Overall, this powertrain makes daily driving pleasant. It’s quiet and smooth, and the seamless shifting CVT transmission keeps the engine speed in a nice position, without sacrificing responsiveness or fuel economy. I like how the Jeep is not overly thirsty. Not bad for an entry level SUV.
The four wheel independent suspension with improved higher spring rates and specially tuned dampers keep the ride firm, but not bouncy. Body roll was not bad considering the slightly higher ride height and center of gravity of the SUV. Steering feel and response was also good. Often times power steering is too light for my preference, but in this case, Jeep struck the right balance of weight and road feel.
Interior/Exterior Styling and Features
I personally have always liked the styling of the Wrangler and Cherokee series, so it was nice to see that the Compass shared at least some of those traits. The exterior grill from the Cherokee is unmistakable and the Wrangler lends more aggressive features like the fender flares. It’s not the most beautiful SUV on the market or even in its class, but there is no doubt that this is a Jeep.
The overall shape is consistent with Jeep design, though the new “slash” c pillar does not make for stellar visibility when changing lanes or maneuvering. It reminds me of the blind spot on my Toyota FJ. In this case, this problem can be solved with an adhesive wide angle mirror on the side view mirrors, but it’s not ideal to have to do this to a new car. The rear doors use a slightly hidden door handle that integrates into the window frame. It doesn’t look bad, but I personally prefer a conventional handle.
The rear hatch has a relatively low bumper, making loading cargo a bit easier. The 60/40 rear seats fold easily and made loading my bike a breeze. However carrying two bikes was a challenge as the roof is not very high. Our medium and small sized road bikes both had to go in at an angle, which made them take up more space than we would have liked. With the addition of our gear bags, it made our stop at the grocery store a bit more difficult before driving home, since there was nowhere to load the groceries. 60 cubic feet disappears quickly with two bikes considering the low interior storage height.
Our test Compass came equipped with Jeep’s Media Center CD/MP3 sound system with a 30GB hard drive and auxiliary jack. Along with the easy to use 6.5” touch screen, the system sounded great considering the price point and the lack of big name stereo co-branding that is becoming more and more en vogue.
Overall, this test was positive but a little bland. The basic features are there for a $27,000 SUV, but the driving interface, dash, and emotional experience are numb. Admittedly though, the Compass comes down to one thing: basic utility. It was not designed to be a Porsche or BMW SUV or an SUV that stimulates the soul. It was designed to be the simple workhorse, and it does that job well.
Value/ Who should buy it?
The Compass would be great for the non car buff, single outdoor enthusiast or active married couple with no kids looking for a no frills, utilitarian, compact 4×4 vehicle. Its compact size is maneuverable and nimble. And though it is down on power, handling is predictable. It retains the bare essentials of Jeep’s rugged outdoor image, but space is definitely a premium. You can possibly add more gear if you carry your bikes on the roof or on a hitch rack, but once you add a dog or a child, space becomes tight.
2011 Jeep Compass Latitude 4×4:
- Engine: Jeep 2.4 Liter World Engine with dual variable valve timing
- Power: 172 HP
- Torque: 165 lb-ft
- Transmission: Jeep CVT2 5-speed Continuous Variable Transmission
- EPA estimated MPG: 21 City / 26 Highway
- Price: $20,995 / $26,570 as tested
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