Most people think of Jeeps as tough off-road vehicles that love to get muddy, but when the Jeep Compass debuted for 2007, it wasn’t like other Jeeps. It didn’t look rugged, it wasn’t trail-rated, and as far as we could tell, it didn’t even like dirt. Instead, it was a car-based design built for the majority of small-SUV buyers who wanted a fuel-efficient runabout that was easy to drive around suburbia. Four-wheel drive was available, of course, but it was a single-speed system — enough to get you through a snowstorm and that’s about it.
As you can imagine, Jeep purists didn’t much care for the Compass, which they regarded as the antithesis to all things Jeep. Jeep has taken note, and the latest iteration has revised styling and newfound capabilities that edge the Compass closer to “real Jeep” status. Even so, the Jeep Compass faces stiff competition among today’s compact, car-based SUVs. Its low price and interesting features may be compelling at a glance, but for those who dig deeper, its weak engine, modest cargo capacity and compromised seat comfort will likely prove significant liabilities.