2011 Jeep Compass Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 30, 2011

The 2011 Jeep Compass, remains a vehicle that looks better on paper—roomy, versatile, and maneuverable, but still lacking in driving refinement and powertrain responsiveness.

The new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Compass's larger, hardier sibling, got a complete redesign this year, and it's been almost unanimously lauded for being attractively proportioned, if a bit conservative. Meanwhile, the former, pre-2011 Compass has not at all been well-received, especially with respect to styling. Its 'Jeep Modern' design—with an odd combination Wrangler/CJ design cues in front and an odd, angular crossover tail—never quite took with either conservative Jeep suburbanites or with the hip urban folks Jeep originally aimed it at. Design-wise odd yet homely were appropriate descriptors.

The short story is that Jeep tried to give the 2011 Compass the Grand Cherokee treatment. The Compass hasn't received a complete redesign for 2011, just some softened sheetmetal and new front and rear end styling. The proportions are the same, with the boxy wheelwell outline and smooth rear-pillar upkick preserved. the front end is a smaller, softer version of the Grand Cherokee's, while the taillamps have also been softened. Overall, the Compass has a vaguely sleeker, classier look from some angles, but the changes don't reduce the Compass's ungainliness, to our eyes.

Likewise, Jeep claims to have upgraded trims and finishes inside, but those upgrades are basically limited to a new steering wheel, some new knobs for the climate control, and a few more bright plasti-chrome accents. Available leather seats have contrasting piping and are an upgrade in style, though. That said, the fundamentals are all here and the layout of the interior is straightforward and functional—and appealing in appearance if not always feel.

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6

2011 Jeep Compass

Styling

The 2011 Compass now fits in much better with the new Grand Cherokee, but it's traded weirdness for ubiquity.

The new 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Compass's larger, hardier sibling, got a complete redesign this year, and it's been almost unanimously lauded for being attractively proportioned, if a bit conservative. Meanwhile, the former, pre-2011 Compass has not at all been well-received, especially with respect to styling. Its 'Jeep Modern' design—with an odd combination Wrangler/CJ design cues in front and an odd, angular crossover tail—never quite took with either conservative Jeep suburbanites or with the hip urban folks Jeep originally aimed it at. Design-wise odd yet homely were appropriate descriptors.

The short story is that Jeep tried to give the 2011 Compass the Grand Cherokee treatment. The Compass hasn't received a complete redesign for 2011, just some softened sheetmetal and new front and rear end styling. The proportions are the same, with the boxy wheelwell outline and smooth rear-pillar upkick preserved. the front end is a smaller, softer version of the Grand Cherokee's, while the taillamps have also been softened. Overall, the Compass has a vaguely sleeker, classier look from some angles, but the changes don't reduce the Compass's ungainliness, to our eyes.

Likewise, Jeep claims to have upgraded trims and finishes inside, but those upgrades are basically limited to a new steering wheel, some new knobs for the climate control, and a few more bright plasti-chrome accents. Available leather seats have contrasting piping and are an upgrade in style, though. That said, the fundamentals are all here and the layout of the interior is straightforward and functional—and appealing in appearance if not always feel.

6

2011 Jeep Compass

Performance

The 2011 Jeep Compass has sluggish, subpar powertrains, but its low-speed maneuverability is excellent and it does better than most crossovers off-road when properly optioned.

Although Jeep is known for its hardcore, no-compromise-on-the-trail off-road utes, the 2011 Jeep Compass is more a small car—and, when properly optioned, one wearing some truly athletic cross-training duds.

The Jeep Compass, for the most part, drives like a high-riding small passenger car. And that's really what it is; with car-based underpinnings at least partly shared with the Dodge Caliber, the Compass is one of the best-handling Jeeps ever—and certainly one of the most maneuverable for tight corners and tight spaces.

A 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, but we still recommend the step-up 172-hp, 2.4-liter four, as it makes 24 pound-feet more torque—a difference you can feel, especially off the line.

The entry-level Compass trim gets the five-speed manual standard, with a CVT included on the Latitude and Limited models. Between these two engines, you might as well go with the larger one—it has a little more torque, so it's slightly perkier from a stoplight. We recommend the manual, as this model's Achilles Heel continues to be its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is slow to ramp up revs and respond to passing demands or merely confident acceleration out of tight corners. The CVT also brings out these engines' tendency to be loud, coarse, and vibration-prone.

