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    The Jeep Compass looks like a mini Jeep Cherokee. (Photo: The Quint)
    | 8 min read

    Jeep Compass First Drive: Built For The Smooth, Tackles The Rough

    When you hear the word Jeep, the first thing that comes to mind is a fun off-road machine. You expect that capability with a Jeep - and the new Jeep Compass does not disappoint in that aspect. The Jeep Compass is being made in Pune, for all the right-hand drive markets of the world, and will officially roll out on Indian roads in August.

    The Jeep Compass is quite capable in varied terrain with its Selec Terrain all-wheel drive system. (Photo: The Quint)
    The Jeep Compass is quite capable in varied terrain with its Selec Terrain all-wheel drive system. (Photo: The Quint)

    Fiat Chrysler Auto (FCA), which owns the Jeep brand, invited The Quint down to monsoon-soaked Goa to test drive the upcoming Jeep Compass in varied terrain conditions. There is considerable interest in this new SUV pouring in on social media, and everything boils down to what Jeep will price the Compass at. Our guesstimate after spending a couple of days with it is it should ideally be priced between Rs 18 lakh and Rs 22 lakh.

    The seven-slat grille is a classic Jeep design element. (Photo: The Quint)
    The seven-slat grille is a classic Jeep design element. (Photo: The Quint)

    Jeep will be launching the Compass with a 1.4 litre petrol engine and a 2 litre diesel engine. The 1.4 litre ‘multiair’ (turbocharged) petrol engine puts out 160 bhp of power and 260 Nm of torque and will have the option of a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as well as 6-speed manual.

    The Compass is quite compact in size, slightly smaller than a Hyundai Tucson. (Photo: The Quint) 
    The Compass is quite compact in size, slightly smaller than a Hyundai Tucson. (Photo: The Quint) 

    The 2-litre multijet diesel Compass puts out 171 bhp of power and 350 Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Both engine options will have 4x2 (front-wheel drive) and 4x4 (all-wheel drive with Selec Terrain) options.

    The variant we were driving was the Jeep Compass 4x4 Limited with the 2-litre diesel engine and 6-speed manual transmission.

    Designed to Look Tough

    The squared off fenders are a classic Jeep design element. (Photo: The Quint)
    The squared off fenders are a classic Jeep design element. (Photo: The Quint)

    Before we get to the driving dynamics, a quick note about the design of the Compass. At first glance, it does look like a scaled down Jeep Cherokee. It has the distinctive 7-slat Jeep grille rimmed in chrome and flanked by bi-xenon projector headlamps with LED guide lamps. Below them are daytime running lamps and cornering fog-lamps. The front bumper is rather low-set - and that’s the point from which ground clearance has been measured on the Compass.

    The Jeep Compass has 155 mm of minimum ground clearance, measured at its lowest point with a full load. (Photo: The Quint)
    The Jeep Compass has 155 mm of minimum ground clearance, measured at its lowest point with a full load. (Photo: The Quint)

    Minimum ground clearance as measured by the new ARAI norms is 155 mm (with four on board and luggage, measured from the lowest point on the body). Otherwise the rest of the vehicle is at about 180 mm. The squared off fenders offer plenty of space for suspension travel.

    Approach angle is at 16.1 degrees – which is pretty low because of that flexible bumper lip that can fold upwards when it hits an obstacle. Breakover angle at 22.3 degrees is acceptable, despite the long wheelbase of 2636 mm. And departure angle is 31.6 degrees.

    The Compass is just 125mm longer than a Hyundai Creta at 4395 mm, slightly narrower than a Hyundai Tucson at 1818 mm and about 10 mm taller than the Creta at 1640 mm. So, it’s not really as big as it looks. However, the Cherokee inspired design makes it seem so, with the wrap-around tail-lamps, flared fenders and black floating roof separated by a chrome strip giving it that added bulk.

    Soft On The Inside

    The Compass has light beige leather seats and a soft-touch dashboard. (Photo: The Quint)
    The Compass has light beige leather seats and a soft-touch dashboard. (Photo: The Quint)

    Step into the Compass and you will be greeted with a combination of light beige and black interiors – word of caution, the beige will easily get soiled. The seats are in light beige with red stitching and of good quality. The dashboard gets soft touch black plastic. In fact, Jeep has made an effort to use soft touch materials wherever your body comes in contact with the vehicle, which is nice.

    Rear seat legroom isn’t very generous. It is adequate. (Photo: The Quint)
    Rear seat legroom isn’t very generous. It is adequate. (Photo: The Quint)

    The instrument console is a classic twin pod with a large tachometer to the left and speedometer to the right. Temperature and fuel gauges are by digital bars on either side of the multi-information display (MID). The MID is pretty comprehensive with eight different menus ranging from vehicle settings to audio, speed and fuel efficiency displays. It gets a electronic parking brake in place of the conventional handbrake.

    There are certain quirks with the controls on the steering wheel. While the left panel controls the MID and phone controls, the right panel has been left blank – perhaps for a future model that would have cruise control. The audio volume and channel change controls are situated behind the steering wheel – and not visible at first glance.

    There is no auto-dimming interior mirror, but it does have push-button ignition, full keyless entry and auto-folding outside mirrors. It has dual-zone automatic climate control and rear AC vents, but no separate blower controls for the rear.

