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Jeep launches car-based 4X4 for the road. Image by Jeep.

Jeep launches car-based 4X4 for the road
Compass compact SUV will make its European debut in Geneva.
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Jeep is poised to offer a competitor in the small SUV segment when it launches the new Compass at the Geneva motor show in a few weeks time. The new soft-roader places emphasis on on-road stability and fuel economy rather than off-road ability, and has been designed to appeal to younger and female customers.

The Compass is built on the same platform as the Dodge Caliber C-segment car and will compete against other established compact SUV offerings such as the Honda CR-V, Land Rover Freelander, Toyota RAV4, and Nissan's recently launched Qashqai. The Compass is the Jeep brand's first front-wheel drive-based product and also the first with a fully independent suspension for increased on-road comfort and car-like handling.

A choice of VW-sourced diesel and petrol powerplants will be offered. The 2-litre diesel will be paired to a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 2.4-litre petrol can be specified with a five-speed manual or a CVT automatic transmission. The diesel is claimed to return 43mpg on the Combined Cycle, making it one of the most fuel efficient in the segment.

An all-new full-time, active four-wheel drive system the company calls 'Freedom Drive 4WD' will drive the front wheels 90 per cent of the time, but if road conditions call for more traction the system can automatically shift power to all four wheels. This system promises to provide tangible benefits in everyday driving conditions such as wet and icy tarmac, but will also prove more economical.

Roughly the size of a Ford Focus, the Compass is said to offer a spacious interior with room for five adults. The interior design is modern and simplistic, highlighting its user friendly appeal. Numerous storage compartments line the cabin and the rear seat folds in a 60/40 split.

With the market indicating that customers are increasingly interested in family hatchbacks with four-wheel drive systems, Jeep has played its cards right in creating this car. European sales of compact four-wheel drive vehicles are projected to increase to nearly 400,000 units by 2010, and Jeep wants a piece of the pie. At a starting price of £17,990, the Compass will likely appeal to those seeking an alternative to conventional family hatchbacks, but they will need to get over the awkward styling.

The Jeep Compass is intended to reflect the new 'Jeep-modern' design theme, fulfilling public demand for a modern family car with the credibility and characteristics associated with the Jeep brand name. The front end draws heavily on past Jeep designs (think WW II Willys), but the profile is slightly controversial as it struggles to combine the historical front with the modern rear.

The Compass will launch in the UK in May and be joined by the Jeep Patriot in July. The Patriot will be built on the same platform and share the same engines, but it has a more traditional Jeep look and design.

Eric Gallina - 23 Feb 2007

2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.

2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.2007 Jeep Compass. Image by Jeep.    - Jeep road tests
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