Jeep, the American iconic cult brand since 1941, has been synonymous with India for a long time now. Who doesn’t remember superstar Rajesh Khanna romancing the lovely Sharmila Tagore, while driving around in the Left Hand Drive open Willys Jeep in the song Mere Sapno Ki Rani from the epic 60s movie Aradhana?! Jeep has always been characterized with a never to fail, simple, no nonsense macho image. Seen in many Hollywood movies as the no frill Army Jeep, this brand has stood the test of time. Mostly, the Willys Jeeps that were on the Indian roads were the American imports that came in the Left Hand Drive form. Later on, Mahindra took the rights to the JEEP branding and used it on its MM540 and the Armada that were based on the Willys Jeep CJ5. In fact, all the SUVs from Mahindra, including the latest Thar, are based on the original CJ5 Jeep.
FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) bought the Jeep brand globally in 1987, and since then they have rebuilt it, pumping in some fresh blood and reinventing it to suit the current times. Jeep announced its India entry and came fully powered at the last year’s Auto Expo. They launched the Jeep Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and the Cherokee SRT some time back as CBUs. Recently, Jeep announced the Compass to be their Make in India, Make for India model and had a media unveil. The Jeep Compass is being made in India at the FCA plant at Pune, and will be exported to 36+ right hand drive overseas markets including United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Japan to name a few. FCA has invested nearly US $280 million in the Compass project and they are not leaving any stone unturned to see that it succeeds. We were one of the lucky few who happened to get their hands on the Jeep Compass and take it on and off the road, on some wet and enchanting rainy roads and terrains of lovely Goa. Sit tight, buckle-up and get ready as we take you on an on-road and off-road drive in the soon to be launched Jeep Compass that promises to be affordable to many.
Jeep has been known for its no nonsense flat, straight, but highly practical design for their SUVs. The Compass gets a lot from the basic Jeep design language with lots of straight flat bodylines. The Compass can be described as a miniature version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. A lot of design and styling of the Compass comes from the big daddy SUV. On the front, the face gets the 7-slotted grill design that has chrome lines defining them along with black surrounds that house them neatly. Headlights come with strip type white LED along with Bi-Xenon high density headlights that are housed in a flushed back shape headlight housing.
The front bumper is large and comes in a dual tone finish, with the top part in body color and the lower section in uncolored black finish. There is also a skid plate in silver, placed on the lower section of the front bumper to finish the SUV look of the face. The bumper has clean design lines and houses slim DRL along with round fog lamps placed on it, housed in chrome surround inserts. The long bonnet gets clean character lines that kind of make it look muscularly flexed! A nifty JEEP logo in chrome sits handsomely on the middle of the bonnet.
The sides get an extended flat design fender with flat rectangular cut wheel arches that come with unpainted fiber inserts which extend their selves running across the footboard of the vehicle and mating with the rear wheel arch. The side profile gets a neat and sharp waistline that runs through, bisecting the door handles and ending on the tail lights. The rear fender has a bit more of the bulge design as it flexes out slightly more than the front one. Wing mirrors come in dual tone (black and body color) and also have a dash of chrome on the lower section that highlights them. Wing mirrors get LED turn lights and are electrically adjustable and foldable. The front doors get the COMPASS logo in chrome, further adding excitement to the sides.
The highlight of the side profile is the thick chrome strip that runs above the window line, starting at the wing mirror and ending on the read windshield. This, combined with the all black roof, gives a kind of floating roof effect to the side profile of the Compass, along with the blacked-out door frames and the pillar. Door handles come in body color and the front doors get a keyless entry feature. The Jeep Compass drives on 225/60 R17 Firestone Tubeless Tyres mounted on multi spoke designed silver alloys. Just for knowledge – Firestone is a subsidiary of Bridgestone tyres globally. Attention to detail is so high that even the valve of the tyre gets JEEP inscribed caps. The roof also gets a rear mounted radio antenna along with blacked out roof-rails which help make the Compass look taller.
The rear profile does have its fair share of good design elements on it. The flushed wraparound tail lights come with simple glow LED strip in them, while extending themselves into the boot lid. The rear windshield is large and wide, and comes with a thick chrome band running around it. The spoiler with an integrated LED stop light extends itself a bit, overlapping the windshield while making the Compass look longer. On the outside, the Jeep Compass looks a lot like its Big Daddy, the Cherokee. Has typical Jeep DNA and comes with a lot of road presence. Build quality is good and the paint finish along with body panel fit is excellent. Externally, the Jeep Compass feels very premium and well made.
Step inside and you are cocooned into Jeep world. Cabin styling is typical Jeep and you realize that instantly, if you have ever stepped inside one. The dashboard comes in dual tone with the top being made of a soft, rubbery material like those on premium cars and SUVs. The dash has a rounded shape to it with piano black housing around the vertically extended AC vents. The instrument cluster has a very simple and eye soothing look on it. Twin pod design instrument cluster comes with red needles on them that are easy on the eyes. The 3.5 inches MFD display in the middle of these twin pods reads out all the needed vital readings, and also has a digital compass in it along with trip meters, 4WD Lock indicator, outside temperature, etc.
