The 2017 Jeep Compass has been newly built ground up. The American manufacturer’s first locally produced product looks like a baby Grand Cherokee, and is based on the ‘compact wide’ architecture that underpins the smaller Jeep Renegade. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Jeep’s parent company, knows well that its success in the Indian market weighs heavily on how the Compass fares in the market. We drove the Compass during the early monsoon showers in Goa – just the right time and place to experience an off-roader. Did we come back impressed? Read on.
As a brand, Jeep has always been known for making vehicles that can go anywhere and tackle almost all obstacles. The company entered the Indian market with two products that are proven successes globally – the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. Imported as completely built units, both these vehicles are priced at a premium, with limited consumer enthusiasm. For Jeep to get a real go at the Indian market, it had to bring down cost. Plus, it had to get a product in a category that holds promise in the long run, is cost-effective, capable and value-rich.
Considering the growing interest in compact SUVs among the Indian consumers, Jeep decided to produce the Compass at FCA’s Indian plant in Ranjangaon, near Pune. In addition to the domestic market, FCA will also export the Jeep Compass to all right hand drive markets globally. Clearly, there’s a lot riding on the Compass, and the company is aware of that.
In India, there was a definite urgency to get the Compass rolling. From the time it was decided to start production in India, to the actual roll-out, it has just taken the team 23 months – a feat that is not lost on anyone at Jeep India. This, of course, required a coordinated approach among all functions, and they have delivered a product that is ready to be introduced to the market shortly.
Please refer to our technology feature on the Jeep Compass published in May 2017. This article, meanwhile, assesses the performance on the vehicle, both on- and off-road.
When launched, the Jeep Compass will be available with two engine options – a 2 l Multijet II diesel engine that is paired only with a six-speed manual transmission, and a 1.4 l Multiair petrol engine that will come with the option of a six-speed manual and a seven-speed dual dry clutch automatic transmission. During the drive, Jeep offered us the top of the line diesel manual variant to experience.
The 2 l engine produces approximately 171 hp of peak power at 3,750 rpm and 350 Nm of max torque between 1,750-2,500 rpm. The engine is refined and power delivery is smooth, but the engine tends to get noisy – inside the cabin – once it crosses the 3,000 rpm mark. Jeep engineers we spoke to told us they have used a lot of packaging and noise deadening materials in the Compass body to improve the NVH levels. All said, NVH levels shouldn’t be too much of a bother for regular city drives. Gearshifts are smooth, but we would have loved it to be a bit crisper. Overall, the powertrain on the Compass performs well, and we feel owners will enjoy its sporty character.
Jeep has offered MacPherson strut suspension at the front and has an independent Chapman strut set-up at the rear with Koni's frequency sensitive dampers (FSD). The FSD shock absorbers come as standard on the Compass, and ensure the vehicle is able to handle all kinds of road surfaces and conditions with ease. The steering felt precise and sorted, and on the different road and terrains we drove through, the Compass had negligible body roll. From an overall performance perspective, the Compass has great balance between good ride quality and handling.
The Compass comes equipped with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain four-wheel drive system that allows choice of four modes – Auto, Snow, Mud and Sand traction modes. Power is primarily sent to the front wheels, but the Selec-Terrain system can power all four wheels at the twist of the rotary knob, placed right next to the gear lever.
For the off-road experience, Jeep took us to a track a couple of hours away from the city – a 3.5 km long track that had steep hill climbs, river runs and a lot of slush all around! This is where the Selec-Terrain system shows its capability, as we switched from the Auto mode, which we used to drive around in the highway, to the Mud mode. In this mode, the system ensured all the wheels got adequate power depending on how much traction they needed.
The Compass meandered through the rather demanding track with utmost ease. Jeep executives claimed this is the most capable compact off-roader they’ve built till date. And we have no reasons to doubt that claim.
There are a lot of positives going for the Compass – it looks good, is feature rich, drives well and is a capable SUV both for the highway, and off it. We yet don’t know how Jeep plans to price it. And that could be the most important to the Compass’ success in the Indian market. But for anyone looking at a mid-range SUV, the Jeep Compass is a compelling proposition.
(Log on to our YouTube channel ATR TV for an interaction with Mark Allen, Head of Design, Jeep)
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay