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2011 Jeep Compass
Pointing in the right direction

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Jeep CompassThe un-Jeep-est of Jeeps has suddenly found its way to becoming a more respectable member of Chrysler's family of off-roaders.

Based on the Dodge Caliber platform, both the Compass and the similarly sized Patriot arrived for the 2007 model year. The Compass was marketed as a non-offroader and Jeep purists cried foul over this heritage-robbing travesty, perhaps forgetting that several decades ago Jeep produced the rear-wheel-drive Jeepster designed strictly for on-road fun. Meanwhile, with the right gear, the Patriot could venture where the Compass dared not tread.

Following a lengthy delay, the 2011 Compass has finally found its bearings and, to nearly everyone's surprise, now looks like a proper Jeep. More importantly, it also now matches the Patriot for off-road aptitude and attitude.

After viewing the new Compass head-on, you could be forgiven for confusing it with the stouter Grand Cherokee, which was brand new for the 2011 model year. From the windshield forward, the Compass is a totally new rig and a very attractive one to boot. The vertical grille slots are adorned with tasteful chrome surrounds and the projector-style headlights literally reflect a more upscale image.

2011 Jeep CompassThe rest of the vehicle's bodywork remains virtually unchanged, save for its Light Emitting Diode (LED) taillamps plus a fancy trim piece that extends along the lower edge of the doors.

As a final touch, a fresh set of standard 17-inch aluminum wheels (18-inchers on Limited models) adorn the restyled Compass and support a revised suspension and steering system. Jeep claims the changes make for a more comfortable ride and improve the drivability over a wide variety of terrain.

Those who don't plan on playing in the mud can roll with a front-wheel-drive Compass. But for coping with all-weather and bad-road scenarios, you'll need to order Freedom Drive I. With it, you can "lock up" all four wheels in synchronous drive mode for maximum traction.

The more adventurous can now add the Freedom Drive II package (previously exclusive to the Patriot), which includes a driver-selectable low-range gear, all-terrain tires, protective skid plates and a beefier suspension setup that's designed for more severe off-trail use.

New quality touches on the inside are highlighted by a thicker steering wheel with available integrated audio, speed control and hands-free phone functions. Also new are upgraded seat coverings, reshaped center armrest and "soft-touch" door panels.

2011 Jeep CompassUnfortunately, there's no upgrade in the powertrain department for the new model. The base front-wheel-drive Compass comes with the usual 158-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder. A 172-horsepower 2.4-litre four-cylinder is optional, but standard in 4x4 models.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard with either engine, while a continuously variable unit (with no set gearing) is optional.

If you think the reason for having the 2.0-litre engine in the first place is improved fuel economy, you'd be half right. The 2.0 with the manual transmission and front-wheel-drive is rated at 9.0 l/100 km in the city and 7.0 on the highway. This very respectable, but the larger 2.4 has an almost identical rating.

At $20,400, including destination charges, the base Compass Sport arrives with just the basics and not much else. To get air conditioning, remote keyless entry, tilt steering and a reclining rear seat and fold-flat front seat you'll have to step up to the North Edition.

At the top of the scale, the premium Limited come loaded with climate control, leather-covered seats, six-way power driver's chair plus the 2.4-litre engine.

A power sunroof, navigation system, premium audio package and heated front seats head the list of options.

The changes bestowed upon Jeep's cute ute likely won't be enough to satisfy hard core fanatics, but, honestly, they're not likely the intended target audience anyway. It's still not the Jeep-est of Jeeps, but this upgraded Compass is a good bet for buyers seeking out a handsome, fuel-efficient and affordable machine that will take just about anything thrown at it.

What you should know: 2011 Jeep Compass

Type: Four-door, front- /four-wheel-drive compact wagon
Engines (hp): 2.0-litre DOHC I4 (158); 2.4-litre DOHC I4 (172)
Transmissions: Five-speed manual; continuously variable (opt.)
Market position: It's a crowded category, but the Compass trades on Jeep's well-earned reputation as a source for rugged, go-anywhere vehicles. The beauty with the Compass is that is looks more like a Jeep than before, and one that gets decent fuel economy; built for urban duty with some off-road.
Points: New front design a major improvement and locks in the Jeep "look"; Upgraded interior reflects well on Jeep brand; How about a turbocharged or a small V6; "Trail Rated" off-road option adds respectability;  Upgraded styling, ingredients just might make Compass more popular than similarly sized and powered Patriot.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags (opt.); side-curtain airbags;  anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 9.0/7.0 (2.0, MT)
Base price (incl. destination): $20,400

By comparison     

Nissan Rogue
Base price: $25,400
Junior-Murano looks and spacious interior makes this Nissan a good bet.

Ford Escape
Base price: $21,450
Popular small ute offers I4 plus optional V6 and gas-electric hybrid power.

Hyundai Tucson
Base price: $21,750
Classy looking, polished wagon is selling like hot cakes. Well done.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted February 28, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM


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