A car is perhaps the most common object you will find on the planet today that concentrates the pinnacle of our scientific and technological achievements into a single package. Findings from disciplines ranging from aerospace to communication, from ergonomics to human psychology, find their way into modern cars. And it’s not just our scientific understanding that our cars reflect, but also our modern artistic sensibility. That’s why Giorgetto Giugiaro is perhaps as revered as Pablo Picasso. Not to forget that a car also reflects our social fabric. That’s why carmakers today are increasingly more focused on electric mobility.
A car is a celebration, and some cars deserve to be celebrated more than the others. The Autocar Awards was instituted to celebrate and recognise these cars. While great cars evoke strong emotions, the call to crown a car with the Autocar Car of the Year award cannot be made from the heart. It has to be objective, measurable and quantifiable. This objective view has earned Autocar Awards its reputation and credibility, and made it the most coveted award in the Indian auto industry.
The Autocar Auto Awards 2018 stands out for one simple reason – objectivity. Every decision is based on cold facts and hard figures. The data used by the judges is acquired using Autocar India’s top equipment. They measure and tabulate each and every parameter of a car’s performance with gunpoint accuracy. This gives the jury accurate fact and figures to base their scoring on. After driving the cars, each member of the jury rates the car on various parameters like fitness for purpose, design, performance, ride and handling, driving pleasure, fuel efficiency, safety, ownership experience and relevance to the market. After the jury has rated the cars, the score sheets are handed over to auditors KPMG Young who ensured a watertight methodology both in terms of eligibility and judging criteria.
Our methodology is the analysis of an exhaustive list of parameters, with the objective of picking a single decisive winner. The voting process is hence designed to pick one outstanding contender and not just to provide a scale of merit of competing cars. Each of our jury members is an expert in evaluating cars and has a good amount of experience with a wide range of cars.
The winner of the Autocar Awards 2018 is a very special car, indeed. The Jeep Compass picked up not just the coveted Car of the Year Award but two other special awards. Read all about it in this special feature.
Winner of three awards, including the Premium SUV of the Year, Viewers’ Choice and Autocar Car of the Year – the Jeep Compass.
Expert jury panel score the cars on various parameters.
28 contenders duelled for the Autocar Car of the Year 2018 award.
JEEP COMPASS - CAR OF THE YEAR
What really made it click was the price – It wasn’t just competitive, it was outright shocking.
After making its admirers wait for years, Jeep finally drove into India with a bang. In 2016, it made jaws drop by entering the country with two powerful, iconic and premium SUVs, aiming to take on deeply entrenched competition. But the word on the street was ‘wait for the small, locally-assembled SUV that’s coming next year’. And those in the market for a premium SUV were rewarded for their wait. The Compass arrived and sent waves through the Indian automotive market. It definitely had the old players worried, because on arrival, it set a new benchmark for all its present and future competitors.
It is good-looking, like a miniature Grand Cherokee. Despite being entry level, it doesn’t sacrifice that square-shouldered Jeep DNA, and it sits nice and high off the ground like an SUV should. Plus, in lockable 4WD spec, it’s got the off-road credentials to back up the seven slots on its nose.
The car is powered by a strong 2.0 Multijet II Turbo Diesel engine that generates a healthy 173hp and 350Nm of torque. There’s also the option of a 1.4 MultiAir turbo-petrol that generates an impressive 163hp and accelerates to 100kph in 10.29sec. The Compass even gets electronic off-road drive modes. The appeal continues with high-quality interiors, which feel like they belong in a proper luxury car, a supple ride and well-contoured seats. All this comes together to make for a great SUV package, any way you look at it.
But what really made it click was the price. It wasn’t just competitive, it was outright shocking how well-priced it was. It looked like things were going to get tough for any car that could be considered a competitor for the Compass. It made the entire automotive market sit up and take notice. Our jury loved it for its capability, and the Indian public certainly does too – it’s no wonder it also won our Viewers’ Choice award. If the Compass has proved one thing, it’s that this is a brand that’s strong enough to make light work of some formidable, rough terrain.
JEEP COMPASS - PREMIUM SUV OF THE YEAR
Before it was unveiled to the world, there was a lot of mystery around the then-unnamed Compass. We knew it would be assembled in India, and that it would be more mass-market than other Jeeps, but would that make it ‘basic’? That couldn’t be further from the truth. Though the Compass is aggressively priced, it stays true to the Jeep brand’s premium positioning. The cabin is superbly finished and well-appointed. Just the way the whole car is built exudes that strong, solid feel you’d expect of a luxurious vehicle, and a proper Jeep SUV. It doesn’t stop there, as all this is accompanied by a supple ride quality and a strong diesel engine. So yes, while ‘premium’ does imply a wide gamut of cars, it’s clear the Compass fits perfectly among them.
JEEP COMPASS - VIEWERS’ CHOICE OF THE YEAR
When it launched in 2016, Jeep wasn’t a brand entirely alien to the people of India. The Indian market had been waiting for this iconic brand to arrive for a very long time. The first two Jeeps helped give the brand a ‘wow’ factor – not that it needed it. And then came the Compass. The Compass exploded into our lives with all the macho appeal of its bigger rivals, but with a shockingly aggressive price that opened the brand up to so many more. Indians even put their money where their mouths were and the Compass is already all over our roads, these days. We like our SUVs tough and, with its square-edged looks, strong diesel engine and superb off-roading ability for the money, it’s no wonder the Compass won our Viewers’ Choice award.
JEEP COMPASS - EARNING THE BADGE
The Compass crawls through everything with deceptive ease.
