We know a good handful of you who belong to the fraternity, where the only way to escape the bustling city into the countryside is to Jeep your way there!
The Jeep affinity doesn't really need an introduction. Irrespective of which part of the world you come from, chances are you've known or heard of a Jeep. Such is the brand. As a child, I remember growing up admiring heavy-duty men and their rugged Jeeps conquering the uncharted expanse of God's own country, Kerala.
Jump to 2017, I had the privilege of driving Jeep's new Compass SUV for India, set to launch in August. In the crowded Compact SUV market, can the Compass hold its own and deliver the Jeep brand's rugged image? We ask, is the Compass a true mud-slugger?
Here's what we discovered.
At first glance, the Compass looks like a shrunken version of the handsome Grand Cherokee.
The Compass sports numerous highlights that are distinctively Jeep, ensuring that it looks more like a proper SUV when compared to highly stylised rivals such as the Tucson, which is a definite head turner in the Indian SUV market, where buyers prefer butch SUVs.
On the front, the Compass gets a clamshell bonnet with a slight bulge at the centre and curves inspired by the SR-71 spy plane (one of the fastest planes capable of hitting speeds of Mach 3+). The clamshell bonnet's shut line with the embossed badge flows smoothly over the iconic seven-slot Jeep grille. Each of the slots get a gloss black finish and chrome surround.
Flanking the grille, are the Iron Man inspired headlamps, which are simple projector units with integrated daytime running lights. However, the iconic Jeep grille does not act like an air intake, instead, the large central air dam on the front bumper sucks in air to keep the engine cool. The bumper also plays host to the cornering fog lamps.
From the sides, the distinct trapezoidal wheel arches show off some expected SUV ruggedness. The wheel arches play host to 16-inch wheels wrapped in Firestone tyres (the first time the brand has come to India).
A chrome molding separates the blacked-out sloping roof of the Jeep Compass, which extends from the A-Pillar and wraps dramatically around the entire length of the vehicle.
The shark fin-shaped rear D-Pillar is another design highlight that adds to the mirage of the floating roof. The best feature of the rear end of the Jeep Compass are the eye-catching 3D-LED tail lamps, which leave a lasting impression.
Interior, Features and Safety
The interior of the new Compass is a mixed bag, to say the least. The Ski grey (which looks more white than grey) and black dual-tone theme looks nice, though the dash isn't something many will not look at twice.
The luxurious seats on the Compass are wrapped in sky grey leather (which will be a pain to keep clean), and sports red contrast stitching and are as supple as they come and offer loads of support.
The rear seats offer good under-thigh support while head and knee room at the back is more than enough for even those on the taller end of the tape.
However, any person sitting in the centre will find their leg and knee room hampered by the transmission tunnel and the rear AC vents, and most owners will prefer to use the centre armrest which plays host to twin cupholders.
The chunky steering wheel is wrapped in leather and features chrome garnishing which should hopefully distract drivers from the dummy buttons on the right spoke.
Controls for the volume and to change channels are located on the back side of the steering wheel and are hidden from view.
Sitting between the speedo and tacho on the twin-pod instrument console is the multi-information display (MID) which allows drivers to access details regarding everything from the volume levels to mileage on the eight different screen options.
The infotainment system is again another place where Jeep has tightened the purse strings in India. Unlike, international markets where the Limited-trim Compass gets an 8.4-inch infotainment display, the biggest screen on offer for the India-spec Compass SUV is a 7-incher.
The 7-inch touchscreen display does not feature GPS navigation but does sport a (surprise, surprise) Compass. However, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available as well which should help those lost in urban jungles find their way home.
The India-spec Jeep Compass still also features dual-zone air-conditioning, push-button ignition, keyless entry and auto folding outside mirrors along with Jeep's Selec-Terrain all-wheel drive system which can be controlled using a dial which is placed near the metal-capped gear stick. Also, the floor mats are made from rubber which hints at the off-road ready nature of the Compass.
Hands-free access to the boot of the Compass will remain a pipe-dream in India. The boot itself seems to be quite small at just 438-litres with the seats up and 770-litres with the seats folded. (The Hyundai Tucson has 513-litres of boot space with the seats up.)
The Compass for India does miss out numerous options found on the SUV in international markets due to Jeep's austerity approach for India including auto headlamps and wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Thankfully Jeep does not seem to have skimped on safety, and the Jeep gets a host of features to keep those inside safe and sound including six airbags, ABS and ESP along with Panic Brake Assist, Hydraulic Booster Failure Compensation, Electronic Brake Prefill, and Electronic Roll Mitigation and Hill Start Assist.
Engine, Performance and Drive
The Compass (the one we drove) is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that produces 171bhp and 350Nm of torque and is paired to a 6-speed manual gearbox. Also on offer at launch will be a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 160bhp and 250Nm of torque, which will be offered with a 6-speed manual - and a 7-speed automatic gearbox is a possibility as well.
The 2.0-litre MultiJet II Diesel engine does suffer from turbo lag under 1,800rpm. Once past that figure on the rev counter, the response of the turbo diesel engine is linear all the way up to 4,000rpm. The diesel engine runs smooth, to the event that the Compass cruises at 120kph at 2000rpm. However, the rumble of the diesel engine gets quite loud after 3,500rpm and starts fading out once past 4,500rpm. But, at the top of the rev range the diesel engine's thrum is noticeable.
The 6-speed manual gearbox shuffles through the gears well; however, is a bit lethargic while looking for quick downshifts. On startup, the diesel engine's characteristic gruff sound does not penetrate the cabin, thanks to thick sound insulation and three-layer door seals.
The quality of the Compass' ride and handling is a strong point. Uneven surfaces and bumps are absorbed well thanks to the independent Chapman link set-up at the rear, along with frequency sensitive dampers from Koni and McPherson struts up front.
The setup allows a brilliant mix of comfort and handling. The Compass glides over bad roads smothering ruts and potholes with ease but stiffens up on the smoother tarmac to allow the Jeep to take sharp corners at moderate speeds. Overall, the body roll is well under control.
The steering lacks sensation of feel on-road and you will find constantly making adjustments when cornering. However, where a Jeep thrives is where the roads turn into dirt tracks, and rocky paths and the Compass does not disappoint when taken off the road.
Once off the road, the Jeep Active Drive 4x4 system re-engages the rear axle in just 300 milliseconds transforming the Compass into an off-roader capable of living up to its badge.
While the approach angle of the Compass isn't helpful at just 17 degrees, the flexible front bumper lip allows the Compass to ignore most obstacles in its path. The departure angle of 32 degrees is more than acceptable. The Compass is capable of up to 480mm of water fording.
The Jeep Selec-Terrain off-road system on Compass comes with four driving modes: Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud, along with a 4WD lock button. Auto, as the name suggests, does all the hard work itself, figuring out the terrain and responding accordingly on its own. In Snow mode, the throttle response is muted down to prevent the wheels from spinning away without reason. Sand Mode allows for aggressive throttle inputs and turns off traction control for greater wheel slip and momentum, while mud mode is for slush pits and bogs which call for more predictable throttle response.
The Compass easily tackled all that Mother Nature threw at it including a river crossing in the middle of a jungle, over some muddy forest tracks and even went down steep slopes without too much trouble despite the glaring lack of Hill Descent.
The Compass showed that despite being slightly handicapped by cost cutting to make it suitable for Indian pockets, it still possesses the DNA of what made the Jeep brand such a hit among the off-roading anoraks around the world.
|Tested Variant||Jeep Compass Limited (O) Diesel|
|Price Est.||Rs 17 to 25 lakh on-road|
|Engine||2.0-litre MultiJet II Diesel|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||60 litres|
|Mileage Est.||11kpl combined (City/Highway/Off-road)|
|Fuel Tank Range Est.||600km|
|Power/ torque||171bhp @ 3750rpm/ 350Nm @ 1750 - 2500rpm|
The Compass has loads of space inside and wins on the styling and is an eyeful on the road — and off the road — is a true mud-slugger and purpose-built.
Jobo Kuruvilla Thinks!
The Jeep Compass has the potential to take India by storm and jump ahead of the class. And, if the pricing is aggressive — for the competition —it's Game (Almost) Over!
Did you know?
All Jeep vehicles use some form of a seven-slot front grille - a design feature that sparked a 2001 legal fight between Jeep and Hummer.
Also, the Jeep Wrangler is the only vehicle (for now) designed to have its doors removed.
That's Jeep for you — purpose-built to roam unrestrained.