The Garage’s last stint in a 2009 Jeep Compass left us a bit cold, so when Jeep announced a revised 2011 Compass, we were curious to see how the changes would affect their smaller-sized soft-roader. Our friends at Chrysler were quick to respond not only with the revised Compass, but also provided us with the Patriot as well. Since 2007, Jeep has offered buyers a curious choice of entry level small SUV’s based on the same mechanicals-the cute Compass, and more traditionally styled Patriot.
With Chrysler in serious trouble and seeking a US Government bailout, I figured the slow-selling Compass would be a goner, but I was wrong. Instead, Jeep let go of the Compass’ soft styling in favor of a miniaturized version of the all-new Grand Cherokee. With the Compass, Jeep is still chasing the younger, urban buyer it has sought from the original. The look is definitely more upscale and sophisticated than the outgoing model, but whether buyers will respond with their wallets remains to be seen.
The Patriot, on the other hand, has enjoyed a far easier time finding a market. Last year, Jeep sold 2-1/2 Patriots for each Compass. For 2011, the Patriot receives a mild exterior makeover, but the traditional Jeep look is still fully accounted for, but in an updated form that should be well-received. Intrestingly. I showed both the Compass and Patriot to a relative who owns a Patriot himself. Even with the Compass’ new skin, he still favored the Patriot, citing “It looks more like a Jeep.” While my time with the Compass never generated any sort of response on its looks, the “Jeep-ness” of the Patriot won approval, even from a CR-V owner.
The drivetrain of the Compass/Patriot is carryover, which means a 2.4L inline four rated at 172hp, coupled to a CVT transmission. This was a weak point before and continues to be so. At cruising speeds, the car is quiet and composed, but on acceleration the engine is a bit short on refinement, acceleration is described as leisurely at best, and the transmission only seems to hamper and suck out the power of the engine. For 2011 Jeep recalibrated the steering and suspension. I drove both the Compass and Patriot for long trips, and found the ride comfort relatively comfortable.
Another substantial weakness of the Compass/Patriot was its interior, and improvements were made here as well. Backlit buttons and soft touch materials bring the cars more in line with the competition, but work remains to be done. The cabins are improved over past models, but Jeep is a long way off of standing toe to toe with their rivals. That said, Jeep continues to offer a straightforward a set up that is easy to understand at a glance.
Jeep provided The Garage with two top-spec models-The Compass Limited 4×4, and the Patriot Latitude X 4×4. We already know these two cars are mechanically identical, but they were also optioned out about the same-leather, heated seats, satellite radio and GPS navigation. Our Compass came with an MSRP of $29,380, while our Patriot rang in at $27,575. So, the Patriot wears 17″ wheels in place of the Compass’ 18’s, but I still cannot make sense of the price difference. Given the choice, I’d put my money on the Patriot, which is what buyers already are doing.
Jeep clearly understands they are lagging in a hotly contested market, and the changes made for 2011 are band-aids just to remain afloat. Frankly, with the all-new Grand Cherokee and rumors of an all-new Liberty for 2012, it is impressive that Jeep had the allocations to improve its smaller offerings. These improvements show Jeep remains committed to this market, and here at The Garage we look forward to keep you up to date with future progress.