2011 redesign helps point Compass in right direction
By borrowing cues from the larger Cherokee, Jeep has produced versatile, economical runabout
The redesigned 2011 Jeep Compass is a copy cat. Not from another brand, mind you, but its larger sibling -the Cherokee. It's no surprise that Jeep would do such a thing, as the new Cherokee has been winning awards left and right while the firstgeneration Compass left a bit to be desired.
Despite having the mould handy, the Compass isn't going to keep up with its big brother. To reach this price point some corners were cut ($22,295 base,$27,975 as tested).
Outside, the styling mimics the Cherokee in a good way. The aggressive, toothy front grille and large headlights work well with the blacked-out lower bumper. Come around the side and you'll find bulging fenders housing the 17-inch alloy wheels and rubber.Acontinualloy wheels and rubber. A continuously rising beltline gives the Compass an aggressive stance but makes rearward visibility a pain for shoulder checking.
One odd design cue had me making a double take nearly every time I saw the Compass. To continue the bulging look of the front fenders into the rears,the body juts out in the middle of the rear door. On many occasions I thought this looked as though the Jeep's door had been caved in by a collision.
One of the first-generation Compass's biggest downfalls was the lack of available 4x4. Though the 2011 Compass maintains the frontwheel-drive platform, a full-time active 4x4 system named Freedom Drive I is now offered. Power is primarily transferred to the front wheels unless slippage occurs, at which point up to 50 per cent of the standard 2.4-litre engine's torque is transferred to the rear wheels.
A handle beneath the centre armrest can be used to lock the transmission at a 50-50 split. A Freedom Drive II off-road package is offered and includes a low-range on the continuously variable transmission, all-terrain tires, full-sized spare, tow hooks and skid plates to go along with Jeep's Trail Rated badge. While Jeep's Trail Rated status is not regulated by anyone other than Jeep,the engineers don't just slap it on any vehicle. The Compass is able to handle itself in moderate off-road situations, including water crossings and basic rock and log climbing.
Inside, the new Compass is like déjà vu, but with nicer materials and finish. Everything is big and chunky, from the handles,air vents and steering wheel to the knobs controlling the stereo and climate control. Storage pockets are plentiful, if not very large, although the cubby under the centre armrest is too small. It would have been nice if the storage area extended all the way under the overhanging armrest. My North tester was a Canadaonly package that includes heated cloth seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
The front seats are comfortable but could use a bit more bolstering and/or adjustable lumbar support.
Atilt-steering wheel and height adjustable seat helps drivers find a good driving position, although a telescoping option would have been nice for taller drivers that like to push the seat all the way back. Out back, the Compass is roomy enough for two more adults or a trio of little ones. Headroom and legroom is good in all positions.
On the road, one of the cut cor-ners becomes prevalent as soon as you turn that key. The engine note penetrates the cabin instantly and the drone becomes worse as you accelerate around town with the CVT putting the engine at some of the noisiest rpm. Once at speed the din fades into the background, but it really does sound like there could be an old diesel engine,albeit a quiet one,under the hood at times.Buyers can save themselves $1,750 by sticking with the five-speed manual and be able to control the din of their engines on their own. As a bonus, the manual transmission offers notably better fuel economy: 7.0 L/100 km with the manual on the highway soundly beats out the 8.2 L/100 km with the CVT.
Oddly enough, the optional engine is actually smaller, at 2.0 litres, than the standard 2.4 litre, but is offered only with front-wheel drive.
If you're not looking to get anywhere in a hurry, the smaller engine offers even better mileage at 6.8 L/100 km on the highway with the five-speed.
Considering the size of the Compass and its ability to swallow eight-foot long lumber with all of the seats, including the front passenger,folded flat, that could make for a pretty versatile, economical runabout.
While its not up to Cherokee tatus,the new Compass does have ome redeeming factors now that our-wheel drive is available. If ou're adept with a clutch and shiftr,itmay be best to steer clear of the VT until Jeep has had a little more ime to work on that droning.
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