Intro - The American SUV maker was absent on the Indian scene for a long time, that was untilthey unveiled their Wrangler and Grand Cherokee models. Although incredibly good products the sheer pricing was a heart-break for many Jeep lovers out here in India. However Jeep has come up with something special, Jeep’s new baby the Compass which is set to be launched in August this year is going to be locally manufactured, which means unlike previous models this can go on to attract larger prospects because of its pricing. Jeeps absence in the Indian market largely goes to the fact that Indians don’t necessarily do a lot of off-roading. But things as of now have definitely taken a different turn as India is set to be the primary exporter of the Jeep Compass. Look at it and you will be reminded of the Grand Cherokee. And the price that it is expected to be launched, it will compete with the likes of the Tucson, Endeavour, Fortuner & the new Tiguan. The lower end Compass might put prospective Creta and Duster buyers in a dilemma.

Exterior–At first glance you really cannot differentiate the car from the Grand Cherokee. It has inherited the modern Jeep character very well, and it is also very well proportioned just like a Grand Cherokee. The grille of the Compass tells you it is a Jeep. Although small in comparison to all the other Jeep’s out there it definitely has the muscle to be a Jeep. The bold wheel arches, the lines and even the roof railings are typically Jeep. The raised headlamps and the buffed up bumper takes care of the front facia. There is a prominent shoulder line on the side and the thick D – pillar gives a feel of a SUV. Dimensionally it is larger than the Renegade but smaller than the Grand Cherokee. And a closer look at the provisions provided in the car, this certainly is no outcast from the Jeep family.

Interior - The cabin of the Compass is similar to that of the Grand Cherokee. Design, built quality and space are key take outs from the cabin.You can feel the Jeep character once you hold the three spoke multi-function steering wheel which is really chunky, and so is the gear knob which is very much like a Jeep, the design of the steering is like what you would expect out of an off-roader. Ergonomically speaking everything seems well laid out, but it would be nice if the centre console avoided glossy finish. The touch screen although user friendly is not the best out there. Plastics used are of good quality and so is the stitching in and around the cabin. Material used is premium and it sports a dual tone finish, premium leather seats are on offer, a 7 inch infotainment system comes with Android Carplay and has keyless entry. Such is the attention to detail that everything in disposition makes you feel as though you are in a premium SUV, a bit of an annoyance then can be the volume controls at the back of the steering and there is no sunroof or cruise control in this car. Thus the Compass being a Jeep does offer the features expected out of a premium brand. At the back though things are not necessarily good as it might be a tight fit for three people, also the thigh support is not necessarily the best behind. However the front seats are custom built for Indian conditions, so long journeys are not going to be a problem.

Drive - The Jeep Compass is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel mated to a six-speed manual, it has an output of 170 hp and 350 Nm of torque.The other option is the 1.4 L multi jet turbo petrol which has around 160 hp and 250 Nm of torque and is mated to a 6 speed manual. The diesel does not make any clatter and there is very little cabin noise. The torque in this one begins to meat up @ 1750 rpm. Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes can be selected with the help of dial. Choosing the right mode ensures that the power delivery to each wheel changes.  Being a Jeep this one is good at what it was built for – no nuiscence whatsoever in ascending or descending those steep inclines or rocky patches, or passing through water crossings. The Jeep has a very good ride quality thanks to its frequency selective damping that the suspension employs. Body roll is slightly more especially at the corners, but that’s okay as one should expect that of a rugged off-roader. The chunky steering add’s to the driving pleasure. It is light enough to handle in city traffic and you get a good response while at the highway. Also noteworthy is Jeep’s famous four wheel drive system. Overtaking is especially easy as the engine is best between 2000-3500rpm. The responsive engine means, you don't have to constantly shift gears to make quick progress. Braking efficiency is tested in various conditions, it seems to be good and there are other electronic aids to make you safer in this car.

Off-roading – Being a Jeep off-roading needs a special mention, although only a baby Cherokee this lad knows how to do things the rough way. Its impressive ground clearance take’s care of the required needs that an SUV of this stature requires. The Freedom Drive 2 package transforms the car from a soft-roader to an off-roader. 17 inch all terrain and many of the features in the Compass are just like those found in the high end Jeep’s. The off-roading prowess then gives you an indication of Jeep’s DNA. Another interesting aspect is the powertrain which at 1st gear responds very much like an off-roader, but upshift it and you will observe it behaving like a city cruiser.

Should you have one - As mentioned already the Jeep has its list of competitors. What separates it from the others is a point to wonder about. It does look tough and does have a massive road presence. It also behaves well both on-road and off-road. However with the likes of the Tiguan up against it, interior quality is a bit poor and certainly it would be nice if it had some more goodies in the cabin. Another point to keep in mind is that Jeep certainly does not have the best dealer network out there. But bear with all those factors and Jeep might bring to you a special delight, being a locally manufactured car, prices can really be slashed, precisely ranging from Rs.16 lakh for the lower end variant to Rs. 23.5 lakh for higher end variants, and that certainly is a definite edge that the Jeep has over its rivals.

Words : Ritin Paul

Photos : Stenny Joseph