With so many capable small crossovers flooding the market, some are bound to get lost in the shuffle. One such backbencher is the Jeep Compass, which features mini-Grand Cherokee styling and off-road capability at a reasonable price.
Does the Compass deserve more attention than it gets? We compare it to the popular Honda CR-V to find out.
Sizing Up the Compass
Though not intended for heavy-duty adventure, the Compass can be equipped to go places most other crossovers can't. That's a good thing, but the off-road Freedom II package requires the much-maligned continuously variable transmission (CVT) that hampers performance and does nothing to bolster fuel economy. To escape the CVT and get the conventional six-speed automatic, you'll have go with a less capable all-wheel drive setup or standard front-drive, both of which eliminate the Compass's only real advantage.
Ride quality lags behind the competition, and neither of the two available four-cylinders provides anything special in the way of performance or economy. In our search for some redeeming qualities, we found could find no better than average cargo space and towing capability.
The current CR-V is thoroughly up-to-date in design and technology. Its strong suit remains cargo space, up to 71 cubic feet of it, in addition to numerous storage compartments for small items. Instead of a sliding rear seat, the Honda offers spring-loaded seatbacks that fold down automatically when released via a lever. It's a simple but effective system that doesn't require contortions or a motor.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder delivers 185 horsepower and 29 mpg in combined city and highway driving. Most drivers will find the CR-V smooth, refined and highly maneuverable.
Does the Compass Deserve a Look?
It's obvious that the Honda offers more space, refinement and versatility. If your top priority is the ability to leave the road when the spirit moves you, then go ahead and test drive the Compass. But be warned: the rough ride and cranky CVT will probably send you into the arms of a 4x4 wagon -- or cause you to rethink your priorities.
Our Verdict: Honda CR-V
Putting the Compass up against the CR-V seems as unfair as sending a third-grader to MIT.