When the Jeep folks said they were sending the new diesel-powered Wrangler with a $62K price tag, there was plenty of excitement. Unfortunately, due to the nationwide virus problem, the shipment got canceled. But the good news, I did manage to grab a new 2020 Compass, which is better than no Jeep at all.

This is considered an “economy” model, with starting fee of about $23K, which gives a bare SUV with six-speed manual transmission. This is the upgraded Limited version starting at $29K. This fee includes the nine-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. It is also loaded up with options like leather, stereo, power goodies, navigation, safety nannies and of course a sunroof. This brings the total tab to a jaw-dropping $39,130!

Under the hood is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder cranking 180 horsepower. The 4x4 system has a setting for Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud. There is no low range for serious trails, so light-duty use is the order of the day. Fuel economy is claimed to be 22 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway and 25 overall. We drove it for a week to get the real figures.

The cabin is nothing fancy, but all controls are simple and easy to use. The biggest complaint is the gauge cluster. While it is a good design, the plastic covers reflect in the sun, blocking vision. We did take the Compass off-roading, and it did well in the sand and when gliding over small rocks. We also took some highway trips. The fuel economy was 24/27 mpg, but in the city, this dropped to 17. This is an issue when you find out the gas tank holds only 13.5 gallons! This can drop the range to 220 miles.

Overall, the Compass can be a good choice for those who want to enter the Jeep world but are low on money. But be careful with that option list, as it can jack the price up in a hurry!

Next up is the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SUV. Like the Jeep, it starts low at $23K, and this was an upgraded SEL with a base tab of $28K. But with options like metallic paint, premium sound, radar cruise, heated seats, electronic nannies and sunroof, the tab was a whopping $32,520. At least for this fee we are getting a real 92% Japanese vehicle, made in Japan. There is also a 10-year/100K warranty.

The only engine offered is a tiny 1.5-liter turbo cranking 152 horsepower. It is hooked to a CVT transmission. There is no sport mode offered, but we do get paddle shifters to pick gears manually. So operated, the manual mode offers eight simulated gears for quicker acceleration. Fuel economy is listed at 25 mpg city, 26 highway and 25 overall (no, that is not a misprint). An all-wheel-drive system gives a setting for Auto, Street, Snow or Gravel.

The cabin quality is excellent, and most controls are easy to use. The off-road ability is there, but keep in mind this is a car, not a truck. On the street, that CVT gearbox sucks the life out of the engine, and unless the manual mode is used, acceleration is slow, to say the least. Fuel economy on the freeway is OK at 24 mpg, with 19 in the city. Like the Compass, this can get expensive with options, so shop for your best deal.

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Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.

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