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Sibling Rivalry: 2021 Jeep Cherokee versus 2021 Jeep Compass

Which small Jeep SUV best meets your needs?

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The 2021 Jeep Cherokee and Compass offer buyers in the compact SUV class similar packages. However, sitting above the sub-compact Renegade and below the mid-size Grand Cherokee, there are enough differences between these Jeep SUV siblings to help make your purchasing decision challenging.

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee competes in the same mainstream compact SUV class as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Those top-selling SUVs are great for errand-running as well as longer trips. The Jeep can easily cover such duties as well. And its safety features are just as plentiful. But if someone wanted a more robust SUV flavour, with a wider choice of engines and perhaps some actual off-roading capability, then the Cherokee stakes a particular claim.

Similar in size to the Cherokee, the 2021 Jeep Compass is a small SUV with some actual off-road ability. We say small, but the Compass offers more interior room than a Mazda CX-3 or Nissan Kicks. However, its pricing and fuel economy are similar to the lower trim levels of larger vehicles, like the CR-V, as mentioned earlier.

In both the Cherokee and Compass, Jeep relies on (arguably) good looks (inspired by the larger Grand Cherokee) and a comprehensive options list to entice buyers away from such rivals. And there are the Trailhawk trims to certify this pair of small Jeeps’ off-road credentials.

So which one to choose? Read on to find out which of these small and off-road-ready Jeep SUV siblings is just right for you.

 

Price

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of the base, front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2021 Jeep Cherokee Sport trim starts at $32,865 (all prices in Canadian dollars). Power comes from a 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine. Traction at all four wheels starts at $37,360. The optional 3.2-litre 6-cylinder starts at $37,460, while a third engine, a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, starts at $44,660. The off-road-oriented Trailhawk trim, with the V6, starts at $44,960. The most expensive Cherokee, the topline High Altitude, begins at $47,905.

Offering only the Cherokee’s base 2.4-litre 4-cylinder, pricing for the 2021 Jeep Compass starts and tops out lower. The base FWD Compass Sport trim starts at $30,790; AWD adds $2,500. The Compass Trailhawk trim starts at $38,290, while the topline Trailhawk Elite begins at $41,285.

Winner: 2021 Jeep Compass

 

Interior 

Despite the price differences, the interior spaces in these 5-passenger Jeep siblings are very similar.

For the most part, Jeep’s 2021 Cherokee has a modern interior with logically located instruments and easily reachable controls. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics and many storage spaces. The seats are reasonably comfortable, although driver comfort is affected by a steering column that lacks sufficient travel for both heights and reaches.

Inside the 2021 Jeep Compass cabin, physical controls are located logically, and the dash contains large round air vents. The seats are comfortable, and the Compass also has some hidden design elements that will surprise and delight buyers, like the Loch Ness monster on the rear hatch glass and Morse code on the dead pedal spelling out: sand, snow, river, rocks.

Except for more front shoulder and rear legroom in the Cherokee, the Jeep siblings share similar interior dimensions. Of note, the Compass offers 770 litres of cargo space behind its rear seats, 73 more than the Cherokee.

Winner: 2021 Jeep Compass

 

Performance & Fuel Economy

This pair of Jeeps share the same 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine. It makes 180 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque in the Cherokee and 175 pound-feet in the Compass. All-wheel-drive trims use a 9-speed automatic transmission, while the FWD Compass uses a 6-speed auto. 

Combined city and highway fuel economy estimates for the FWD versions of both Jeeps are identical: an estimated 9.3 L/100 km.

The Cherokee offers additional underhood options. First, there's an available 271-horsepower and 239-pound-feet of torque 3.2-litre 6-cylinder, then a 279-horsepower and 295-pound feet turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder. Combined fuel economy estimates range from a low of 9.1 L/100 km in the FWD 2.0T trim to a high of 10.6 in the AWD V6 combo.

