Made-in-In­dia com­pact SUV is ev­ery­thing a Jeep should be

Car India - - CONTENTS - Story: Ravi Chand­nani Pho­tog­ra­phy: San­jay Raikar

IT IS NOT EASY TO FIND YOUR WAY in the In­dian car mar­ket as you have to nav­i­gate through the high­ways of con­sumer de­mands, not to speak of those back al­leys of bu­reau­cracy. It can be a tough chal­lenge even for some of the most sorted global car-mak­ers. How­ever, Jeep, the iconic Amer­i­can brand owned by FIAT Chrysler Au­to­mo­biles (FCA), are look­ing to find their way in this mar­ket with the help of their new SUV, the Com­pass. So, to see how ex­actly this new SUV tack­les the In­dian ter­rain, we headed to Goa for a first drive and this is what we have to say.

A shrunk Grand Chero­kee is what the Com­pass essen­tially looks like. It ap­pears big, but in a non­in­tim­i­dat­ing way. It has all the es­sen­tial de­sign el­e­ments such as the iconic Jeep grille, a gen­er­ous dose of chrome and a few in­ter­est­ing bits like the chrome strip that starts at the A-pil­lar and goes all the way back to the rear wind­screen. The min­i­mal­ist de­sign looks good and also man­ages to turn heads.

On the in­side the story is pretty sim­i­lar to the ex­te­rior. The cabin lay­out is sim­ple with good qual­ity leather up­hol­stery and plas­tics that have re­spectable fit-andfin­ish. The black and white theme looks classy and the over­all feel is pretty cosy. The front and rear seats are com­fort­able and there is am­ple knee-room as well. How­ever, the Com­pass lacks ad­e­quate head- and shoul­der-room and seat­ing three av­er­age-size adults in the rear turns out to be a squeeze.

Fea­ture-wise, the Jeep is ad­e­quately loaded with a touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem that has mul­ti­ple con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, steer­ing-mounted con­trols, an easy-to-read twin-pod in­stru­ment con­sole, re­verse park­ing sen­sors, and cam­era. How­ever, it misses out

on a few fea­tures that an SUV of sim­i­lar stature would have like an elec­tri­cally ad­justable driver seat, a sun­roof, and cruise con­trol. Jeep have promised that the Com­pass will be avail­able with var­i­ous op­tional fea­tures that should ad­dress a few that are miss­ing. But for that, we will have to wait and see what com­bi­na­tions are avail­able when the Com­pass is launched in a month’s time.

Mov­ing to the me­chan­i­cals, Jeep have equipped the Com­pass with a 2.0-litre tur­bocharged diesel en­gine, which comes from par­ent FIAT’s sta­ble. There is a 1.4-litre Mul­tiAir petrol en­gine avail­able as well, but Jeep had only the diesel for the drive. This is the first time that we have ex­pe­ri­enced this Mul­tiJet II diesel en­gine in In­dia and its most no­tice­able as­pect is the chat­ter. Even at idle, you can clearly hear the en­gine from a dis­tance. Jeep have done a com­mend­able job of smoth­er­ing the sound in­side the cabin, though, for there is hardly any en­gine noise or other sounds au­di­ble in­side the cabin, hint­ing at good NVH lev­els.

The 2.0-litre mo­tor pro­duces 173 PS and 350 Nm, which may not sound like a lot but is ad­e­quate for most sit­u­a­tions. The six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion has short

throws and shifts smoothly. The clutch ac­tion is light and you don’t have to make an ef­fort ei­ther to en­gage or dis­en­gage the clutch.

On the go, the en­gine feels rough; the re­fine­ment lev­els not be­ing up to the mark. There is no­tice­able turbo-lag, too; how­ever, once past that the power and torque are de­liv­ered smoothly in a lin­ear man­ner. Driv­ing the Com­pass on the nar­row streets of Goa was quite easy thanks to the light clutch, de­cent steer­ing and am­ple torque. On the high­way, how­ever, it did feel a mite un­der­pow­ered un­der sud­den ac­cel­er­a­tion. To gauge proper per­for­mance we will have to wait for a proper road test.

One thing that im­pressed us was the Com­pass’ ride qual­ity. This SUV fea­tures in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion with soft set­tings, which helps it ab­sorb bumps and un­du­la­tions with­out any prob­lem. The tall stance and soft sus­pen­sion ham­per the han­dling a bit, though. The Com­pass tends to roll in cor­ners when you push it at speed, which can be a lit­tle un­set­tling for the oc­cu­pants, but over­all sta­bil­ity is quite good. The steer­ing re­sponse is good but the feed­back could have been bet­ter. Brakes have ad­e­quate bite and the feel is good as well.

Over­all, the new Com­pass is an SUV aimed at first­time semi-lux­ury SUV buy­ers. Be­cause Jeep are plan­ning to price the Com­pass be­tween Rs 22 and Rs 25 lakh (diesel) and Rs 18 and Rs 23 lakh (petrol), which is good pric­ing be­cause there are hardly any ri­vals at this price point. There will be three ba­sic vari­ants avail­able in both the petrol and diesel mod­els. Fur­ther­more, Jeep will be of­fer­ing a num­ber of op­tional ac­ces­sories and var­i­ous packs, giv­ing the cus­tomers a wider va­ri­ety to choose from. With no di­rect ri­vals, the Com­pass should carve a niche for it­self. Mean­while, we do hope that Jeep take care of the lit­tle nig­gles and iron them out be­fore the launch, which will make the Com­pass a more com­pe­tent prod­uct.

Sim­ple look­ing dash­board has good fit-fin­ish

The 2.0-litre tur­bod­iesel mo­tor feels un­der­pow­ered

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