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2017 Jeep Compass review, road test

2nd Dec 2017 8:00 am

The Jeep we’d all been waiting for came, saw and has seemingly conquered. Time to see if the Compass is as good as it’s made out to be.


  • Make : Jeep
  • Model : Compass

Jeep’s re-entry into India didn’t begin on the right foot. The launch of the iconic SUV brand was put on hold for a year by parent Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), thanks to a weakening rupee which threw Jeep’s cost structure out of the window. And when Jeep finally did decide to take the plunge, it found few takers for the fully imported Grand Cherokee and Wrangler that were simply priced out of contention. But matters are very different today. There’s a massive buzz at Jeep dealerships and it’s all thanks to the Compass. The Compass may be a small SUV in Jeep’s line-up but it’s a model with big sales potential. In fact, bookings crossed the 12,000 mark in four months since its launch, making it the most successful model from FCA in India in years.

India also happens to be the mother plant for right-hand-drive Compasses and FCA has spent big (Rs 1,800 crore) to modernise its Ranjangaon facility to manufacture the SUV to the highest international standards. The benefit of local manufacture and component sourcing to you, the buyer, is keen pricing. The Compass range that comprises a petrol manual, a petrol auto, a diesel 4x2 manual and a diesel 4x4 manual starts at Rs 15.16 lakh and tops off at Rs 21.37 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). 

So, it’s got the right price. It’s got the right shape. But why else should the Compass interest you? A detailed road test of the petrol auto and the range-topping 4x4 diesel should give the answer. 

Jeep Compass
Jeep Compass

Rs 19.65 lakh * on road price (New Delhi)


First things first, the model we get in India is the all-new second-generation Compass. Unlike its predecessor that was born in the troubled Daimler Chrysler era (Chrysler owned Jeep), this one is a product wholly developed and built under Fiat Chrysler Automobile. Fiat’s ‘Small Wide 4x4’ monocoque platform serves as the building block for the Compass and the design started from a clean white sheet of paper.

If you’ve not seen one in the metal already, you should know that the Compass is actually not as large as it appears in the pictures. The Compass’ near-4.4m length slots it in between the Hyundai Creta and the Tucson in size. What the Compass has oodles of, though, is presence. It’s a handsome and well-turned-out SUV that looks unmistakably Jeep what with that trademark seven-slat grille, and flared, and almost-square wheel arches. The family look is strong and, when viewed from the front, the Compass can easily pass off as a junior Grand Cherokee. At the same time, the Compass’ distinctive shark-fin-like D-pillar and the manner in which the roof drops down towards the rear make it abundantly clear this is no Xerox job either. Detailing is nice and the chrome highlight that runs from the A-pillar onwards and slickly wraps itself around the rear windscreen, is particularly well executed. Styling at the rear is neat and inoffensive. If there’s anything to bring up it’s that the sizeable front overhang disturbs the proportions a wee bit. Also, the 17-inch wheels look a size too small. And what’s with the rear wheels being offset towards the front under their large wheel arches?

An area where the Jeep does get a double thumbs-up is build quality. Shut lines are consistently tight, there’s not a panel that seems flimsy and everything feels properly bolted and glued. Notably, 70 percent of the Compass’ body is made from rigid high-strength steel. It’s also worth bringing in that the Compass is a Euro NCAP 5-star rated car. While the safety rating does not apply to the India-spec model (the European-spec model features advanced safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking as standard), it is at least reassuring to know that the Compass exhibited impressive structural integrity in each of its crash tests.

The 4x4 Compass comes with Jeep’s Active Drive all-wheel-drive system that features a clever rear-axle disconnect. The system works in conjunction with the Selec-Terrain Traction Management system that offers four modes – Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud, each with its own AWD calibration and electronics settings. In the default Auto mode, engine power is channelled solely to the front wheels in the interest of best efficiency, but on detecting a need for additional traction, the driveline reconnects (all within 300 milliseconds) to send requisite power to the rear wheels. Impressively, up to 100 percent of engine power can be sent to any one of the four wheels, should the need arise, and you also have the option to manually lock the AWD system in Auto mode.

Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, all Compasses run on Firestone all-season tyres, use electric power steering, and feature all-independent suspensions with frequency selective dampers. Developed by Koni, these hydraulic dampers house an additional valve that, in effect, mechanically controls the oil flow and hence the damping force, in response to the frequency of suspension inputs. On rough surfaces (high frequency), the valve eases the flow for a smoother ride while during cornering (low frequency) oil flow is restricted for better body control.

The Compass’ cabin sits at a convenient height but the wide sill can prove to be bothersome during ingress-egress. Once inside, the Compass cabin can appear ordinary at first – the plain dashboard is to blame – but soon enough you’ll realise this space has a premium air about it. There’s a generous use of soft-touch materials, bits like the chunky steering feel properly expensive and even the leather seats with their contrast stitching look like they’ve been carefully crafted. Fit and finish, in general, is of a high order and most of what you touch feels built-to-last. And to our ears, the ‘clack’ from the military grade door locks is a fitting follow-up to the ‘thunk’ on door shut.

Given how well finished and upmarket the front seats look, you half expect them to come with power adjust. They don’t. Still, it’s easy to find a comfy driving position, the large seats are well cushioned and supportive, and what you also get is a fairly good view of the world outside. However, the thick A-pillar can be obtrusive at crossroads. Sitting pretty in the driver’s field of vision are the Compass’ stylish hooded instruments. The data-rich multi-information display shows everything from odo, trip and fuel economy readings to oil temperature, coolant temperature and battery voltage. What is an eyesore, though, are the blanked-out buttons on the steering wheel. On export versions, the buttons operate cruise control, a feature that’s frustratingly been left out for India. Another irritant is the position of the driver’s audio controls on the back of the steering spokes. The buttons are not only hidden from view, but are also small and fiddly, and easy to press inadvertently. All other controls fall easy to hand and even the 7.0-inch touchscreen, that does look lost amidst its gloss black plastic surround, is within easy reach. What is also a nice inclusion is the electronic parking brake that is standard across the Compass range.    

At the back, space is reasonable but not abundant. There’s a good deal of legroom (a Tucson is roomier still), but headroom will be an issue for anyone taller than 6 ft and the cabin isn’t the most accommodating to sit three abreast in either. Rear passengers will also have to contend with an upright backrest and a slightly short squab. The fantastic seat cushioning does help the comfort factor and there’s a rear air con vent and USB port as well.

Each of the Compass’ doors houses a 0.5-litre bottle holder, there are two cupholders up front, two more built into the rear armrest and there’s also a usable bay under the front-centre armrest. A larger glovebox would have been welcome but the bigger need is for a dedicated bay for phones in the vicinity of the front USB, aux and 12V charging sockets.

The 438-litre boot has a wide opening and is big enough for two large suitcases. You can free up more room by folding the 60:40 split rear-seat backrests and you also have the option to adjust the boot floor height. You also get a full-size spare tyre (albeit on a steel rim) as standard that sits under the boot floor. 

The Compass is offered with two engine options, and both units from Fiat – the 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo-petrol and the 2.0-litre MultiJet II turbo-diesel – make their India debut on the Jeep. Not to be confused with the 1.4 turbo-petrol on the Abarth Punto, the MultiAir engine is unique for its hydraulically actuated variable valve timing for the intake valves. It uses a solenoid-controlled high-pressure oil chamber between each cam and intake valve; this way valve timing is extremely flexible and can offer precise variable valve timing in response to driving conditions like cold starts. Claimed benefits also come in improved efficiency and enhanced power. What you get is 163hp of max power, which is an impressive figure for such a small motor.

Allied to the automatic Compass’ seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the engine delivers fairly good performance too; 0-100kph takes 10.29sec (the Tucson petrol auto does the sprint in 11.57sec) and kickdown acceleration is brisk as well. However, the build-up of speed is not as linear as you’d like – there’s lag under 2,000rpm, followed by a surge of power at about 2,200rpm. Extend the engine and you’ll find it to be a gutsy performer with a strong mid-range and a willingness to rev right until the 6,500rpm limiter. The engine could have been quieter though. It sounds gruff between 2,000-3,000rpm and noise levels are high in the upper band of the rev range. At low revs, you won’t hear much of the engine, but this does draw your attention to the audible sound of the gearbox shuffling through the ratios.

