Cars Nobody Asked For: Jeep Compass/Patriot

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Several years ago, Jeep tried to see if it could successfully turn a Dodge Stratus into two new Jeep models. Needless to say, this didn't work out very well.

This one actually has a lot in common with the Hummer H3. They're both brands which made their name from one specific thing and then brought out a product which is very nearly the exact opposite and expected that to be just fine. The Jeep Compass and Patriot are essentially the same product, just with slightly different bodies and names. The idea is that the Compass will bring in female buyers, and the Patriot, male buyers. Both are built on the GS platform originally developed by Mitsubishi.

It was used first for the second-gen Outlander, but then spread to such all-conquering off-road machines as the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler Sebring (sarcasm, for those who have a hard time telling). It first debuted in 2007, and this early version was especially bad. Jeep has since been able to improve things a little bit, but it would still be very difficult to justify buying a Compass or Patriot over almost any other option. Although the Patriot is at least very cheap. If you're looking to do some off-roading, well, buy a used Wrangler. But if, for some reason, you had to choose between the Compass and Patriot, there are a few differences in how they're equipped.

The more stripped-down Patriot has slightly better angles of approach and departure, as well as optional equipment like two hooks, skid plates and hill descent and start control. Post-2011 Compasses have a "Trail Rated" badge, but this is optimistic at best. Jeep says that the Compass is more of a "sporty" vehicle, which is a euphemism for one which doesn't go off-road. A variety of engines are offered for the vehicles, but all of them are four-cylinders and none of them are especially powerful. Those who opt for the available CVT will also find it as boring on-road as it is useless off-road. But despite this low power, the fuel economy is surprisingly poor.

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There is also much less cargo space than is offered in almost any competing crossover. This is a vehicle which came about ten years too late. By 2007, we, as a society, had more or less given up the notion that SUVs were exclusively for rugged outdoor types. There is still a market for people who truly want to go off-road, but most people buying SUVs want them for cargo space and a higher driving position, and there is no longer any pressure to pretend otherwise. The Compass and Patriot's apparent need to pretend that they are serious off-roaders seems like it would be more at home in 1997 than 2007.

Jeep probably felt the need to style them aggressively in order to make them appear as though they fit in the lineup, but why not just not build vehicles which don't belong in the lineup? The truth is, nobody has ever really asked for a posermobile. Sometimes they still sell, and on rare occasions, they even sell well (PT Cruiser), but they're never something people really want. At best, they're what people buy when they wish they could afford the real thing. This might be fine when someone buys a Hyundai Equus instead of a Lexus because luxury is something that isn't quantifiable. But off-road ability can be quantified, and Jeep dealt a blow to its own image with two such underachieving machines.

It is the unfortunate byproduct of the bean-counter mentality, the desire to have a product for everyone, regardless of what that does to the brand. If genuine car people were in charge of car companies, nobody would ever have the idea to dress a Dodge Caliber up in a Jeep costume - and probably would never have built the Caliber in the first place, either, but we digress. As we can see from this series, the bean-counter mentality has and will continue to produce some really terrible vehicles.


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