    The designers have had some fun with the Compass, by throwing in a few surprise elements – such as a lizard embossed in the wiper panel, a Lochness monster in the rear glass and a Morse code pattern on the dead pedal that translates to “Sand, Snow, Rivers, Rocks!” That’s pretty cool!
    Morse code in the dead pedal, a lizard near the wiper, a Lochness monster on the rear glass - some of the fun design elements in the Jeep Compass. (Photo: The Quint)
    Morse code in the dead pedal, a lizard near the wiper, a Lochness monster on the rear glass - some of the fun design elements in the Jeep Compass. (Photo: The Quint)

    Boot space is slightly limited. It has about 430 litres of storage, with a parcel shelf above the boot. The rear seats fold in a 60:40 split arrangement to free about about twice that space, but it’s not generous. Rear seat legroom is also best suited for two adults, as the transmission tunnel intrudes into the middle passenger’s legroom.

    The Jeep Compass has about 430 litres of boot space. (Photo: The Quint)
    The Jeep Compass has about 430 litres of boot space. (Photo: The Quint)

    Feels Good to Drive

    So how good is it to drive? Start it up and you will be pleasantly surprised at how refined the 2-litre diesel engine sounds. You don’t get sound penetrating the cabin thanks to three-layer door seals and thick sound insulation. Only at high RPM do you hear the drone of the diesel.

    The diesel variant of the Compass is powered by a 2-litre multijet engine that puts out 171 bhp of power and 350 Nm of torque. (Photo: The Quint)
    The diesel variant of the Compass is powered by a 2-litre multijet engine that puts out 171 bhp of power and 350 Nm of torque. (Photo: The Quint)

    The clutch is fairly light to use, but the pedals are a bit high-set (those with large feet will find their left foot hitting the steering column sometimes). The steering itself is nicely weighted with a certain amount of heft required, which adds to its precision, especially off-road. The gear-knob in brushed aluminium feels great to hold, but the shifts on this 6-speed gearbox are a little long. First gear ratio is quite low (to aid in off-road manners as there is no low-range gearbox), while sixth gear is quite tall allowing the Compass to cruise at 100 kmph at just about 1800 rpm.

    The pick up from this 2-litre diesel engine is fairly linear. There is some turbo lag below 1500 rpm, and even after that it spools up in a linear fashion, without that sudden surge you get in some cars when the turbo kicks in. It comes with all-round disc brakes, with ABS and traction control. On the highway, ride quality is smooth and comfortable. The suspension is fairly stiff (rear Chapman link set up and McPherson struts in front), and hence there is hardly any body roll on turns.

    Fuel efficiency was an indicated 12.2 kmpl on the MID. Jeep hasn’t given any claimed efficiency figures yet.

    Off-road Prowess

    The Selec Terrain dial in the Jeep Compass with modes for snow, sand and mud. (Photo: The Quint)
    The Selec Terrain dial in the Jeep Compass with modes for snow, sand and mud. (Photo: The Quint)

    Take it off-road and the Compass comes into its own. It has four modes on the four-wheel drive system – Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud, along with a 4WD lock button. Leaving the dial in auto is fine for most situations as the Compass decides when traction is required on the rear axle (it drives as a front-wheel drive at most times) and seamlessly transfers power. Shifting to snow mode dulls the throttle response to prevent skidding. Getting into sand mode makes the throttle response aggressive and turns off traction control for greater wheel slip and momentum. Mud mode allows for precise throttle inputs to tackle slush.

    The only issue with the Compass off-road is the approach angle – that lower lip on the bumper does dig into any obstacle higher than 155 mm, which is why the ground clearance is also so low. However, it is flexible, so it won’t break easily.
    The 7-inch infotainment system has Android Auto, Apple Car Play and reverse camera, as well as a compass, of course! (Photo: The Quint)
    The 7-inch infotainment system has Android Auto, Apple Car Play and reverse camera, as well as a compass, of course! (Photo: The Quint)

    The rest of the vehicle has about 180 mm of clearance and all the dangling bits underneath are neatly tucked away.

    We drove it through a river crossing in the jungle (water-wading depth of 482 mm), up some slushy trails, through a muddy bog and down a steep slope. It tackled everything fairly easily, going to show that it is inherently built for this stuff.

    Appeals to Adventurers

    The Jeep Compass will appeal to those who like to head off on wild trips. (Photo: The Quint)
    The Jeep Compass will appeal to those who like to head off on wild trips. (Photo: The Quint)

    Overall, the Jeep Compass feels like a purpose-built sporty SUV, that is compact enough for the daily urban grind, but has the potential to please the adventurer in you for weekend drives. It is fun on the sand, can handle rough jungle trails and the hills shouldn’t be much of a problem in winter either if you pick the all-wheel drive version.

    Jeep will also have a front-wheel drive variant as well as a petrol automatic on offer at the time of launch in August.

    Snapshot
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    Jeep Compass Limited 4x4 Specifications

    • Length: 4,395 mm
      Width: 1,818 mm
    • Height: 1,640 mm
    • Wheelbase: 2,636 mm
    • Ground clearance: 155 mm


    • Engine: 2-litre multijet diesel
      Power: 171 bhp @ 3750 rpm
      Torque: 350 Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm
    • Transmission: 6-speed manual
    • Drive type: Selec Terrain all-wheel drive
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