The 2011 Jeep Compass lives near the bottom of the affordable compact SUV class even though it was redesigned for the model year with an improved exterior and an optional AWD capable of going off road. Still, put the Compass on rugged terrain and it will struggle, and the interior errs too far on the side of cheap plastic. The low base price of $19,295 is good (with the high end topping out at $25,000) and fuel economy is commendable at 23 city, 27 highway. Still, the competition has a lot going for it. A lot.
If you want to stay loyal to the Jeep name and get something cheaper that will go off road, pick up the Patriot for $15,995. Want nicer standard features and the same AWD option? Look at the Hyundai Tucson. Want really capable AWD? Shop the Suzuki Grand Vitara or the Toyota FJ Cruiser, which US News named the Best Off-Road SUV for the Money. (The Cruiser opens at $26,470 with the AWD tacking on $5,995.)
There's a 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood on the base Compass model producing 141 lb. ft. of torque and 158 hp. Standard on the limited and optional on the base and Latitude trims, you can get a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 172 hp and 165 lb. ft. of torque. These engines are a carry-over from 2010 and did not prove popular with reviewers due to their limited power output. (Note that gas mileage varies with transmission and engine choice.)
Off-road performance is improved with the Freedom Drive II AWD system, which includes Hill Descent Control, Off-Road Brake Traction Control, and an off-road mode for steep grades and water crossings. (It comes with a continuously variable transmission.) The Compass is also now Trail Rated Certified by Jeep, which means it has been tested for traction, ground clearance, articulation, water fording, and maneuverability. (Towing maximum capacity is 2,000 pounds.)
For 2011 the Compass sports a new front end including hood, fenders, head lamps, grille, and front fascia. Basically the intent was to move the design into the expensive appearance of the Grand Cherokee. The interior, however, did not benefit much in the way of improvements, although there are now standard wheel mounted controls and the option for Jeep's Uconnect, which includes SIRIUS, a nav unit, auto, and Bluetooth in a single interface. There's 22.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats up; 53.6 when they're down. (Best in class is roughly 35 and 73.)
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tested the Compass for rollover safety only and awarded four out of five stars. Standard safety features include electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, a full compliment of airbags, traction control, and a tire pressure warning lamp. A tire pressure monitoring display and supplemental airbags are available as options.
This is a case of nothing being all that wrong with the Compass but everything being more right with other makes and models. The Compass doesn't even stand up to the competition from Jeep itself. It's always been the black sheep in the Jeep line up and it still is. Your money is better spent elsewhere.