The Jeep Compass took the SUV segment around the Rs 20 lakh price range by storm when it was launched. Its traditional SUV proportions do a world of good at imparting it a great road presence. There’s a lack of storage space inside the cabin and you’d want features like cruise control in a car of this range. But the Compass’ interior is otherwise a plush space to be in.
It also comes with multiple powertrain options to choose from. The petrol engine is available with both manual and automatic transmission options while the diesel is available with both 4x2 and 4x4 option. An automatic transmission paired with a diesel engine is also going to come soon, possibly with the TrailHawk.
The highlight of the Compass’ package, however, has to be the price. It starts from around Rs 15.40 lakh, which is over Rs 2.5 lakh cheaper than the entry-level price of its primary rival, the Hyundai Tucson. Aggressive pricing not only makes the Compass an attractive buy for those looking for a mid-size SUV but also opens up this segment for those who’re looking to buy a compact SUV like the Hyundai Creta.
At first glance it is easy to see what inspired the designers of the Compass - its bigger brother, the Grand Cherokee; this is especially obvious when you look at it from the front. But apart from that, the Compass has its own identity.
The Jeep Compass looks tough but also premium. It looks modern, no doubt, but the squared off edges give it some old-school charm, ensuring a look that says SUV, not crossover. At the front, the highlights include the wide swath of black that stretches from one headlight to the other - including the modern take on Jeep’s iconic 7-slat (chrome lines) grille. The headlamps have a white element in them which help them pop out - an almost animalistic ‘eyes’ look, according to Jeep’s lead designer Mark Allen. They also contain LED guide lights, these are not DRLs - the actual DRLs actually sit on the bumper, just above the fog lamps. The clamshell hood is sculpted, with a slight power bulge in the middle, but the lines on it don’t scream aggression - Jeep wanted the Compass to look more inviting.
The Jeep logo sits on the bonnet, just above the grille. A small horizontal slat-like grille on the painted part of the bumper helps break the huge swath between the main grille and air dam, it also directs air towards the radiator. The air dam is as wide as the main grille and taller - it adds to the muscular look at the front. A chrome lip at the bottom of the air dam adds a bit of bling.
The bulk of the Compass is actually hidden well thanks to the use of a thick black cladding that goes all around the car. The Jeep-signature trapezoidal wheel arches contain the 17-inch silver alloy wheels shod with Firestone 225/60 section all-weather tyres. If you feel the need for larger wheels, the Compass Limited Plus gets a set of 18-inch dual-tone wheels that add to the road presence of the car. Surface detailing like the lines over the wheel arches, the prominent line that passes through the door handles onto the taillamps etc. make the compact SUV exciting to look at. Prominent ‘Compass’ badges are placed on both the front doors.
The crowning jewel of the design here is the chrome line that separates the contrast-painted roof from the rest of the body - this line goes all the way from one outside rearview mirror (ORVM), over the windows, swoops down under the rear windshield, up over the windows on the other side to finally end at the other ORVM. The roof line seems to flow down towards the rear, while the windowline rises up, adding a kink at the very end of the windowline and the C-pillar looks like - according to Jeep - a shark fin! The roof rails and the spoiler do not stand out too much. But what does stand out is the panoramic sunroof that’s offered exclusively with the Compass Limited Plus. Besides being feature that’s nice to have, it makes the SUV look more upmarket.
At the rear, the design of the Compass becomes a bit sedate. Highlights here include the wraparound rear windshield with the chrome line running across its base, a two-part taillamps which consists of a prominent LED guide-light (mimicking the units in the headlamps), a slightly recessed number plate holder and a two part bumper with integrated fog lamps. The Jeep logo sits on a carved out recess just below the windshield, a unique touch.
Look all around and the Jeep Compass feels solid, the panel gaps are consistent and the paint quality is impressive. The Jeep Compass is offered in five colour options - Exotic Red, Brilliant Black, Minimal Grey, Vocal White and Hydro Blue (the colour of the car you see in the pictures).
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Use the sensors on the front door handles to open the Compass, pull the handle and swing open the well weighted door and you are greeted by a dual-tone cabin. The black-and-almost-white interiors look inviting, but the lighter coloured parts will get soiled easily. At the presentation before the first drive, Jeep officials also displayed the Compass’ cabin with a sporty all-black theme, which includes red inserts/highlights. Many expected this to be offered with the Compass Limited Plus, but for now, this cabin theme is off the table. We may, however, get to see this in the TrailHawk.
Survey the dashboard from the firm but comfortable seats and you notice that it is a bit cluttered towards the driver’s side. Most of the surfaces on the inside feature soft touch materials; be it the dashboard, the armrests on the door pads, the centre armrests, the floor-mounted centre console, etc. The buttons, be it the power window switches on the door pads, multi-function buttons on the steering wheel or the buttons to control the climate control system are soft-to-touch and feel premium.
The cluster placed just under the touchscreen consists of dials and buttons to control the infotainment system and the dual-zone climate control and is a bit cluttered. Lower down the centre console, the Compass has USB and Aux-in ports, a charging port and a rotary knob to control the ‘Selec Terrain’ traction modes.
At first glance, the obvious signs of cost-cutting include the 7-inch infotainment screen on the centre console, dummy buttons on the steering wheel and the manually dimming interior rearview mirror. However, Jeep has addressed two of the three misses, with its new top-end variant. While a larger, 8.4-inch unit was available only in markets overseas initially, the larger screen is now offered in the range-topping Compass Limited Plus. An auto-dimming interior rearview mirror is also available with the top-spec Compass.Unfortunately, these upgrades are offered only with the top-end model, so some cons of the lower grades still remain.
The ‘uconnect’ infotainment system with the 7-inch touchscreen does not feel top notch to use. While the touchscreen is responsive, the system seems to be laggy. We were able to check the Android Auto system built into the infotainment system and experienced mixed results; while it worked perfectly at certain moments - responding to voice commands, reading out Whatsapp messages etc, and other times it simply refused to respond to simple requests through the touchscreen - through an almost three hour long drive, it seemed to think everyone in the car only loved songs from Indian Ocean and refused to change playlists/albums. The icons on the screen could have been bigger for better usability. Apart from the usual FM/AM/USB/Aux-in/Bluetooth connectivity options, the system is also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compliant. The system plays through a six-speaker setup which sounds good, changing the equaliser settings make discernable changes to the sound quality.
Getting into the Compass may not be easy for everyone, thanks to the tall door sills. Once inside, the front bucket seats feel nice to sit in; they are firm but comfortable and wide enough to accommodate even someone of a bigger build. The under thigh support is especially amazing. The driver seat can be adjusted for height too. While the seats are manually adjustable in the other variants, the Compass Limited Plus offers an 8-way power adjustable seat along with 4-way power lumbar support and memory.
The steering is adjustable for both reach and rake, the leather-covered chunky rim feels good to hold and the thumb indents are also nice. The dummy buttons on the right spoke on this three-spoke unit are an eyesore. These black spaces could have been used to house the controls for the infotainment system; the volume and mode control buttons are placed behind the steering wheel, which you may not be able to find unless someone tells you they are there!
Move to the second row seats and you realise that the Compass is strictly a four-seater. It doesn’t feel wide enough to allow three adults to sit beside each other in absolute comfort over longer journeys - the middle passenger does not get a three-point seat belt or a headrest and he/she would also have to deal with a large hump in the centre and the A/C vent module. There is enough cabin space to seat four 6 footers comfortably; with enough legroom, knee room and headroom for all passengers.
For a car of this size, the boot space is quite average too. At 438 litres, it betters the Hyundai Creta (402 litres) but is far behind the Hyundai Tucson’s 530 litres. Figures aside, in isolation, the Compass’ boot feels underserved and the family’s luggage will sit snugly over weekend trips.
The Jeep Compass is offered in India with two engine options - a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged ‘Multijet II’ diesel motor developing 173PS of maximum power and 350Nm of peak torque, and a 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder, turbocharged ‘Multiair’ petrol developing 162PS of maximum power and 250Nm of torque.
For now, the diesel engine is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission, while the petrol engine is available with an additional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. 4x2 comes as standard, but the range-topping diesel Limited/Limited (O)/Limited Plus variants can be had with 4x4 as well.
Performance Comparison (Diesel)
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Performance Comparison (Petrol)
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We drove the Jeep Compass powered by the 2.0-litre diesel, paired to a six-speed manual transmission and Jeep’s Active Drive AWD system with ‘Selec Terrain’ driving modes. The diesel motor switches on with almost no noticeable vibrations or noise - the effort put into making the cabin feel comfortable and premium show through. The clutch action is surprisingly light for a transmission that is designed to take higher torque. Moving off line is easy, and you only need to dab the accelerator to move off inclines. The long throw but sure slotting gearbox is fun to use, the metal-finish ball-like gear knob makes shifting gears an event by itself.
The 2.0-litre motor likes to potter around at lower speeds; with max torque made quite low down in the power band you don’t need to work the gears or slip the clutch or modulate the throttle to make the Compass move along in slow moving traffic conditions. In our tests, the Compass diesel 4x4 managed to go from 30-80kmph in 7.32 seconds and 0-100kmph in 10.03 seconds. Jeep claims fuel-efficiency figures of 17.1kmpl for the 4x2 diesel and 16.3kmpl for the 4x4 diesel. In our real world test, the latter managed 11.07kmpl in the city and 16.02kmpl on the highway. That’s only marginally more than the Hyundai Tucson diesel automatic (city/highway = 10.79kmpl/14.47kmpl). Our choice of engine in the Jeep Compass? That’d have to be the diesel.
