Has any launch been under such a weight of expectation? Certainly not this year. The Jeep brand in itself when it was launched, was buried under many peoples expectation of finally being able to buy a slice of an American icon. Then the price announcement and the huge uproar. Well, that is past and this is the real big event. The Jeep Compass is indeed finally here and yes we have finally driven it in not so sunny Goa. Thus let us get straight to the point here, shall we?
Looks fantastic no?
You bet and its job done right there. Jeep has nailed it perfectly with the design carefully combining the iconic Jeep elements and the modern crossover design details. It is butch without being bulky, lithe but also rugged. In terms of size (4,395 mm length, 1,818 mm width and 1,640 mm height), it is between the Creta and Tucson. One look and the designers have very much put in the shrunken Grand Cherokee vibe with all the traditional styling elements like the seven slot grille, muscular wheel arches (standard 17 inch rims filling in nicely) and the bold front look.
The side and rear reveal the crossover like design but its nicely designed. Jeep has also provided the contrast roof for India spec cars and it looks superb plus with five colour options you can buy it in a stunning blue as well as a red- good! The Compass as you know is made at the Ranjangaon facility and will also be exported. Jeep says that quality is the same for India spec and export spec cars. True to that, the build quality is excellent and so is the paint finish. It feels solid and is very much a proper Jeep to look at. Job done.
Are the interiors as good?
When you first get in you will immediately like the quality while the design is more conservative compared to the exterior styling. But the simple design is smart and easy on the eye with the centre console dominated by a touchscreen with climate control buttons and media buttons while the select terrain on the 4x4 is below that. The chunky three-spoke steering wheel is nice to hold while there are buttons for the MID on the left and dummy buttons on the right plus the controls for volume and media are actually at the back!
The switchgear and soft touch materials imparts a crucial premium feel while thankfully Jeep has not gone in for a boring beige or even an all black look-which is a rage these days. The near white looking leather seats look good and while it may be a pain to clean but does add to the ambience!
The Compass is based on the Renegade (another smaller SUV Jeep makes worldwide) architecture but here it gets a longer wheelbase for more room. The front seats are very comfortable while the second row offers abundant space with good legroom and thigh support. Ingress and egress is no issue too. For those who will be chauffeur driven the rear seats are spot on plus there is a USB charging point and rear ac vents.
What about features?
The Compass does not feel lacking in this department with a 7-inch UCONNECT touchscreen, dual-zone climate control with rear ac vents, Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED signature, leather seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, rear view camera, cornering lamps, Select Terrain system with different modes in the 4x4 models, Hill Start Assist, ESC, 6 airbags. The only thing missing is a sunroof. The touchscreen is a bit small but works quite well while the 6-speaker audio system sounds good. Overall we are very impressed.
Onto the driving?
Of course. Jeep will sell you the Compass with two engine options- a 2.0 MultiJet diesel and a 1.4 MultiAir turbo petrol. The petrol will be available in either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT while the diesel will only have a 6-speed manual. Both engine are available in 4x2 and 4x4 guise. We drove the diesel manual and instantly we liked this motor. The numbers are strong with 170 bhp and 350Nm plus unlike the 1.3 Multijet, this is on an another league with its refinement and smoothness. Once you move past the initial lag, work the lovely six speed manual and you will like the healthy torque on offer.
The engine feels competent in its delivery and the gear ratios are also well judged. It cruises well and in the city you do not require frequent gearshifts but you will like the superb, if slightly weighty feel of the gearshift and clutch. As said earlier refinement is excellent too. We did not drive the petrol but the numbers of the petrol are 160 bhp and 250Nm.
The Compass has frequency sensitive damping. No need to Google, what this means is that the Compass has bloody good ride. In-fact it is easily class best. It just bludgeons potholes without filtering anything inside plus the superb refinement gives it a driving experience belonging to a much higher class. Bumps are absorbed very well and it is a new benchmark for its class. It also handles very well again with the overall ride and handling combo is just perfect. The all season tyres offer good grip and body control is generally very good.
Yes there is roll and you would not throw around this SUV with gay abandon but for its size and being an SUV the handling is top marks. The steering also weighs up yet is also light but direct in the city at low speeds. You can place it accurately and also the high speed stability is impressive. Yes it does bring a new layer of dynamic polish to its class.
Ok got it, but what about off-road?
Jeep had constructed a special off-road experience to clear away any cobwebs of doubt whether it is a real Jeep or not. Suffice to say it passed with flying colours and actually I asked the instructor whether it can really go through all this! The selec terrain system gives you four modes- Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud. While there is no low-range or hill descent control, the inherent Jeep DNA brings out the best and it is a proper Jeep dispatching all the obstacles you can see. Crucially the approach and departure angles are good and the size is perfect. Suffice to say compared to others at its expected price point, the Compass is on an another league altogether in terms of off-road.
Simply put the Jeep Compass has met and exceeded our lofty expectations. It is a brilliant SUV that stays true to its brand value on one hand while also having all the right crossover qualities. It looks brilliant, has a good features list, is spacious but the superb ride and punchy diesel will impress you the most while the off-road ability is a lure for many. Pricing is the key and now Jeep knows that better than anyone else with an assurance that it will be priced well. We expect the base petrol 4x2 to be below Rs 18 lakh while the top-end diesel manual will be around Rs 25 lakh- anything lower and Jeep will have the party all to itself. We love it and so will you after a drive.
Photography- Rajeev Bhendwal