The compact SUV category is arguably one of the hottest segments around. Every manufacturer has at least one compact SUV in its line-up and buyers lap them up like hotcakes.
But for all their practicality and versatility, the reality is that most of these vehicles are nothing more than glorified raised hatches which are more all-weather conveyances than outright mud warriors. There are exceptions, of course. One of these is the Jeep Compass.
First seen in 2007, the Jeep Compass sits below the Wrangler in the brand hierarchy and is the off-road specialist’s take on the compact SUV. Still, the urban-friendly design is merely a come-on for stylish urbanites that want something style-appropriate for their favorite country club or nightspot. The real kicker is that seven-slat grille up front; a sign of what lies underneath.
Buyers have a choice between the standard front-wheel drive and two Freedom Drive systems. Freedom Drive I is a full-time, active four-wheel drive setup that is suited more for year-round use within the city and the surrounding environments. It can handle rain, snow, and other slippery surfaces. Freedom Drive II, on the other hand, is a trail-rated four-wheel drive system in the best Jeep tradition. It can tackle the most grueling conditions.
Powering the Jeep Compass is a pair of four-cylinder motors: a 2.0-liter gas engine that puts out 158hp and 191Nm and is mated to a five-speed manual, or a 2.4-liter DOHC with dual variable-valve timing. The latter is rated at 172hp and is matched to a six-speed Powertech automatic. An optional CVT with low range is also available for the Freedom Drive II option.
And there lies the beauty (or macho appeal) of the Jeep Compass. Sure, it's a compact SUV in the true sense of the term. Yet the Jeep heritage and underpinnings make it a truly capable off-road vehicle that would look at home in the boondocks, as well as in a rain-soaked mall parking ramp. It is a Jeep, after all.