Jeep offers the Compass with a 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine as well, good for 163PS of power and 250Nm of torque. In the base-spec Compass Sport, it’s available with a 6-speed manual gearbox while in the top-spec Compass Limited variants, it’s only offered with a 7-speed DCT automatic. We drove the latter and came back with a mixed response, which we’ll explain briefly.
On the plus side, the in-city drive experience is effortless. Power delivery is smooth and predictable, with no sudden spikes to catch you off-guard. It even manages to outpace its more powerful diesel alternative in the 0-100kmph sprint, taking 9.67 seconds. While it poses no major problems in driveability, the fuel efficiency is heart pinchingly poor.
Jeep claims a figure of 14.1kmpl for the Compass petrol automatic. In the real world, the best we managed (with light traffic) was 6.1kmpl in the city and 8.5kmpl on the highway! The reason? In regular city traffic, it tends to upshift only around 2000rpm, holding onto lower gears at higher revs unnecessarily and subsequently burning more fuel. On the highway, the transmission is very eager to drop gears to pick up the pace but doesn’t settle back into 7th gear quickly (say, after you’ve completed an overtake). This, too, results in the open road efficiency dropping.
Drive and handling
On the smooth roads of Goa, the Compass’ suspension offered a good compromise between comfort and handling. The Compass gets ‘frequency sensitive damping’ which adjusts the damping rate of the suspension as per road conditions and driver inputs. The SUV is able to keep occupants comfortable over most undulations except when going over sharp lateral bumps. The suspension seems to be tuned for more comfort higher speeds, there is a hint of bounciness - but it never gets uncomfortable. Taking some tight corners also showed how poised the Compass is, there is barely any roll.
The steering unit on the Compass is a revelation. Though it is electrically assisted, it feels well-connected to the front wheels. While there is almost no resistance from the steering system at parking speeds, it weighs up nicely as you pick up speed.
A brief drive on the beach also gave us a preview of how effective the ‘Selec Terrain’ system is. Controlled via a rotary knob on the lower centre console, it offers shift-on-the-fly traction modes - including ‘Auto’, ‘Snow’, ‘Sand’ and ‘Mud’. Though the Compass has all-weather tyres, which are generally just enough to cope with varying terrains, the AWD system made sure the Compass felt comfortable on soft sand. The system automatically sent power to the rear wheels when it detected slip and stopped it from digging in.
On a dedicated 3.5km long off-road track, the Jeep Compass felt like it was built to do such stuff. Water wading, steep inclines, slush tracks, slippery grass, wet rocky terrain and a very bumpy log path were all dispatched with minimal effort. We were tackling all these in the ‘Mud’ mode which locks the 4x4 system and disengages traction control. The short first gear compensates for the absence of a crawler gear and there is enough grunt low down the power band that you don’t need to slip the clutch to go over steep obstacles. The responsive steering wheel has to be given another mention here - it had enough feedback for me to know where my front wheels were pointing at, without tiring my arms.
The standard safety features list on the Jeep Compass is a long one. Anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic brake distribution (EBD), Electronic stability control (ESP), Traction control, Hill start assist, Panic brake assist (PBA - if driver slams the brakes in an emergency, the system applies consistently more pressure to ensure maximum braking effect), Electronic brake prefill (if the system detects the driver lifting off suddenly from the accelerator, it engages the brakes slightly so that there isn’t a delay in braking performance), Electronic rollover mitigation (uses a combination of brakes, traction control and engine torque control to prevent the car from rolling over during extremely tight turns), and dual front airbags are offered on all variants. The 4x4 variants get six airbags in total, but even the top-spec 4x2 Compass has to make do with dual front airbags. This is hard to digest when you factor in the Rs 20 lakh+ on road price.
Other safety systems like cornering fog lamps, rear view camera with display on the infotainment screen, rear parking sensors, manually-dimming IRVMs also add to the sense of safety. Jeep did miss out on safety tech like an auto-dimming IRVM, auto headlamps and auto wipers, but made amends by offering these goodies in the Limited Plus.
The Jeep Compass is offered in four variants - Sport, Longitude, Limited and the top-spec Limited Plus. The diesel variants, powered by the 2.0'Multijet II’, is only paired to the 6-speed manual transmission for now. The petrol Compass, powered by the 1.4 'Multiair’ engine, gets a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard but the range-topping variant is offered exclusively with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The Jeep Compass is available with the 4x4 system only on the top-of-the-line Limited/Limited (O) variants powered by the 2.0-litre diesel motor.