If you need to tow, the Cherokee’s 2.0T can haul up to 4,000 lbs (1,800 kgs) and its V6 up to 4,500 pounds (2,041 kilograms); impressive compared to the AWD Compass that can haul only 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms). Note that Jeep recommends not to tow with the FWD Compass.

Winner: 2021 Jeep Cherokee

 

Ride and Handling

Over the Compass, the Cherokee also offers more choice when it comes to drivetrain options. Various all-wheel-drive systems are available, with the Jeep Active Drive Lock reserved for Cherokee Trailhawk models. On the road, the Cherokee is quiet, and its ride comfort is quite good, closer to a luxury SUV.

The Compass delivers a competent driving experience, with enough suspension travel to soak up big bumps yet keep body roll under control through tight turns. The off-road-oriented Trailhawk trim sits higher than the regular Compass and has added features like protective skidplates, and Jeep’s Active Drive Low with a 20:1 crawl ratio.

Winner: 2021 Jeep Cherokee

 

Overall Winner: 2021 Jeep Cherokee

With such similar overall packages, it was no surprise that this pair of small Jeep SUV siblings each won two out of our four categories.

Despite its lower pricing, the 2021 Jeep Compass offers plenty of passenger space and even more cargo room than its Cherokee sibling.

Subjectively, though, the variety of engines, AWD systems, and a more refined ride and handling package has us leaning towards the 2021 Jeep Cherokee. If you can stay away from some of the higher trim levels, we feel it offers a more satisfying small Jeep SUV package.

 

Specs

2021 Jeep Cherokee

2021 Jeep Compass

Engine(s)

2.4-litre I4

3.2-litre V6

2.0-litre Turbocharged I4

2.4-litre I4

Horsepower

2.4 - 180 hp @ 6,400 rpm

3.2 - 271 hp @ 6,500 rpm

2.0T - 270 hp @ 5,250 rpm

180 hp @ 6,400 rpm

Torque

2.4 - 171 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

3.2 - 239 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

2.0T - 295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,500 rpm

175 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm

Transmission(s)

9-speed automatic

FWD – 6-speed automatic

AWD – 9-speed automatic

Fuel Economy

2.4 FWD – 9.3 L/100 km (10.8 city, 7.5 hwy)

3.2 FWD – 10.2 L/100 km (11.9 city, 8.2 hwy)

2.0T FWD – 9.1 L/100 km (10.4 city, 7.6 hwy)

2.4 AWD – 9.8 L/100 km (11.2 city, 8.0 hwy)

3.2 AWD – 10.6-11.5 L/100 km (12.2-12.9 city, 8.6-9.7 hwy)

2.0T AWD – 9.8-10.2 L/100 km (11.2-11.5 city, 8.0-8.6 hwy)

FWD -9.3 L/100 km (10.6 city, 7.6 hwy)

AWD – 9.5 L/100 km (10.8 city, 7.8 hwy)

Warranty

3 years/60,000 km

3 years/60,000 km

Max Seating Capacity

5

5

Curb Weight

1,629-1,933 kg

1,444-1,648 kg

Wheelbase

2,705 mm

2,636 mm

Overall Length

4,645-4,650 mm

4,394 mm

Width

1,858-1,903.6 mm

1,874-2,033 mm

Height

1,682.9-1,723.3 mm

1,641-1,647 mm

Headroom, Front

964.5-999.9 mm

981-995 mm

Headroom, Rear

978.2 mm

978 mm

Legroom, Front

1,045 mm

1,046 mm

Legroom, Rear

1,023.2 mm

973 mm

Shoulder Room, Front

1,462.3 mm

1,439 mm

Shoulder Room, Rear

1,399.8 mm

1,400 mm

Cargo Volume Behind Rear Seats

697 L

770 L

Max. Towing Capacity

 

2.4 - 2,000 lbs (907 kgs)

2.0T – 4,000 lbs (1,800 kgs)

3.2 – 4,500 lbs (2,041 kgs)

AWD – 2,000 lbs (907 kgs)

 

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