In 2007, Jeep launched a vehicle that was an abomination of this classic American title. The name on the back of the car read Compass, but direction was the one thing Jeep just didn’t have with this particular model. Our guess is that Jeep had no idea in which direction to head in next.
The exterior was classic Chrysler, as they attempted to give crossover buyers some Jeep attitude, but instead insulted them with fake muscular looks. Sort of like a body builder on steroids, the previous-generation Compass was all show and nothing underneath.
The interior was plastered in cheap plastics and a design that would damage retinas. Basically, what buyers were forced to live with was a Dodge Caliber that was more expensive and useless. Hard to believe the Jeep actually kept the name for this next-generation model. However, nearly four years later, the Compass is back and that needle may finally be pointed in the right direction.
More details on the Jeep Compass after the jump.
Upon first glance, the 2011 Jeep Compass delivers in the looks department. This realization is shocking, as the Compass is basically a Grand Cherokee, just shrunken down into a smaller package. Normally, these miniaturizations never work out as planned, but Jeep found a way to make it work. While the front end is clearly new and much improved, the rear of the Compass is nearly the same. Obviously, Jeep’s budget for the redesign was small, so instead of overhauling the back of the crossover, the automaker added some lower cladding and new LED taillights. At this point, being a product of Chrysler, one would expect the praise to end and the slamming to begin. Yet, that’s not at all what’s going to happen, as Jeep actually did a good job overhauling other various areas of the 2011 Compass.
Jeep added panel pads and insulation in a number of various areas to keep the noise down in the cabin. While it worked well, there are still some issues with engine noise, as it can penetrate the interior and is a bit unpleasant to the ears.
Step inside the Compass’s interior and prepare to be shocked, as Jeep has overhauled everything to make it feel better to the touch and look better to the eye. The door panels and center armrest now sport soft-touch surfaces, which improve the vehicle’s livability. On top of that, the seating position is rather high, making the Compass easy to drive on a daily basis.
Jeep has also redone the springs and dampers to help the ride comfort. The spring rates have been increased by 20 percent and the dampers are similar to the ones found on the Grand Cherokee. The front and rear stabilizer bars have also been stiffened up at around 10 percent. What’s the overall result of all this? In the end, the 2011 Compass has an improved ride on the road and feels like a proper Jeep.
Engine and Performance
The steering feels good and provides decent feedback, but nothing spectacular. Handling was good, but not great and body roll was well controlled. Under the hood, Jeep installed a 2.4-liter inline-four with 172 horsepower. The engine was connected to a CVT transmission with a 0-60 mph time of around nine seconds. Sadly, the Compass felt rather slow to hit that 60 mph mark. This could be due to the fact that Compass lacks any real torque, as the engine only developed 165 pound-feet of it.
The base Compass comes with a 2.0-liter engine that manages only 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque, so the upgrade to the larger powerplant is much needed.
On-road the 2011 Jeep Compass was fine, nothing special, but not terrible. Off-road, however, is where the Jeep shines. For the first time, the Compass has been “Trail Rated”. This means that it has received numerous bits, including a raised right height and four-wheel drive, that will help it deal with the rough stuff, or in this case snow beyond belief.
The CVT transmission in the Compass features a lower off-road-only gear that offers up a 19:1 crawl ratio. With the shifter set in this position and the four-wheel drive lock switch engaged, the Compass can handle even the deepest of white powder. The front and rear differentials are open, so the torque is sent from side-to-side via the brakes. While it won’t climb any mountains or beat its big brother, the Compass works with what it has and does a decent job of it.
The 2011 Jeep Compass is set to go head-to-head with the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. It seems hard to justify it, considering how good those two vehicles are, but those that are seeking some off-road ability and a muscular stance will flock to the Jeep.
Pricing and Package
Still, the flocking might cease when those people see the price tag. Our test vehicle came in at $27,485, with a base price of $20,995.
The test Compass Latitude 4x4 featured the Customer Preferred Package, which gave the Jeep heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, steering wheel audio controls and other items. Adding another $1,000 was the crawl gear and coming in at $640 was the media center. Premium sound was also equipped, but not recommended as the hard plastics in the rear rattle with only a hint of bass from the subwoofer.
While the Jeep Compass is a massive improvement over the previous version, it’s hard for any company to go from night to day in one model overhaul. While there is no doubt an improvement, it just wasn’t enough to put it in the same league as the Toyota and Honda. That being said, the one area that this Jeep excels in is making you fall in love with it. Whether it be playing in the snow or cruising down the highway,the Jeep is unique and better off for it. Is it the sort of vehicle we would recommend? No. But if given the money to go buy a small crossover, the Jeep would be on our list.
Great design cues from the Grand Cherokee
Lacks refinement found in competition
Not our first choice in the segment