It just can’t happen – no vehicle can wear a Jeep badge and not be expected to be great off the road. With its iconic seven-slot grille, flared, almost-square wheel arches and proportions that are unmistakable Jeep, it certainly looks the part. But does it have the go to match the show? Spoiler alert: it does.
Usually, the Compass’ Active Drive 4x4 sends power to the front axle only. This is for efficiency. But when more traction is needed, it sends power to the rear. What’s more impressive is that 100 percent of the torque generated can be sent to any of the four wheels required. Now that is serious off-roader stuff, right there. The Compass also comes with Jeep’s four mode Selec-Terrain traction management system that adjusts torque split, traction control and electronics for maximum tractions in conditions like Snow, Sand and Mud – all full-time 4x4 modes. There’s also an Auto mode that can be set and is not a full-time 4x4 mode. Making it more formidable off-road is a long-travel suspension that ensures maximum contact between the tyres and the ground. It even has a very useful 330m wading depth, and clearance stands at 208mm. The other numbers that matter are a 16.8 degree approach angle (but that’s counted from a low-slung flexible air dam, so you can expect it to handle steeper angles, too), 22.9 degree ramp breakover angle and 31.7 degree departure angle. All good, then.
How does all of this translate when the Compass is out in the wild? Mud mode selected, the Jeep crosses a shallow stream and climbs up a rutted path. Somehow, the path doesn’t feel as steep as it looks. The 350Nm of torque from the engine pulls its 1,700-odd kilograms up with ease. Descent is over a slushy, steeper decline. The automatic version of the Jeep has hill-descent control that will make the job easy. But this manual only needs a few dabs on the brake pedal to make steady, controlled progress. Then the Compass goes effortlessly up, down and drives circles around a hill. The Compass is rigid and creak-free. Its traction is very good. The AWD system, all-season Firestone tyres and independent suspension come together and find grip every single time. All this makes the Compass properly agile on difficult terrain. Now it’s time to test that wading depth with a large river crossing – which feels deceptively easy. The Compass then crawls over a few logs and a pit filled with slippery rocks.
A driver who loves a challenge would have been disappointed here. Mostly because the Compass crossed all of the obstacles with ease. Makes sense why the Jeep Compass is the Car of the Year, Premium SUV of the year, and Viewers’ choice of the year.
FROM INDIA TO THE WORLD
The Jeep Compass is the first SUV to be made in India and exported to Australia, Japan and the UK. The mother plant for all right-hand drive markets, including the countries mentioned above is located at Ranjangaon, near Pune. FCA India’s Ranjangaon plant is operational and has an annual vehicle production capacity of 1,60,000 units, a powertrain capacity of 3,50,000 engines and 3,00,000 transmission units.
THE WINNER HAS IT ALL
The Compass is a seriously impressive SUV that takes full advantage of Jeep’s experience with SUVs.
Jeep was the first company in the world to design, engineer and build the first proper SUV. Known as the Willys Station Wagon, this great-great-great granddaddy of the modern SUV first went on sale in 1946. Fast-forward 70-odd years and it’s precisely these genes and strands of DNA that have given the new Compass an unassailable edge. It looks like a baby Grand Cherokee – the handsome lines and a square jaw, easy to appreciate.
The Jeep’s cabin is a pleasant surprise. Everything on the inside is executed to such a high level that there’s a genuine honest-to-god luxury car vibe here. The soft-feel textures, supple leather, superbly-finished bits of chrome and a build that’s genuinely tank-like – all leave a lasting impression. The cabin is thoroughly practical, as well. Space on the inside is huge, with plenty of leg and shoulder-room, and the front seats are extremely comfortable. The bench at the rear has been changed for India. There is now a lot more thigh support due to the longer squab, and the seat height is just right.
There’s also plenty of safety kit. Four-channel ABS and ESP are obviously present and standard, but you also get Panic Brake Assist, Hydraulic Booster Failure Compensation, Electronic Roll Mitigation, Electronic Brake Pre-fill and six airbags.
We start our test drive of the Compass by getting off the road into some barren fields. There’s a bit of a hill ahead and a well-beaten path. But we take the short way up, across some bunds, over a rocky ledge and then up a steep incline. There’s no low range and we don’t use the Terrain Select dial, but the Jeep still scores really well. And what leaves a lasting impression is that it just feels tough, solid and unbreakable.
DNA test done, it’s time to get in and see if the Compass rides like a luxury car, too. Back on the road, the ride is so supple, so absorbent and so silent. The Compass gets Frequency Selective Dampers, as on the earlier-gen Merc C-class, which adjust automatically for high-frequency bumps or body roll.
Straight-line stability is superb and the steering is very impressive. This is an SUV that is not averse to corners. It has a really nice balance to it, and the brakes give you a great amount of confidence on the way into corners. The steering is well-weighted and comes with a good amount of feel.
Fiat’s 2.0-litre Multijet II diesel makes its debut in India under the hood of the Compass. Producing around 170hp, it is run through a six-speed manual that, for the most part, sends power to the front wheels. There’s a considerable amount of punch in the mid-range and the Compass gathers speed at a rapid rate when you keep flat on the floor. The gearbox is light and slick, and the gear lever is a joy to use.
The Compass is a seriously impressive SUV that takes full advantage of Jeep’s experience with SUVs. You can see the years of know-how shining through. What you get for your money is real off-road ability, strong dynamics and plenty of luxury and comfort on the inside. It’s difficult not to compare it to cars from a class above. The Compass is undoubtedly the one that deserves the Autocar Car of the Year 2018 award.