The steering is a typical JEEP three spoke design having metal inserts, and comes with leather wrapping and a round boss pad with JEEP inscribed boldly on it. You get multi-function buttons for telephony and audio controls placed on here. The steering gets manual adjust for height and reach and has mute/un-mute buttons hidden behind the steering wheel. The Engine start/stop button is placed where you put in the key to start the car usually, which means you won’t have to search for the start stop button’s location to see if it’s on the left or right side of the steering on the dash as in other cars.
The center console gets a 7-inch touch-screen color screen that works as a display for the Radio, CD, Mobile phone connectivity, Climate control, drive mode display and also as a reverse parking camera display. Noteworthy here is that the three-zone climate control can be controlled using this touch screen. The infotainment system is powered by Uconnect which are partners with the FCA and Jeep globally. Apple CarPlay and Android Connect with MirrorLink, and are also a part of this system. You get a 6-speaker package setup that comes with this head unit.
Just below the Climate control is the Jeep Active Drive dial. Jeep Active Drive lets you select preset driving modes between Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud. You also can activate and deactivate the 4WD Lock mode by pressing this dial. The 6-speed manual gear shifter is a neatly-designed round head lever with metal finish on it. Lots of glossy piano black housing around the shifter, gives a good contrast to the center console. The Jeep Compass gets an electronic hand brake with auto hold and release function.
Seats get leather upholstery in a neat grayish white color with JEEP proudly inscribed on them and red stitching running around them. Door-pads and center arm rest also get this white leather wrapping on them with a good amount of padding on them. The Driver’s seat gets manual height adjusts. Front seats are extremely comfortable with excellent lower back and lumber support. Road visibility from the driver’s seat is also good. Rear seats get twin adjusting headrests and a foldable center arm rest. There is lots of leg room, shoulder and head room available for rear passengers. Rear passengers also get AC vents for them. Storage space is good enough, spread around the door pads and under the center arm rest.
The Jeep Compass has a boot space of 430 litres that can be transformed to a mammoth 770 litres, with the rear seats folded down when you just need that much more loading space. Compass gets a well-appointed cabin, the dash has the premium soft rubbery feel that makes it feel and look upmarket. The Uconnect 4 powered infotainment system is easy to use and fast, we missed an inbuilt map system in it though, but you can use your cell phone anytime for that. Seats offer a good level of comfort and the cabin quality is upmarket.
The Jeep Compass when launched next month in India will come powered by two engine options. A 1.4L Multi-Air Petrol engine that has 162PS and hits out 250Nm of torque, and the one we drove the 2.0L Multijet-2 Diesel, that makes 173PS of power and 350NM of torque. You get an transmission option of either a 6-speed Manual transmission with the petrol and diesel versions and a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission for the petrol engine variants. We drove the 2.0L Diesel mated with the 6-speed manual transmission. Push start the engine and you realize its high refinement. The cabin area is further insulated with triple door seals and 28 acoustic baffles with expandable foam sealers on them. In simple layman’s terms, we would say that the cabin feels highly insulated from any outside or engine noise.
Shift to the first gear, and you begin to notice the power of this 2.0L Multijet-2 engine. This is the latest generation of the highly acclaimed Multijet family engines that we know also as the 1.3L DDiS engines that power the Marutis and the Tatas. This all new 2.0L engine feels spirited from the word go. Power is available across all speeds and the gear shifting feels positive. There is good amount of steering feedback that adds some more excitement to the overall drive feel. Power delivery is extremely crisp, and once out of the 1500rpm mark this engine is eager to be pushed across all gears. High speed cruising feels extremely confident and the Compass impressed us in its overall drive feel and on road handling. But then, all SUVs do well on the road.
Now coming to its real genetic virtue, its off-roading abilities. Well, the team at Jeep had everything set up for us. A natural off-road track neatly hidden away in the lush green jungles at the Netravalli Forest Reserve in Goa. Here, we put the Compass to all extreme off-road conditions that you can think of. Sharp inclines, extreme turns while descending, deep slush, water fording, flowing river crossing and driving over rocks and logs of wood… were some exercises that we went through in this brute SUV. The Compass went across all these obstacles with ease. We used the Jeep Active drive mode mostly in Mud and Auto. The power and torque delivery was intelligently handled by the 4WD system onboard here. The best obstacle we liked however, was the 482mm deep water fording that this Jeep crossed with a smile. In short, the Jeep Compass feels perfect to drive in any condition that it’s put into, an extreme off-road one too.
The Jeep Compass comes loaded with safety features. You get 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, height adjust front seat belts, Traction control, ECS, Electronic hand brake with intelligent hold and hill start function to name a few.
It’s no secret that Fiat in India has been at an all-time low. They have been pushed into a corner, and the Jeep Compass is a Godsent model for them to bounce back, that too, in real style. The Compass has it all. It looks like a brute, and is yet trendy. Has good road presence and demands attention where ever it goes. An international class SUV that’s loaded with the Jeep DNA, looks perfect for an SUV, performs extremely well in tricky off-road conditions and can be your perfect everyday drive machine too, during weekdays. Just wish that our friends at FCA-Jeep have some surprise in store with its pricing when it launches at the end of next month. If yes, then Jeep Compass could be just the model that can be the success story for FCA-Jeep in India. We expect and hope that FCA-Jeep prices the Jeep Compass in the Rs. 19-23 Lakhs price segment.