivers would compensate for the smaller engine’s lack of torque by digging into the throttle more, and getting poorer fuel economy than the EPA estimate.

The continuously-variable automatic transmission has the advantage of eliminating shift shock which can be the bane of larger cars with small engines. The gear select option is handy on unimproved roads and hills, where it gives the driver additional control. It can also be helpful navigating through deep snow.

A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup in the back. I found the ride to be pleasantly compliant without feeling mushy. Stabilizer bars on both axles and gas-charged shocks keep the chassis flat in the turns.

Disc brakes in front and drums in the back stop the car fine on dry pavement. Although the majority of braking on front-wheel drive platforms takes place in front, I still dislike drums. They tend to stop unevenly in wet weather because the drums can fill with water.

A rack-and-pinion steering system has plenty of assist at low speeds and produces decent on-center response on the highway. The Compass’ 35.6-foot turning circle makes U-turns a possibility on wider suburban roads.

Visibility to the front and sides of the vehicle is good. A thick D-pillar creates some larger blind spots in back. Engineers did a good job of minimizing road and engine noise intrusion to the interior. Both rows of passengers should be able to converse easily on the highway.

Spacious interior

Jeep Compass Interior The Jeep compass is spacious enough inside for up to five passengers. Standard comfort and convenience features include keyless access, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls, air conditioning, heated front seats, 12 and 115-volt power outlets.

Manual seat adjustments are easy to use. The seats have pretty good lumbar support, but there’s no separate lumbar adjustment.

All four doors have small storage pockets but not bottle holders. Cupholders in and behind the center console are large enough for 20-ounce water bottles.

A double center console bin includes a shallow shelf for small electronic devices and a deep bin for compact discs, a small purse or pack. The 115-volt power outlet in front of the bin makes it possible to plug in a computer.

An information display in the gauge cluster includes average fuel economy, driving range, tire pressure information, a timer, audio selections, compass and ambient temperature. Both the gauge cluster and information display in the center stack are easy to read in bright sunlight.

Access and egress to the rear seats is good, despite the car’s large wheel arches. Outboard passengers have ample head, hip and legroom. Cupholders on the floor behind the center console take up legroom in the center position. The middle seat is fine for a child seat or an adult passenger on short trips around town.

Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the car’s cargo floor. The optional tonneau cover conceals items in back from prying eyes. The cargo area includes a cubbyhole to keep small packages from sliding around. The spare tire and jack are located beneath the cargo floor.

Standard roof rails make it possible to add a cargo carrier up top.

Standard safety

The Jeep Compass comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, electronic stability control with roll mitigation and antilock brakes.

Jeep builds the Compass at Chrysler’s Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant.

Likes: An affordable sport-utility vehicle with a high level of standard comfort and convenience features and moderate off-road capability. The Compass’ revised styling makes it a much more appealing package, with a more functional, comfortable interior.

Dislikes: Lack of legroom in the second-row center position. Rear drum brakes are harder to service than discs and can stop unevenly in wet weather.

Quick facts:

Make: Jeep Model: Compass Latitude 4X4 Year: 2012 Base price: $23,445 As tested: $25,350 Horsepower: 172 Hp @ 6000 rpm Torque: 165 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm Zero-to-sixty: N/A Antilock brakes: Standard Side curtain airbags: Standard First aid kit: N/A Bicycle friendly: Yes Off-road: Yes, when equipped with optional off-road packages. Towing: No Fuel economy: 21/26 mpg city/highway

By Nina Russin

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Images of the 2012, Jeep Compass Latitude

2012 Jeep Compass Latitude
2012 Jeep Compass Latitude
Spacious Interior
Spacious Interior
2012 Jeep Compass Latitude Right View
2012 Jeep Compass Latitude Right View
2012 Jeep Compass Latitude Rear View
2012 Jeep Compass Latitude Rear View