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The Golden Jeep Compass

May 9, 2008
There's nothing worse than a half-baked idea. The thought of combining two favourable ingredients to result in one super, all powerful outcome has never worked. One such example are super-groups, rock bands that combine to be 'better' than their original form. Audioslave are one such example, combining Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and all but the rapping bloke from Rage Against the Machine. The format worked so well that RATM are back together and Chris is writing jingles for James Bond flicks.

Take Coca Cola and lime. On their own they make a fair fist of making small children go loopy and adults go all sour-faced. Stick them together and you have a sour tasting drink aimed at those with a sweet tooth. Remember XFL? Xtreme Football League I believe it was called and this heady formula added a pinch of wrestling to the already bubbling pot of American Football. One season that multi-million pound idea lasted for.

Just because you like two different things is never reason enough to combine them and assume the best. All of which leads me neatly into the muddy and treacherous world of the 4 x 4. Designed to eat mountains for breakfast, the original premise of a 4 x 4 was to be an off-roader and before you knew it manufacturers were sticking large wheels and huge ground clearance beneath their cars. Then one day a boffin decided it'd be a good idea to combine the everyday drivability of a car with the go anywhere, no nonsense versatility of a 4 x 4.

Unfortunately this meant that the market was flooded with vehicles that were sufficiently altered and were therefore useless off road as they weren't high enough, and rubbish on the road as they weren't low enough. Even more unfortunately unlike Audioslave, Coke lime and XFL, no-one seems to have noticed the bad idea and the roads crawl with haphazard handling brutes.

Thankfully then Jeep have decided to break from the mould and set up camp firmly on the car side of the field. Ladies and gentleman please welcome the Jeep Compass. It's the first time the company have stepped away from their roots with a two door convertible that looks almost identical to a Ferrari. Ok, it's not a two door Italian supercar look-alike and yes it does look like a large, almost 4 x 4 type vehicle but it's technically a hatchback, I promise.

Jeep are putting their faith in the Compass attracting a new buyer demographic and a look at the rear three quarters screams Mercedes. The Compass does in fact boast some impressive styling with sharp European lines embraced with Jeep's trademark seven-slot front grill and round headlights. It is without doubt the bravest styled vehicle Jeep have produced in recent years but it works. It also clearly make the statement that time and money have been spent breaking the mould and sending the company down a different road.

I'm not so shallow that good looks will distract me from seeing how it drives and to be honest I sensed the worst. I mean Jeep supplies the US Army with its vehicles where armour easily out-muscles refinement on the must-have list. Despite this lack of pedigree the Compass really is refined. As you'd expect from a 4 x 4 manufacturer, the interior is spacious, well laid out and easy to use. Leg room in the back is so large that kids may get lost and boot space puts its hatchback rivals to shame. The build quality is also an improvement on past Jeep models - usually a sure fire sign that you've bought cheap. Yet the Jeep belies this fact, even if it is all a bit grey.

The driveability doesn't let the side down either, with a torque-y 2.0 litre diesel ably propelling the Compass around town or quietly down the motorway. The independent suspension steals the show however, giving the car (yes car!) a smooth, quiet and undeniably comfortable ride.

Pricing at an initial glace a tad high, with UK models starting at 18,990, however compare the American hatchback to its rivals in terms of how it drives, comfort, standard kit and exclusivity and it suddenly seems like a steal. It must be stressed that if you do buy the Jeep Compass and you tackle much more than a stone on the road you'll look like a beached whale. Use the Compass as intended though and you'll find a hatchback that is a serious contender to the likes of its similarly priced rivals.

On this form the US Army will go for the leather seats option on their next bulk purchase.
About the Author
Ieuan Knox is as a automotive writer currently promoting the Chrysler range for the Internet site http://www.cheapchryslerjeep.co.uk/ an online Jeep and Chrysler dealer.
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