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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.
- Practical, spacious cabin
- Good fuel efficiency compared to SUVs
- Strong feature set
- Affordable price
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- Sluggish CVT performance with either engine
- Somewhat tight cargo space
- Coarse, vibration-prone engines
- Overall lack of refinement
- Mini-Grand Cherokee look doesn't work from all angles