The two smallest SUVs in Jeep's lineup, the Compass and Patriot, are getting all-new interiors for 2009 to help boost sales and fix problems with the previous models' design and materials. The two vehicles are the only ones in Chrysler's lineup that will be getting the upgrades for the 2009 model year, in part because the Patriot's sales have been one of the few bright spots on the company's bottom line.

Primary changes include new Jeep-styled round air vents to replace the previous rectangular units, plus new door trim panels with improved ergonomics and more tactile soft-touch plastics. The instrument panel is upgraded with LED backlighting, cupholders are also illuminated, and a redesigned center console storage area ditches the iPod holder for more interior room. The rear cargo area replaces its vinyl flooring with carpet as a standard feature.

Some changes will be more than skin-deep, however, with upgrades to the sound-deadening floor and engine-bay silincers and a new exhaust element to improve overall quietness. Slightly revised suspension for improved ride and handling plus a simplified option list aim to make the Patriot and Compass even more attractive to order as well.

The overall effect of the interior upgrades is to finally give the cabins of the two vehicles a cohesive, purpose-built design. The hodge-podge elements and hit-and-miss design of previous models is banished in favor of a consistent theme and uniform appearance. Whether that will be enough to help buoy sales as the market stays soft, however, will only be proven on the showroom floor.

Chrysler is also considering upgrading its Jeep plant for a more car-like vehicle, meaning the unique updates to the 2009 Compass and Patriot could in part be prep for that vehicle's debut. The message in the press announcement makes it clear that Jeep is targeting a new type of buyer in a different segment of the market with the Patriot and Compass, and that these smaller vehicles are perceived as the future of the company.

Ford has taken similar steps recently, retasking a pickup and SUV plant to build small European-designed cars for the North American market. Nissan could also supply Chrysler with a new sedan, just as Chrysler is supplying its Dodge Ram to Nissan as the Titan pickup.

2009 Jeep Patriot interior updates

2009 Jeep Compass interior updates