Jeep wants this Compass to be a small SUV competitor, but I have a hard time seeing it as much more than a Dodge Caliber compact car. It may ride a little taller, drive all four wheels, and offer high-end features like navigation, but there's not much utility here. And as the Compass combines unparalleled levels of ho-hum and ugly, it is certifiable insanity that Jeep would build even one of these cars at a price of $30,130.
The Compass drives reasonably well, but there's not much to love here. In an attempt to infuse some Jeep feeling into a car platform, you sit tall and fairly upright. Massive A-pillars obstruct your forward view and visually add to the mass of the vehicle. With an intrusive center console, a tall bump in the floor pan, and large plastic cupholders right where your feet belong, the rear seat's middle section is unusable except as a place for a child seat. The continuously variable transmission is below the standard that Nissan has established-somehow, it manages to occasionally elicit a small clunk like it's swapping cogs.
I was also offended by the fixed-and-flappy mast antenna mounted on the front fender. You can buy cars for $13,000 that don't have a steel antenna waving in the wind.
If I had thirty grand to put down on an all-wheel-drive vehicle with a hatch, I'd be looking at an Audi A3; a Subaru Impreza, Outback, or Forester; or one of the many other small sport utilities that make much better use of space. For Jeep, this Compass certainly points in the wrong direction.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor