Going & Stopping

Want a thrilling driving experience? This Jeep doesn't have one, but that's OK; you don't need to peel out at traffic lights if you're driving a Compass. What you need to know is that at highway speeds, the Compass doesn't waver. With some heavy boxes in the back and my wife in the passenger seat I was doing more than 80 without noticing it on the highway (this one was well-paved).

Now here's where we have to talk about the CVT. The three-lettered transmission option might be a mystery to car buyers, but it shouldn't be. Just think of it as an advanced automatic transmission that transitions between gears very smoothly — so smoothly that most people wind up missing the jolts a standard automatic delivers when shifting from one gear to the next. The CVT is also supposed to aid in fuel economy. I was very disappointed, though, with the 23/26 mpg city/highway of the Compass. Even with all-wheel drive, it barely contends with a much more outdated Subaru Impreza. It might compare to those compact SUVs we mentioned before, like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, but it doesn't come close to compact hatchbacks like the Mazda3 and Toyota Matrix.

The 172-horsepower engine was pretty hum-drum and nowhere near as exciting as the same setup in the Caliber. It was driving at highway speeds that made me enjoy the Compass as a competent commuter, not the launches from stoplights.

Braking wasn't nearly as acceptable; during one real-life emergency braking maneuver there was significant shudder from the brakes that had me a bit tense. Brake feel in day-to-day driving, however, was solid.

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