Spring may be coming, but drivers still need all the traction assistance they can get from their cars. So four-wheel drive SUVs become the logical choice — such as the Jeep Patriot, which is easily attainable under $20,000 and features optional lockable 4WD, tow hooks, and all-terrain Goodyear tires. Also residing in the company lineup is the Jeep Compass. In the same price bracket, this model possesses a more city-friendly aesthetic with its rectangular headlamps and traditional SUV silhouette. It’s still full of utility, however, possessing a 4×4 system capable of sending 100 percent torque to a single wheel, all-the-while delivering 31 miles per gallon. Let’s examine these two products and more in today’s post.

Jeep Patriot

Enthusiasts have long turned to the Jeep nameplate for vehicles that can do everything except break the bank. The Patriot is such an example. Mixing the brand’s classic front fascia and a more traditional SUV body, it comes in two 4×4 flavors: Freedom Drive I and II. Both utilize always-active four-wheel drive with lock mode to tackle rough weather conditions and unpredictable terrain. Freedom Drive II is better suited to traversing unpaved destinations, adding in big wheels wrapped in beefy tread, skid plates, and a continuously variable trans-axle.

Buyers may choose either of two powertrain offerings depending on their preferences. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 158 horsepower and 141 lb-ft of torque, mated to a five-speed manual transmission, or a 172-horsepower 2.4-liter four cylinder managed by CVT or a six-speed automatic.

Nissan Pathfinder

Sold over three decades and counting, the Nissan Pathfinder was a pioneer in the SUV segment and continues to be an excellent candidate for those wanting something that’s not only practical, but handsome, too. The current second-gen has sculpted fenders, an athletic stance and chrome accents. Inside, the three-row seating is able to accommodate up to seven passengers.

The Pathfinder’s 4WD is flexible, letting the user to select front-drive only when extra grip isn’t necessary in order to save fuel, a lock mode in case the road becomes slippery, and an intuitive auto setting allowing the computer to monitor the situation and adjust power distribution between the axles as needed.

Jeep Compass

If there ever were an off-roader disguised as an urban vehicle, the Compass would be it. The sleek smoked headlights, integrated with a slimmer and wider interpretation of the signature seven-slot grille, take center stage in terms of exterior design. Supporting players include the bulged hood, steeply sloping roofline, available contrasting Gloss Black painted roof, dual-pane sunroof and LED tail lamps flowing seamlessly into the liftgate section. The crossover looks equally at home whether parked in front of a high-rise office building or splashing through a back country creek.

Speaking of which, the Compass is equipped with an intelligent full-time 4×4 setup that can send all of the engine torque produced to any one of the four corners if needed. Like the Patriot above, a surprisingly economical 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine resides under the hood, helped by engine start-stop technology and an efficient six-speed automatic gearbox.

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