The distinctive seven-slot grille, the bold shapes, and the chunky wheel arches have the Jeep Compass standing out in the parking lot. Flaunting a Jeep badge, the SUV looks funky. The head lights, the sharp lines on the bonnet and the typically square and tough-looking wheel arches help the vehicle connect with the bigger Cherokee. The square jaw and the sharp lines make for an interesting silhouette. If the longish cabin hints at some dullness in an otherwise bright spot of design from certain angles, the black roof helps the Compass look lower and wider. The shape of the D-pillar, and the manner in which the roof drops towards the rear make for an interesting design element.
It is a bit of a climb into the cabin. The sill is wide. Attention is drawn to the dash with soft-touch plastics, which is simple and straightforward and even boring. If the hard and shiny plastic bits like the black vent surrounds fail to impress, the touchscreen is small and not the most inspiring to use. The soft-touch textures, supple leather, chrome inserts and high standards of finish present the cabin with a premium feel. The top-spec Limited 4x4 variant with leather interior has the seats finished in ‘snow white’. And the leather wrapped steering, the well-crafted door pads, the metal-tipped gear knob do provide a luxury feel. The dummy switches on the right steering spoke look odd though.
Offering good space, the front seats are quite comfortable. The rear seat offers good support too and the backrest feels a bit more vertical than it should be and is good for two adults. Featuring four-channel ABS, ESP, panic brake assist, hydraulic booster failure compensation, electronic roll mitigation, electronic brake pre-fill and six airbags, the Compass does omit some equipment. There’s no cruise control, and auto head lights and wipers. The four-wheel drive stays in auto mode most of the time, but there are settings for mud, snow and sand as well. A large, flat load bay in the boot, along with a versatile boot floor, offers 438-litre storage space.
Good for city and highway driving
Feeling tough, solid and unbreakable as it travelled over a wild untrodden path deep inside the Sahyadri Mountains, the Compass felt like a genuinely capable off-roader. It can take more than most buyers will probably ever subject it to. The 2-litre, 170bhp Fiat MultiJet turbodiesel engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission provides good mid-range grunt for activities off the beaten path.
The all-wheel drive system is front biased, and on the road, has the Compass gaining speed in a linear manner from close to 2000rpm.
Some turbo lag is noticeable initially. The mid-range is where the thick of power is. It is here that a strong punch shows itself. Feeling strained past 4500rpm, the Compass makes an easy drive in city traffic with the gearbox supporting light and slick shifts. On the highway, it cruises comfortably at speeds in the region of 120kmph and 150kmph.
In terms of ride, the Compass absorbs most undulations without them being felt by the occupants. There is a stiff edge to the ride. It rocks mildly over what could be termed as grossly less-than-ideal road surfaces. The Frequency Selective Dampers do a good job of delivering a supple and quite absorbent ride. The dampers also do a good job of containing body roll. Straightline stability of this Jeep is impressive. The steering feedback is direct and nice, and is fully electric in its functioning.
Some roll does show up in corners, but is well contained. The brakes have a positive feel to them, and inspire confidence while shedding speed in a variety of situations.
With prices starting at Rs 15.45 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, and going up to Rs 20.65 lakh for the top-spec Limited (O) 4 X 4, the Compass is good value for money. It is strong, dynamically well configured and luxurious in its treatment of the occupants. However, it could do with more kit and rear seat comfort.
Pros: Looks, off-road ability, straight-line stability, ride and handling balance
Cons: Needs more kit and could do with better rear seat comfort, no auto option yet