With a base price starting around $17,000, the entry-level Compass offers a lot of versatility for consumers wanting to move into the Jeep brand.

Available in two trim lines — Sport and Limited — the five-passenger Compass delivers a good deal of interior room while providing car-like handling.

Rear-seat passengers also benefit from an available recline feature.

Sharing the same platform as the Dodge Caliber, the Compass is available in front- or four-wheel drive configurations.

While an appealing entry-level addition into the Jeep lineup, it is not a “Trail Rated” model, even when equipped with four-wheel drive.

While 4X4 does provide additional grip in inclement weather driving conditions, this isn’t a model you’d want to take on the Rubicon or Moab off-road trails.

For its segment, however, the Compass is loaded with a number of standard safety features, including dual front and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability program, anti-lock brakes with brake traction control and brake assist, tire pressure monitoring and electronic roll mitigation, to name but a few.

Compass buyers have their choice of two in-line, four-cylinder engines.

The standard powerplant is a 2.4-liter engine rated at 172 horsepower and 165 lbs.-ft. torque.

Mated to either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transaxle (CVT) with Auto Stick, it requires regular unleaded gasoline and has an EPA fuel economy average of 23 mpg city, 28 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models equipped with manual transmission. CVT models yield 21 mpg city, 25 mpg highway. Four-wheel drive models have an EPA rating approximately 1 mpg less.

Front-wheel drive buyers also have the option of a 2.0-liter I-4 liter engine mated to the CVT. Also requiring regular unleaded gasoline, it has an EPA fuel economy rating of 23 mpg city, 27 mpg highway.

There are a lot of things I like about the Compass.

It is nicely equipped with a long list of standard features, such as air conditioning, outdoor temperature display, premium audio system with CD, tilt steering column, fog lamps and a really convenient center console with a flip pocket for storing a cell phone or iPod that easily connected to the audio system through an auxiliary input jack.

It’s also extremely versatile, comfortably seating five adult-size passengers and still providing 22.7 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat. If you need more room, fold the rear seat flat, allowing for up to 53.6 cubic feet of cargo area.

I’m not too keen on the styling, however.

While the Compass does offer some softer, rounded edges, like most Jeep models, the exterior is more-or-less a box on wheels, which makes it easily identifiable as a Jeep — even if it’s not Trail Rated like most of the Compass’ bigger siblings.

While nicely equipped for an entry-level model, the interior design is less than inspiring. There is no mistaking this for a luxury model — or even a near luxury for that matter.

Buyers may also want to consider the Jeep Patriot, which shares the exact same platform but offers some off-road capability — the Patriot is also priced a little bit less than the Compass.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.