Jeep, the iconic American SUV maker, stepped into India with its flagship model, the Grand Cherokee, and the Wrangler off-roader. Both models were costly imports, which put the brand out of reach of most Indians. However, its latest model, the Compass, is a premium SUV that has been launched at a knockout starting price of Rs 14.95 lakh for the petrol variant. The diesel variants start at an equally nifty Rs 15.45 lakh, while the fully loaded 4×4 model goes up to Rs 20.65 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).
The Compass is about the size of an Audi Q3, but it looks larger in the flesh. It’s got all the Jeep-typical styling cues like the seven-slot grille and squared-off wheel arches, and in fact, if you see it from far away, you could mistake it for a Grand Cherokee.
Powering the diesel variant tested here is a 173hp, 2.0-litre engine that comes with a six-speed manual gearbox. For the most part, the engine drives the front wheels (all-wheel drive is activated only under low-grip conditions). There’s also the option of a 162hp, 1.4 turbo-petrol which can be specified with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, besides the standard six-speed manual.
The all-wheel drive variants come quite well-equipped. For instance, the four-wheel-drive system comes with a Range Rover-like Select Terrain dial, four-channel ABS and ESP, six airbags and Electronic Roll Mitigation to name a few.
The Compass’s cabin is well built and spacious too. The front seats are comfortable, and the premium Alpine leather that comes in the fully loaded variant is quite plush too. There are a few hard and shiny plastics on the dashboard like the piano black surrounds around the vents. The touchscreen too is small and a bit fiddly to use. But the overall impression is of a high-quality cabin.
Rear passengers also have a good amount of legroom, the seats are quite comfortable, plus you get a charging point and air-con vents too. Some may find the backrest to be a bit vertical, though.
On the road, the Compass makes easy work of small bumps. The SUV rocks a bit over medium-sized bumps, but otherwise, the ride is supple. For a car this tall, it is also superbly stable in a straight line. Yes, it does sway a bit when going around bends, but never in an unsettling manner. What also gives you plenty of confidence, is the nicely weighted steering that also delivers plenty of feel.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine starts up with a bit of a clatter, and gets is a bit noisy when spun hard. But power flows so nicely, you really do enjoy your time behind the wheel. There is a bit of a delay before the power kicks in when setting off. Still, the gearbox is light and slick and the metal cue-ball-topped gear lever is a joy to use, so you don’t really mind working it.
The high ground clearance and that this car comes with a well-tuned 4×4 system means the Compass is pretty accomplished off-road as well. Driving up ridges, and moderately rough terrain is no sweat. But what leaves a lasting impression is that the Compass just feels tough, solid and unbreakable – all admirable traits in an SUV.
Comfortable, well built, capable off-road and nice to drive, the Compass seems to deliver so much more than your regular off-roader.
Sure, it’s missing important equipment like a sunroof and the option of an automatic gearbox, plus there’s also MOPAR’s (FCA’s aftersales and customer care wing) weak service network to contend with. But, the Compass makes a compelling case for itself, nevertheless.
Price: Rs 14.95 – 20.65 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine size: 2.0-litre diesel
Power: 170hp at 3750rpm
Torque: 350Nm at 1750-2500rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual