The new face of Jeep's Compass
Facelifts can work. Just ask Joan Rivers. A nip and a tuck here, a lift and a snip there can do wonders to rejuvenate a saggy visage. It's certainly worked for Jeep's cute-ute Compass. Gone are those weird "deer-in-the-headlights" eyes and droopy face. In their place, Jeep designers gave it the classy, elegant front end of the latest Jeep Grand Cherokee, instantly giving the Compass a classier, more refined look. Sadly, there wasn't any more cash in the kitty for a full-body makeover. But the few bucks they had left they put to good use, upgrading the cabin with more soft-touch materials to replace the cheapo, brittle plastics, and adding more standard equipment.Now, instead of being a complete also-ran in the compact SUV market, this 2012 Compass competes well with the class big-guns, like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sorento and Subaru Forester. But while the new Compass has all grown up, so has its price tag. Gone are the days of $16,000 base models. Now, a base front-drive Compass Sport with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and five-speed manual, stickers at $19,295. Go crazy with the options on the upscale Limited, by adding 4x4, a sunroof, and premium sound and you can get up to $30,000 real easy. For me, the Compass that makes the most sense is the mid-range Latitude 4x2 at $21,645. It comes with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder coupled with the standard CVT automatic, giving 27 mpg highway economy. Around town, despite having only 158 horsepower, it feels zippy, nimble and fun to drive, with light precise steering and a smooth, won't-beat-you-up ride. It's big on practicality too, with that high-lifting tailgate giving access to a roomy load area and 60/40-split rear seats that fold flat for extra space. Maybe think of the 2102 Compass as the cute-ute that just got cuter – and a whole lot more appealing. Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be reached at email@example.com.