Base Compass models come with front-wheel drive. While the Freedom Drive I option is essentially for those who want all-wheel-drive ability for snow or mud, the Freedom Drive II system gives this vehicle a level of off-road ability that's unusual in small crossovers. As such, the Compass gains Jeep's Trail Rated badge, bringing a continuously-variable transaxle that engages in off-road mode, a one-inch higher ride height, skid plates, and a full-size spare. Appearance elements of the Freedom Drive II package included 17-inch alloy wheels, and fog lamps. The Freedom Drive II package is recommended for "moderate off-road situations," including steep grades, occasional wheel lift, and rock or log climbing, and on a loose, muddy trail, we were extremely impressed by the level of traction and composure.

6

2011 Jeep Compass

Comfort & Quality

The interior of the 2011 Jeep Compass isn't comfortable or refined, but it's functional and utilitarian.

Jeep has spruced up the interior with respect to a number of details for 2011, but the seating, cargo, and instrument-panel layouts carry over.

For four adults, the Compass's interior does the job; seats tend to be quite short and lacking in support, so it's no long-haul highway cruiser, but the driving position is upright yet quite carlike. In back there's enough headroom for most adults (although legroom is a bit tight), and the bench is among the hardest, flattest ones we've tested. While there are plenty of cubbies and bins for stashing small items, cargo space remains limited. There just isn't much space behind the back seats, and the cargo floor is a bit higher than you might expect.

The Compass gets soft-touch surfaces for the door panels for 2011, plus all-new upholsteries and new backlit door switches and window controls. Despite Chrysler's efforts, switchgear still feels on the cheap side, though the new details do slightly improve first impressions.

While the 2011 Compass has a decent, albeit slightly pitchy ride, it remains near the back of the pack in refinement. Chrysler has added more noise insulation to the Compass over the years, which has helped reduce road and wind noise, but a surprisingly high level of engine noise and coarseness still enters the cabin when accelerating.

7

2011 Jeep Compass

Safety

The 2011 Jeep Compass comes with all the expected safety features, though rearward visibility could be an issue for some drivers.

The Compass has been revised for 2011 and hasn't yet been tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2010 Compass earned top five-star ratings for side-impact protection and four stars for frontal protection from the federal government—though it should be noted that those tests were more generously scored than the more stringent testing and ratings system introduced for 2011.

Standard safety features include side curtain airbags, Brake Traction Control, a driver-controlled three-mode Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Brake Assist, Electronic Roll Mitigation, and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with rough-road detection, along with front-seat side airbags and active head restraints.

Rearward visibility remains an issue in the Compass. For many drivers, the rear-pillar upkick gets in the way during lane changes; the Compass's tall rear window isn't so friendly for parking either.

9

2011 Jeep Compass

Features

The Jeep Compass continues to offer an impressive, thoughtful feature set—plus an improved lineup of options for 2011.

The 2011 Jeep Compass doesn't quite offer the level of luxury equipment you can get on Jeep's Grand Cherokee flagship, but there's nothing sorely missing here. Three trim levels are available for 2011: the Compass, Latitude, and Limited. All three can be had with any of the off-road packages, with the primary differentiation being on the level of interior equipment.

Standard features on all Compass models now include air conditioning; power windows, locks, and mirrors; keyless entry; fog lamps; alloy wheels; and cruise control. Latitude and Limited models add more option potential, with available extras like remote start, Uconnect Bluetooth with voice control, a universal garage-door opener, and tailgate speakers, as well as an available media center system with 30 gigabytes of music storage. The top Limited model adds automatic climate control, an upgraded media center, Sirius Satellite Radio, and big 18-inch wheels.

In addition to the cool tailgate speaker setup, the Compass has a few other nice details that still stand out in the market, such as a rechargeable flashlight that mounts alongside the cargo area.

7

2011 Jeep Compass

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Jeep Compass isn't particularly fuel-efficient or green, though it looks quite frugal next to traditional off-road SUVs.

For a vehicle with just two closely related (and closely sized) four-cylinder engines, the 2011 Jeep Compass can have quite widely varying EPA fuel economy ratings depending on which transmission and drive system you get. City ratings range from 20 to 23 mpg, and highway ratings span from 23 mpg to 29, with base front-wheel-drive, manual-transmission Compass models doing the best and models with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package getting just 20/23 mpg.

Are those ratings impressive? In an absolute sense, they're not very green, and you could do much better with a more carlike hatchback model while having about the same interior space. But versus other off-road-capable vehicles, the Compass is a reasonably green choice.

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April 15, 2015
For 2011 Jeep Compass

not bad at all

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Pure basics. Slow accelaration. Lack of special features.
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Styling 6.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 7.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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