Should you find yourself looking for a sport utility vehicle for an affordable price, you may very well find yourself at your local Jeep store with a few different options from which to choose. There's the subcompact, Italian-built and ultra-adorable Renegade, which has charmed the pants off the media, and a pair of larger compact Jeep models, the Patriot and Compass.
The Patriot and the Compass are fraternal twins that share a common underpinning with the long-defunct Dodge Caliber compact hatchback. Unlike the boxy Patriot, the Compass sports rounded styling and eschews the traditional Jeep circular headlamps for ones that are styled in the likeness of the flagship Grand Cherokee. Every model receives alloy wheels and fog lamps as standard, not to mention chrome exterior accents and roof rails. If you're tracking the changes from year to year, it's worth noting that there's a new colour for 2017 - Mojave Sand, a metallic khaki.
Jeep offers the Compass in four different trim levels, each in 2x4 or 4x4 form. The base trim level is Sport, followed by North Edition, then the High Altitude. Although it debuted last year, the Compass continues to offer a 75th Anniversary Edition trim level which includes unique interior trim and seat upholstery, custom exterior colours, bronze-finish exterior trim and other add-ons.
Though the Compass is a fairly simple vehicle, there's quite a selection of powertrain options available to consumers depending on trim level. The base Sport 4x2 (front-wheel drive) trim receives a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque; it comes paired to a five-speed manual transmission. This engine is also featured on the High Altitude 4x2 trim, but has a CVT transmission as standard equipment.
Spec a Sport model with 4x4 running gear, and the engine grows to a 2.4-litre that develops 172 horsepower. The Sport 4x4 is available exclusively with a five-speed manual transmission; there is no option for an automatic. All other trims - High Altitude 4x4, 75th Anniversary Edition, and North Edition 4x4 get this engine paired to a conventional six-speed automatic transmission. The exception to the rule is the North Edition 4x4 with the Off-Road Group which features jacked-up suspension, off-road tires, under-body protection and a CVT transmission that mimics the rock-crawling ratio of a vehicle with a transfer case.
While the Compass' cabin design is starting to look dated, the cabin is spacious and offers a good degree of flexibility. Rear-seat legroom leads the affordable compact crossover class, and there's a reasonable amount of cargo space behind seats that split-fold 60/40. Depending on trim, the rear seat can also recline.
As one of Jeep's oldest models, the Compass lacks the latest in infotainment and active safety gear. The standard stereo is an AM/FM/single-disc CD player; higher trim levels receive a six-disc changer. A reverse camera, USB input, touchscreen display, and navigation are optional on most trims.