The seven-speed auto does a fairly good job of camouflaging the petrol engine’s lack of low-end poke. Shifts are smooth and timely in town, but stop-go traffic does tend to catch it out. At higher speeds, there are times when the gearbox doesn’t feel absolutely alert to changes in throttle position too. However, adopt a more aggressive driving style and the gearbox will play ball. There’s no Sport mode and paddleshifters have also been given a miss but the electronics allow liberal access to the top-end in full auto mode, and manual mode via the gear lever. It’s fun to downshift right to 5,500rpm when attacking a series of corners.

High-mileage users will, however, be drawn to the diesel Compass that comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Interestingly, this 2.0-litre MultiJet II engine will, eventually, also find its way onto Tata’s all-new SUVs in the years to come but for now let’s focus on how it works on the Compass. The engine makes a healthy 173hp and 350Nm of torque in this application and the power gives the Compass the long legs frequent highway users will like. The mid-range is strong so you don’t need to downshift to overtake traffic, and there’s even ample go at 100kph in sixth gear. Just as well because power starts to taper out past 4,000rpm. In town, the diesel Compass has enough power off-boost to keep you moving with the flow of traffic. However, you’ll do well to keep the engine spinning above 1,800rpm, which is where the power comes in earnest. Swooping past traffic is a cinch.

Unfortunately, the MultiJet engine is not the last word in refinement. There’s a distinct clatter from the engine, you can hear a ‘swoosh’ from the turbo when accelerating and the engine booms and strains the when you rev it hard. Quiet as a Hyundai 2.0 diesel this engine is not.

Gearshifts on the six-speed gearbox are slick and you’ll love the feel of the metallic gear knob. What does make the Compass a bit troublesome to drive in slow-moving traffic is the clutch. It’s well-weighted but also snappy, so you have to modulate it with great care. In fact, the clutch action made launching the diesel Compass a tricky affair during our performance tests. We managed a 0-100kph time of 11.84sec but a more progressive clutch is sure to have resulted in a better time. For the record, in-gear timings are good, with the run from 40-100kph covered in 11.71sec, reflecting its strong overtaking ability on highways. Buyers looking for more convenience should wait for the introduction of the nine-speed automatic version of the diesel that is expected in 2018. 

This is the section of the Autocar road test that the Compass absolutely nails. We were blown away by the Compass’ ride quality when we drove the car for the first time around in Ranjangaon a few months ago. Recent sorties on the familiar roads of our test route in and around Mumbai have just cemented the initial impression that this is one of the best riding
cars (not just SUVs) in India today. There is a hint of firmness at all times, so sharper surface irregularities like expansion joints do filter through, but the way the suspension dismisses potholes of all sizes is just incredible. The Compass remains unfazed by bumps even taken at speed, and this just takes the feeling of security to the next level. High-speed stability in general is top-notch, with controlled movements on long wave undulations. 

And did we mention the Compass is somewhat of a driver’s car too? The steering, for one, is direct, well-weighted (the petrol’s is lighter but just as precise) and rich in feel. The Compass is happy to change direction and though it rolls, handling feels far from sloppy or top-heavy. The tyres will squeal in protest and the Compass will venture into understeer should you test its limits in the bends, but for a regular jaunt up to a hill station, it makes for a rewarding drive. That said, the front-wheel-drive petrol Compass is prone to torque steer under hard acceleration so you have to keep a firm hand on the wheel. In panic-braking scenarios, the Compass’ rear end tends to feel a bit light too. Sure, braking force is strong and the rear end won’t step out of line but you don’t get the same sure-footed feel as you would in a premium European SUV either. We also noted a fair bit of tyre noise on the concrete surface of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Enough about the Compass in civilisation. How is it in the wild? Suffice to say, the 4x4 Compass does justice to the Jeep badge. This is no Wrangler but you’ll be surprised how far off-road the Compass will take you. The all-wheel-drive system reads conditions well to find grip, and the long-travel suspension ensures maximum contact between the tyres and ground. Wading depth is a useful 330mm and there’s ample clearance for most obstacles. Don’t read too much into the mediocre 17-degree approach angle, it’s counted from the low-slung, but flexible front lip. You do miss hill descent control and once again, the snappy clutch is bothersome in precarious low-speed off-roading.

