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Compass points way to some good,dirty fun

Although it's one of the smaller Jeeps, it shows a big ability to handle the muck

So what is the point of a Jeep, a Compass point to be precise? I pondered this question as I sat in the 2011 Jeep Compass North Edition, smack in the middle of a 20-foot-wide mud puddle. I had just spent the last hour "testing" the Compass's off-road worthiness on some backwoods trails of the undeveloped park at Pointe des Cascades favoured by the local "mudders." I had but a few final hours to kill before handing the Compass over to my associate Kevin Mio, and while I had put a few hundred kilometres on the Jeep's odometer,they were all on asphalt -though Montréal's broken pavement and potholes could be considered off-roading.

Chrysler, Jeep's corporate parent, had quite a challenge for it's engineers and designers: Expand the Jeep brand, which earned such a well-deserved reputation during the Second World War as a nearly indestructible, go-anywhere vehicle. The Jeep forged a fierce following with drivers who don't stop when the road ends. Would they ever accept a softer, kinder Jeep? Could anything less than military-grade hardware be considered a Jeep?

Today, Jeep offers a wide variety of vehicles - the Wrangler, Grand Cherokee, Liberty, Compass, and Patriot -but that will change as Fiat now owns 25 per cent of Chrysler and the Italians have some ideas of their own.

In November 2009 it was announced that among Jeep models,the two smaller ones, the Patriot and Compass, would be dropped in favour for a single Fiat-based SUV. However, the 2011 Compass received several upgrades and has earned its own"Trail Rated" badge for the first time since its introduction in 2006 as a 2007 model.

Design:

The 2011 Compass's exterior has been redesigned to resemble its larger sibling, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, particularly in the front fascia. The grille proudly highlights the traditional seven slots found on all Jeep vehicles and makes the connection to the Cherokee. The chromed inserts a reavery classy touch of sparkle and raise the level of detail on the Compass.

The side profile still has the less-than-attractive triangular C-pillar at the rear, a shape not seen since the AMC Gremlin. The rear end features redesigned LED tail lights and a sporty spoiler.

The roof rails have been slimmed down for 2011 and not only look tidier but lower the amount of wind noise and help reduce fuel consumption.

The interior continues where the exterior left off with the Jeep theme in design and materials.

While the dash does consist of large expanses of plastic, most are nicely textured and rubberized to the touch, adding a level of quality.The front passenger gets both a glovebox and a large recessed shelf that proved to be very practical.

The premium cloth bucket seats in the front are mounted quite high, the driver's seat is height adjustable, and they are fairly flat but you will really appreciate the good sightlines when crawling along a muddy or rocky back road. The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold down flat to give the Compass lots of cargo room. Need more? Fold the front passenger seat flat.

The steering wheel is equipped with integrated controls that allow the driver to operate the radio, cruise control, available hands-free phone and other vehicle functions while keeping their hands on the wheel.

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