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The Jeep lineup is loaded with capable SUVs. Larger than the Renegade but smaller than the Cherokee, the 2021 Jeep Compass hits the sweet spot when it comes to size for many drivers and their families. This vehicle does balance well, not only when it comes to the amount of space it offers, but also when it comes to on-road and off-road capability. However, there are also some flaws, mostly located underneath the hood. Are they enough to take the Compass out of the running? That depends on exactly what you are after in your next vehicle.
What's New for 2021?
Moving into 2021, there is very little change to report for the Compass. It is worth noting that the Trailhawk and Limited models now come standard with lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Also new for 2021 is the 80th Anniversary Edition of the Compass, which is based on the Latitude trim. It sits on gorgeous 19-inch Granite Crystal wheels and shows off leather upholstery with contrast stitching inside the cabin. Also found in these models are upgrades like an 8.4-inch touchscreen, remote start, and power-adjustment for the driver's seat. The Compass is still in its second generation, which first hit the market in 2017.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Jeep Compass – The Pros
1. Loaded with User-Friendly Technology
The Compass is a good choice for the modern family, largely due to its strong list of standard technology equipment. Thanks to the UConnect 4 infotainment system, the tech features are easy to use as well. The standard setup includes a 7-inch touchscreen as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for simple smartphone integration. There are multiple upgrades available as well, including navigation, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, and a premium audio system from Alpine that features nine strategically spaced speakers.
2. Highly Capable Trailhawk Trim
It is hard to find a vehicle in this class that offers the off-road capability that the Compass does. This is particularly true of the Trailhawk model. It has things like 8.5-inches of ground clearance and the Active Drive Low four-wheel-drive system, which includes low-range gearing for those situations that need that extra traction. These models also have an off-road-oriented suspension and all-terrain tires to help them be even more rugged and ready to go. Even if you do not choose the Trailhawk, your Compass will do a decent job off-roading thanks to 7.8-inches of ground clearance.
3. Surprising Amount of Space
The smaller size of the Compass may make you wonder if it has enough space for both people and gear. Its clever design actually makes it pretty roomy, particularly for passengers. Adults can sit in either the front or back comfortably. Although there is seating for five, you will be better off sticking to four. The Compass also situated the driver's seat in a way that offers great forward visibility.
4. Attractive Exterior Design
Jeep vehicles have an iconic look. The 2021 Compass pays tribute to the shape and style that you would expect, but also adds a modern and stylish flair to its exterior design. A two-tone roof comes standard for the Limited and Trailhawk models. It is also available for the Latitude model. Other exterior touches found on the luxurious Limited model include chrome accents, while the Trailhawk goes for a more rugged exterior look with skid plates and tow hooks.
5. Extensive List of Available Driver Aids
Buyers who want off-road capability along with cutting-edge driver aids can go with the Compass Limited model. The already impressive list of the standard equipment here gets even better in 2021 with the addition of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist. They join rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision warning that comes with automatic emergency braking. The result is a vehicle that helps to protect you from every angle.
6. Smooth Ride While on Pavement
Some vehicles that have decent off-road capability struggle when it comes to normal day-to-day driving down the street. This is not the case for the 2021 Compass. It has a composed feel on the pavement and does a good job of absorbing the bumps in the road. This makes it an equally good choice for the workweek and weekend adventures.
7. Multiple Packages Available
Customization can go a long way when picking out the vehicle that you will drive every day for years. The Jeep Compass has a variety of packages and stand-alone options that help you find the perfect setup for your needs. There is the Cold Weather package, for example, which will add a remote start as well as heat for the front seats and steering wheel. There is also a towing package that can help your Compass bring along up to 2,000 pounds. Other optional features include a sunroof and a power liftgate.
8. Versatile Cargo Area
The cargo area of the Compass is not particularly large. In fact, it is smaller than many rivals. However, its versatility is more than enough to make up for a little less space. The cargo area is nice and wide, making it easy to load and haul a variety of items. There are conveniently located tie-downs in the back and cubby holds throughout the cabin for smaller items. Plus, there is under-floor storage for even more space and a place to hide valuables.
9. Well-Equipped Entry-Level Sport Model
Those who are looking to not break the bank will find that the entry-level Sport trim of the 2021 Compass is more than acceptable. On top of great tech features, it offers things like dual-zone automatic climate control and push-button start for comfort and convenience. Also standard for the Sport is a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, USB ports in the first and second rows, and a six-speaker audio system.
10. Luxurious Limited Trim Level Available
On the other end of the spectrum is the Limited trim level. It offers you a surprising amount of luxury for its price and vehicle class. You will find a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, for example. It also has the 8.4-inch touchscreen standard and sits on 18-inch wheels. This trim costs roughly the same as the Trailhawk, which loses the luxury in favor of off-road enhancers.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Jeep Compass – The Cons
1. Weak Standard Engine with no Available Upgrade
A 2.4L four-cylinder engine is the only option for the 2021 Compass. It generates just 180-horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. While this is not the weakest engine in the class, it is far from thrilling and sometimes struggles when you hit the gas. A turbocharged option in the future would go a long way toward making the Compass more enjoyable to drive.
2. Nine-Speed Automatic Transmission is Sluggish
Front-wheel-drive models utilize a six-speed automatic transmission while all-wheel-drive models get a nine-speed. Neither is particularly impressive, but the nine-speed really seems to struggle to keep up. The slow shifting may frustrate drivers enough for them to look elsewhere when picking out their next SUV.
3. Fuel Economy Numbers are Low
When an engine is not particularly powerful, the hope is that it is highly efficient. However, front-wheel Compass models get only 22mpg city and 31mpg highway. These are not bad numbers really, however, they do not make up for the lack of acceleration offed by the engine. Jeep would be better off giving the Compass more power and less fuel economy. Alternatively, the Compass may benefit from a continuously variable transmission, which would increase efficiency while likely making the Compass smoother.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Jeep Compass vs 2021 Honda CR-V
The CR-V is a favorite in the small SUV class. It has a turbocharged engine that makes it quite fun to drive and more cargo space than the Compass. The CR-V also has better fuel economy numbers. The superior performance alone is pretty tempting. On the other hand, the Compass is much more off-road capable, particularly if you choose the Trailhawk trim level. The better choice comes down to how you plan on using your new vehicle.
2021 Jeep Compass vs 2021 Ford Bronco Sport
It is very likely that the new Ford Bronco Sport will make a splash in this segment of the market and will compete with the Compass. The Bronco Sport also boasts some impressive off-road capability and offers a rugged exterior style. However, the Bronco Sport comes standard with a three-cylinder engine. Its infotainment system is also not nearly as user-friendly as the one you will find inside of the 2021 Compass.
Overall, the 2021 Jeep Compass has the capability and features to satisfy a variety of driver's needs. Many will consider it for its tech features and its ability to leave the pavement if nothing else. That said, a new engine, or at the very least an available upgrade, would go a long way. The Compass currently has not committed to either power or efficiency and ends up disappointing drivers in both categories. This change, along with a bit more space in the cargo hold, would make the Jeep Compass a much more well-rounded vehicle with broader appeal.
• Why buy a 2020 Jeep Compass? w/ pros vs cons