I was brought up with the old saying "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Though most vehicles come with good and bad attributes, finding and equal balance of good and bad in the 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 proved to be cumbersome.

Two years after its last face lift, our 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 comes to us in Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl paint -- a great color when the sun bounces off the metallic flake -- with Dark Slate Grey interior. Latitude is the mid-level trim between Sport and Limited. Latitude is standard equipped with Freedom Drive I (full-time, active four-wheel-drive system with lock mode), Hill-start Assist, electronic stability control, 17-inch aluminum wheels, anti-lock front disc, rear drum brakes, power-heated exterior mirrors, body-color exterior door handles and liftgate trim, illuminated keyless entry, illuminated cupholders, removable/rechargeable flashlight, outside temperature display, premium heated cloth front bucket seats, driver-seat height adjuster, rear reclining 60/40 split seat, projector foglamps, deep tint glass, remote start, 115-volt power inverter, and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and speed controls. Also featured are optional packages: Security and Cargo Convenience group ($695), Premium Sound Group ($650), Uconnect 430 CD/DVD/MP3/HDD ($695), and Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth ($475) -- lots of goodies that look good on paper.

Like many L.A. commuters, I endure the stop-and-go of rush hour traffic where sitting behind the wheel takes up 2-3 hours of my day. The Compass served well, but didn't WOW me as an A-to-B commuter vehicle for my lengthy stint. Its 2.4-liter, I-4 engine with 172 hp with 165 lb-ft of torque is paired with the unimpressive CVT2. Getting up to speed on the open highway is less than optimal in a vehicle of this size, and lagging throttle response made quick lane changes a bit daring to try. The CVT2 was painfully whinnying at open throttle while passing, but once out of traffic and up to speed on the open road, the Compass found its sweet spot at cruising speeds, and the CVT2 was happy again.

The Compass' full-time, active four-wheel-drive Freedom Drive I system is good enough as a daily driver on city streets -- but don't expect more out of it. However, Freedom Drive I has a lockable center coupling to handle in low-traction surfaces - a nice feature for rough weather and slippery conditions. The Jeep Compass pales in comparison with the all-new Ford Escape FWD and Mazda CX-5, both a blast to drive and a little lighter on your wallet.

The Jeep Compass' dark interior hues are pleasing with just a few chrome accents. The dash, borrowing some design features from the Jeep Wrangler, has a subdued look, and all the creature comfort buttons are within easy reach of the drivers seat. The cloth seats are soft and comfortable, with snug seat bolsters. Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth is easy to use once you get your phone aligned with the vehicle. With nine Boston Acoustic speakers, a subwoofer, and two flip-down liftgate speakers, your phone conversations can be heard all the way down the street. And to soften your daily routine of sitting in traffic for long spurts, the Jeep Compass comes with a one-year subscription to Sirius Satellite radio.

I had high expectations for the Jeep Compass just because of the heritage and reputation of the brand. While the revamped 2011 front grille design makes the 'ute look like its older, larger sibling, it still has some catching up to do to be a real competitor in the crossover segment.


2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4x4
BASE PRICE $24,370
PRICE AS TESTED $26,885
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.4L/172-hp/165-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION Cont variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3088 lb (54/46%)
WHEELBASE 103.7 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 175.1 x 71.4 x 65.0 in
0-60 MPH 9.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 17.5 sec @ 81.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 129 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.74 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.4 sec @ 0.54 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 21/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY160/130 kW-hrs/100 mi
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.84 lb/mi