Petrol-automatic SUVs aren’t known for shining fuel economy figures. Judged in that light, the Compass petrol automatic’s 7kpl city economy and 9kpl highway economy figures are more than just acceptable. For reference, the comparable Tucson delivers 7kpl and 11.8kpl in the town and on the highway, respectively. The 4x4 diesel Compass proved quite efficient too with fuel economy figures of 11kpl in town and 14.2kpl out cruising on the highway. We would like to point out that we conducted our fuel economy tests with the Compass’ AWD system set to Auto. The weather was fine on the days of our fuel test but inclement weather, which would have had the driveline reconnect for added traction, could have marginally impacted economy. 

The top-spec Compass’ 7.0-inch touchscreen is nice but isn’t the slickest of systems in terms of response. Your go-to interface for audio and phone functions, the screen also houses secondary controls for the climate control system. Sadly, the Compass only comes with a digital compass as standard; there’s no onboard satellite navigation. Voice commands work well for handsfree operation of the audio player and air con but the system rarely catches Indian names if you try to make a call off your phone book. Many, however, will simply take up the option to use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Sound quality from the six-speaker setup is good with a pleasing depth to the notes. 

The Compass is available in three trims and, for its part, Jeep has equipped the SUV with a fair bit of safety kit as standard. All Compasses come with electronic stability control, electronic rollover mitigation, hill start assist, dual airbags and Isofix child-seat mounts on the rear seats. Unfortunately, there’s no hill descent control and only top-spec 4x4 versions get side and curtain airbags.

As for creature comforts, the top-spec Limited trim gets most of what you’d like, just not all of it. The Compass Limited comes with leather seats, keyless go, dual-zone climate control, a rear air con vent, rear parking camera and a touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Further, an Options Pack on the Compass Limited adds bi-xenon headlights and the black roof as on the model pictured here. Still, the Compass misses out on cruise control, a sunroof, auto-dimming mirror, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers. Given that all of these features (as well as a larger 8.4-inch touchscreen system) are already onboard export-spec models made in India, it’s no biggie for Jeep to incorporate them on the India car. Perhaps Jeep is leaving the door open for the introduction of a new range-topping Compass variant in the future.

We had high expectations for the Jeep Compass and are happy to report that it delivers the goods. If the attractive design and pricing are the hooks, the Compass’ tough build, high-quality cabin and genuinely good driving experience seal the deal. Importantly, the Compass feels like a true-blue Jeep. But it is not perfect. It’s not particularly spacious for its size, the engines can get noisy and it’s missing some features as well. The last bit should be a quick fix for Jeep and we don’t see too many people unhappy to pay more money for a feature-loaded Compass.

However, as with all models from FCA, our concerns go beyond the product. Fiat doesn’t have the best reputation in sales and aftersales, and there is some rub-off on Jeep too. Jeep is expanding its sales setup in India and is also offering a 2-year/unlimited km warranty to instil confidence in buyers, and we can only hope it delivers the right experience.

