One of our drivers fell in love with the 2014 Jeep Compass; another one didn’t like it at all. Bland and boring, it’s not. It elicits strong emotions in people who drive it.

The difference, apparently, was distance and load. The driver who liked the Compass drove it around town and used it for a 17-mile, one-way commute. The one who didn’t like it drove it across Connecticut with three passengers and their luggage.

So we’ll start with what was good about the Compass. Our commuter felt it was just the right size, high enough off the ground to give a good view of the surroundings, but low enough to provide easy access and egress. Fuel economy in this 4×4 compact wagon was acceptable at about 24 mpg, and handling was competent though unexciting. The 6-speed automatic transmission did a better job transmitting the 4-cylinder engine’s power to the road than the continuously variable transmission used in an earlier Compass test car.

So what’s not to like? The driver who went on a one-day road trip felt the car was noisy and underpowered. And, while the front seat passengers were comfortable, adults who had to ride in back felt cramped. Other compact SUVs, especially the highly rated Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, are more accommodating.

The appeal of the Compass therefore is based mainly on how it will be used. With the optional 4×4 drive and 8.1 inches of road clearance, it’s just the thing to find in your driveway on a snowy morning. It’s suitable for mild off-road driving, too. Long road trips with the family or friends? Not so much.

The Compass’ price is within reach of many budgets, compared with the pricier CR-V, Ford Escape, RAV-4 and Chevrolet Equinox. The Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage cost about $1,000 less at base level. But only the Compass bears the Jeep name.

Our test car, a Compass Limited 4×4 with about $2,000 worth of options, had a sticker price of $30,725. At this price, the Compass is designed for maximum luxury, with leather upholstery, remote start, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, audio upgrade, navigation system, and UConnect voice command with Bluetooth.

The base Compass, with front-wheel drive, a 5-speed stick shift, front-wheel drive and a smaller, less powerful Four, starts at $19,490. All Compass 4×4 models can be equipped with a package called Freedom Drive II Off-Road. It wasn’t included on our test car but struck us as a pretty good value at $550. It includes 17-inch all-terrain tires, underbody skid plates, hill descent control, tow hooks, 4-wheel-drive off-road mode, all-season floor mats and other features enhancing its off-road capability.

The Compass’ 8.1-inch ground clearance exceeds those of all of its major competitors – by a lot, in some cases. Only the Escape, with 7.9 inches, comes close.

The Compass received just three stars (out of a possible five) in government crash tests but did better than many SUVs in rollover resistance, with four stars.

 

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

 

Price: $30,725

Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 172 horsepower, 165 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: shiftable 6-speed automatic

Drive: 4-wheel

Ground clearance: 8.1 in.

Weight: 3,345 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 18×7-in. Painted alloy

Tires: P215/55R18 all-season

Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 22.7 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 62.7 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 13.5 gal.

Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

Fuel type: Regular unleaded