The Inside

Chrysler can no longer get by on flashy exterior designs alone. Over the past few years, as good-looking vehicles like the Chrysler 300 and Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled out, everyone overlooked their relatively bulky and, let's just say it, cheap plastic interiors. In this $15,995 Compass, the interior is even more plasticky.

Here's where that Jeep nameplate helps out; because Jeep, unlike Dodge, is known as an offroad brand, there are rugged cues that make the plastic less offensive than in the more street-oriented Caliber. Meaning, if a car looks like it's going to get muddy, you don't want it to look too nice.

There are also convenient cubbies and cupholders in all the right places. There's even a slot above the glove box that's perfect for a run to the post office.

My tester's cloth seats were supportive and felt good to the touch, as did the roof lining. The steering wheel also felt great; it was made of soft plastic and was just the right size for any driver. An oversized shift lever was kind of bulky, but it didn't impair drivability. The gauges — with little cardinal points to play up the Compass name — were pretty cool and looked more expensive than the rest of the interior.

That said, I just couldn't get over the rough seams where one plastic part met another. They can scratch the skin — they were that unfinished. When my wife got into the car for the first time she used the word "cheap" immediately. I told her it cost a lot less than her 2004 Grand Cherokee, though. About $10,000 less. She quickly changed her tune, saying, "It's not that bad."

Even after a week, though, I'm sure I could only live with the Compass' interior if I got a version of the car that was closer to the $15,985 base price and not the $21,185 tester price.

    See also:

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