Fiat has this Com­pass on the right head­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - CARS - War­ren.brown@wash­

Please, pay at­ten­tion when buy­ing this one. There are two ver­sions made for the 2017 model year. The first is a 2017 Jeep Com­pass car­ried over from 2016, es­sen­tially made as a mar­ket­ing ex­er­cise by the now-de­funct Chrysler Corp. You prob­a­bly can get it at a lower price, seem­ingly at a bar­gain. But do not be fooled. You are not get­ting the sec­ond ver­sion of the 2017 Jeep Com­pass, which has four trim lev­els, man­u­fac­tured un­der the com­plete tute­lage of Italy’s Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­tive, which now is re­spon­si­ble for all things Jeep.

Make no mis­take. The FCA Jeep Com­pass, as des­ig­nated by this col­umn, is sub­stan­tially bet­ter, pro­vid­ing both mod­er­ate, dis­cernible off-road com­pe­tence (snow, mud, grass, gravel) and on-road com­fort and han­dling ease.

It also has de­cent util­ity — 27 cu­bic feet of rear stor­age space with the rear seats up and nearly 60 cu­bic feet with the rear seats low­ered.

Most im­por­tant, it is a Jeep, much more Jeep than the orig­i­nal Com­pass con­ceived by Chrysler Corp. in 2002, man­u­fac­tured in 2006, and in­tro­duced for sale in 2007. What hap­pened? The orig­i­nal Com­pass was born un­der the mar­ket­ing ge­nius of the great Lee A. Ia­cocca. He cor­rectly un­der­stood that many Jeep buy­ers in Amer­ica did not re­ally want a rugged Jeep. They wanted some­thing softer, more car­like. He pointed them in that di­rec­tion with the Com­pass, which ini­tially sold well.

Chrysler Corp. went bank­rupt in 2008, in part be­cause Chrysler was lousy at global sales. Fiat, which was bet­ter at global sales oddly in all places ex­cept the United States, took over. Chrysler Corp. be­came Fiat Chrysler Au­to­mo­tive. FCA’s global cus­tomers, in­clud­ing those in the United States, wanted Jeep to be Jeep.

Thus we have the com­pletely re­vised and much im­proved 2017 FCA Jeep Com­pass, which is sold in four trim lev­els — Sport, Lat­i­tude, Lim­ited and Trail Hawk.

If you are of­fered a trim des­ig­nated as Al­ti­tude or High Al­ti­tude, know that you are be­ing shown a left­over 2016 Com­pass be­ing sold as a 2017 model. Buy it if you want it. But bar­gain. Buy it at a lower price.

I rec­om­mend, in­stead, that you look at this col­umn’s sub­ject model — the 2017 Jeep Com­pass Trail Hawk 4x4, com­pletely re­vised by FCA. You will spend more money. You will be hap­pier. It is a much bet­ter ve­hi­cle than the car­ried-over Com­pass.

It is so good that, at first, I didn’t think it was a Com­pass. My God, I thought, this is a Jeep, an hon­est-to-good­ness Jeep!

It had an off-road sus­pen­sion, at least one com­pe­tent enough to move through mud and wet grass. I never would have tried that in an orig­i­nal Com­pass. I did not worry about snow or rain. It came with ev­ery avail­able ad­vanced elec­tronic safety item, in­clud­ing blind-side mon­i­tor­ing and lane-de­par­ture warn­ing for on-road and ex­press­way driv­ing.

Fit and fin­ish were ex­cel­lent. FCA’s Com­pass Trail Hawk comes with a tur­bocharged (forced air) in-line four­cylin­der gaso­line en­gine (180 horse­power, 175 pound-feet of torque). Some peo­ple con­sider that not enough power for a Jeep. I dis­agree. It works well, es­pe­cially with its en­gine-stop-ati­dle fea­ture. And there is only so fast you can go off-road, or on reg­u­lated high­ways any­way.

I like this one and con­grat­u­late FCA for tak­ing a good idea and mak­ing it much, much bet­ter.

My God, I thought, this is a Jeep, an hon­est-to-good­ness Jeep!


War­ren Brown ON WHEELS

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