Jeep has finally got a car that isn’t just for the ultra-rich. Unlike the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee launched last year, the Compass is relatively affordable. While prices haven’t been announced at the time of writing this, the car is expected to be priced from Rs 17 lakh to Rs 22lakh. This will slot it between the Hyundai Creta and Tucson and also cleverly take on the well-established and liked Mahindra XUV. Jeep however is banking heavily on the Compass’ strong 4x4 off-roading prowess, which it hopes will pull buyers into showroom. Well that’s the plan atleast.
This car is worth a second look. From a distance it looks like a miniature version of the much bigger (and much more expensive) Grand Cherokee and that’s a good thing. The front end is dominated by the seven slats on the grille, a Jeep Trademark now. The rectangular lamp with the daytime lamps in them look cool too. The squared off wheel arches also add a sense of bulk to the SUV looks. The rear end with its simple and clean lines adds to its on-road personality. The chunky alloy wheels with the Firestone all season tyres on them look the part as well. The blackened out roof and slightly tapering off the roofline at the back add a cool factor. When viewed from side on the Compass looks longer in profile than its main rivals. It’s just the way the silhouette has been designed.
Overall, the Compass looks very distinctive from anything we’ve seen on the road in the SUV segment till date and stands out from a sea of 4x4s out there.
Jeep has used a dual tone cabin, which looks rather cool and distinctive. The tough build quality will surely stand the test of time. A solid and reassuring ‘thud’ accompanies the shutting of doors, giving you a sense of security when you enter the cabin. The seats are great for comfort and have perfect cushioning. They are neither too soft nor too tight.
Rear legroom and shoulder room is good too. The only downside is the fact that the car doesn’t have a long list of equipment. For instance, cruise control, an optional sunroof are missing. You will also want a bigger touch screen for the infotainment unit. The current one is just too slow to respond and feels a bit lethargic too. The boot is a good shape and offers no loading lip, which means heaving those big bags won’t be an issue in the least.
Engine, performance and gearbox
Jeep will only offer a 2-litre diesel engine with 160bhp when the car goes on sale initially. It will be followed by a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine with 170bhp in a couple of months.
We managed to sample the diesel only. The diesel engine is a bit sluggish below 1,800 rpm, typical of any diesel. The strong mid-range though will really push you into your seats. Though wind and tyre noises are kept under control, there is plenty of noise from the engine when you rev it hard. The six-speed manual gearbox though is slick to operate and gives the engine good flexibility. At cruising speeds the cabin is well isolated from the engine noise though.
The gearbox needs a heavy hand to shift though, but the shifts themselves are crisp as well as positive. An automatic gearbox will most probably arrive later on the Jeep diesel.
Ride and handling
There is a stiff edge to the ride on the Compass, which means that body roll is generally kept under control. At most speeds the Compass absolutely smothers the bumps and potholes, more so as speeds ride. But some badly patched up roads will enter the cabin at slower city speeds.
The handling is adroit too. The steering is on the heavier side, especially if you are used to the ultra-soft steering on Hyundai cars. But the positive side of having a heavy steering is the fact that it offers good ‘feel’ and offering good communication. Special mention must be made of the Firestone all-season tyres, which have ample grip levels and aid the ride comfort.
The only thing standing between the Compass and sales success is Fiat’s(Jeeps sister brand) old baggage of poor aftersales and service. If you are willing to ignore that then the Compass comes across as a SUV which offers strong off-roading abilities, a comfortable cabin and solid build.
Photography: Mohd. Nasir