For the moment, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. As things stand, apart from pointing Jeep in the right direction, this is the best SUV today for the money.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 19.67 lakh Rs 21.37 lakh -
Warranty 2 years/ unlimited km 2 years/ unlimited km -
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Fuel Type / Propulsion Petrol Diesel -
Engine Installation Front, transverse Front, transverse -
Type 4 cyls, turbo-petrol 4 cyls, turbo-diesel -
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1368cc 1956cc -
Bore/Stroke (mm) 72.0/84.0mm 83.0/90.4mm -
Compression Ratio 10.0:1 16.5 :1 -
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, SOHC 4 valves per cyl, DOHC -
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 163hp at 5500rpm 173hp at 3750rpm -
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 250Nm at 2500-4000rpm 350Nm at 1750-2500rpm -
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 108.8hp per tonne 105.4hp per tonne -
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 166.9Nm per tonne 213.3Nm per tonne -
Specific Output (hp/litre) 119.2hp per litre 88.4hp per litre -
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Drive Layout Front-wheel drive All-wheel drive -
Gearbox Type Dual-clutch automatic Manual -
No of Gears 7 6 -
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 4.133/6.61 4.154/8.07 -
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 2.368/11.52 2.118/15.82 -
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.519/17.97 1.361/24.62 -
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.041/26.22 0.978/34.26 -
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.849/32.15 0.756/44.33 -
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.673/40.56 0.622/53.88 -
7th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.547/49.91 -
Final Drive Ratio 4.706:1 3.833:1 -
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 28.24m, 2.57s 29.19m, 2.90s -
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
City (kpl) 7kpl 11kpl -
Highway (kpl) 9kpl 14.2kpl -
Tank size (lts) 60 litres 60 litres -
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.85s 0.60s -
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.77s 1.54s -
0 - 30 kph (sec) 2.45s 2.15s -
0 - 40 kph (sec) 3.18s 3.08s -
0 - 50 kph (sec) 4.12s 4.18s -
0 - 60 kph (sec) 5.01s 5.20s -
0 - 70 kph (sec) 6.04s 6.76s -
0 - 80 kph (sec) 7.37s 8.47s -
0 - 90 kph (sec) 8.74s 10.01s -
0 - 100 kph (sec) 10.29s 11.84s -
0 - 110 kph (sec) 12.20s 14.77s -
0 - 120 kph (sec) 14.63s 17.18s -
0 - 130 kph (sec) 17.21s 19.90 -
0 - 140 kph (sec) 20.49s 23.00s -
1/4 mile (sec) 17.90s 18.73s -
20-80kph (sec) 7.30s 10.70s -
40-100kph (sec) 6.73s 11.71s -
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
1st (kph @rpm) 44kph 6700rpm 40kph 5000rpm -
2nd (kph @rpm) 76kph 6600rpm 78kph 4900rpm -
3rd (kph @rpm) 118kph 6600rpm 121kph 4900rpm -
4th (kph @rpm) 171kph 6500rpm 165kph 4800rpm -
5th (kph @rpm) 190kph 5900rpm 190kph 4300rpm -
6th (kph @rpm) 190kph 4700rpm 195kph 3600rpm -
7th (kph @rpm) 190kph 3800rpm -
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Idle (dB) 39.8dB 47dB -
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 55.2dB 56.2dB -
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 72.2dB 78.8dB -
50 kph AC off (dB) 63.2dB 63.3dB -
80 kph AC off (dB) 69.7dB 64.6dB -
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Construction Five-door, monocoque Five-door, monocoque -
Weight (kg) 1498kg 1641kg -
Front Tyre 225/60 R17 225/60 R17 -
Rear Tyre 225/60 R17 225/60 R17 -
Spare Tyre Full size Full size -
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs Independent, multi-link, coil springs -
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Type Rack and pinion Rack and pinion -
Type of power assist Electric Electric -
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) NA NA -
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Front Ventilated discs Ventilated discs -
Rear Discs Discs -
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Length 4395mm 4395mm -
Width (mm) 1818mm 1818mm -
Height 1640mm 1640mm -
Wheel base 2636mm 2636mm -
Front Track (mm) 1540mm 1540mm -
Rear Track (mm) 1540mm 1540mm -
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1410mm 1410mm -
Ground Clearance (mm) 150mm 150mm -
Boot Capacity (Lts) 438 litres 438 litres -
INTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Cruise control NA NA -
Seat upholstery Leather Leather -
HVAC type Dual-zone climate control Dual-zone climate control -
CD player NA NA -
Touchscreen Yes Yes -
USB Yes Yes -
AUX Yes Yes -
Bluetooth Yes Yes -
Navigation NA NA -
Android Auto Yes Yes -
Apple Car Play Yes Yes -
Keyless go Yes Yes -
Sunroof NA NA -
EXTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Automatic headlamps NA NA -
Parking camera Yes Yes -
SAFETY FEATURES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT Electric
Airbags 6 6 -
2017 Jeep Compass review, road test
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