Jeep first launched the Compass in 2017. Attractive, rugged and blessed with a super 4X4 system, it was an SUV we admired so much, we voted it our Autocar India car of the year. Now, four years down the line, comes the much improved 2021 Jeep Compass. As part of the upgrade, it gets a new nose, a new interior and loads of kit. But just how much of an improvement is it? And does it offer all that much more?
2021 Jeep Compass: exterior design
Up front, the new nose is the big talking point. You immediately notice the larger air dam, and the differently angled Jeep grille gets your attention instantly too. Interestingly, the nose is free of chrome, with even the Jeep logo and the seven-slat grille all done in this anodised gun-metal grey; and it looks great. You also get these faux inserts in the grille, no air can pass through them, (the real intakes are lower down), and there are a new set of white fogs, sunken deep into the recesses of the bumper. What enhance the looks further are the new LED headlights that do give the nose some much needed bling. And also new up front is the presence of a camera in the nose; this one’s used for the 360-degree parking assistant.
The facelfited Compass features a re-styled seven-slat grille with an anodised gun-metal grey finish.
Around the side, you get new diamond-cut alloy wheels in those big, bold and square wheel arches and, this car gets a contrast roof in an interesting shade of grey. While not much has changed in profile, the Compass still retains that near-perfect proportions and stance.
There are new diamond cut alloy wheels on the side.
Just the tail-lights are new around the rear and while boot capacity isn’t massive, there are a couple of interesting features. You get a new sub-woofer installed in the boot, and while the close button is placed oddly inside the boot, you now get an electric close function for the tailgate.
2021 Jeep Compass: interiors and equipment
The biggest change, however, is inside the cabin. While the Compass was earlier rugged, built of long-lasting bits and solidly put together, the overriding theme now is sophistication, high spec and luxury. And literally everything is new inside, apart from the seats. You get a new dash, new door pads, a massive new touchscreen, a new digital instrument panel, a new steering and even a new centre console.
There is a new dashboard design and taking centre stage here, is the new 10.1-inch free standing touchscreen infotainment system.
There’s leather and double-stitching right across the multi-layered dash, there’s some faux leather on top of the dash, and in the middle, a pair of chrome bars cut right across to other side. In fact, unlike on the outside, you have plenty of chrome on the dash. There’s some around the gear lever, there’s a smattering around the steering wheel and you even have a nice, bevelled frame around the touchscreen. Jeep has also smartly paired the high-quality chrome with plenty of piano black. It contrasts the bling quite nicely, and even the quality of the switches and buttons is super.
Central to the appeal of the new interior, however, is the new 10.1-inch U-Connect touchscreen. It’s just massive and has a genuine tablet-like vibe. Then the screen is of very high quality –it is brighter, sharper, faster, has a touch phone like resolution and comes loaded with features. There’s connected tech, a myriad functions via the Jeep Life app, stuff like online software updates for the customer, wireless Apple CarPlay and features like cooled seats.
The driver's seat has 8-way electric power adjustment, a memory function and features seat ventilation.
Also new is the central console that’s a bit higher, a bit wider and has wireless charging up front. You also get a Type C and a normal USB slot, and further back, the control for the four-wheel-drive system has been changed from a round rotary dial to a metal toggle switch. Other all-wheel-drive functions like 4WD low, hill decent control and 4WD lock have been shifted to a row of buttons below the gear lever.
The centre console houses a wireless phone charger.
Further back, you also get typically American-sized cup holders that are lined with rubber, so you can chuck just about anything into them, and the new digital instrument panel also gives you the choice of what you want to have displayed. Even the new steering wheel feels appropriately upmarket.
The compass facelift also gets a 360 degree parking camera.
You also get eight-way powered seats with memory, a massive double-pane sunroof and a 360-degree parking camera.
While the seats are similar to those on the earlier Compass, and as earlier comfort and adjustability are first rate, these new ones are also powered, you get seat memory, and they are cooled as well. So, the driver and passenger are even more comfortable now.
The rear seats have a long squab, which adds to their comfort quotient.
There’s also plenty of space in the back of the Compass. You get a good amount legroom, there’s plenty of shoulder room and even headroom is good. What’s also really good is that the long squab or seat base is very supportive, you are sat a bit of a height (theatre seating) and the rear vents also get a new piano black finish that looks cool. That said some of the Compass’s rivals are wider in the back and as a result are better suited to seating three abreast.
2021 Jeep Compass: performance, ride and handling
Not much has changed on the Compass mechanically, and it still is one of the best driving SUVs around. It’s fantastic on bad roads to begin with. There is a hint of stiffness in the springs and you do feel some of the sharp-edged bumps at lows speeds. What those slightly stiffer springs do, however, is give it an innate ability to simply smother any sort of rough surface; and this is especially true once you are up to speed, after which the ride is just flat.
The Compass facelift is fantastic on bad roads.
While the BS6 diesel is a bit gravelly at low engine speeds and doesn’t quite have that spike of power it had earlier, put your foot down and there is a smooth and linear build-up of acceleration that just feels tremendous. Also, unlike other diesels, pulling this engine hard yields plenty of dividends. It is noisy at high engine speeds, as it revs to 5,000rpm, but it is also quick; 0-100kph takes just 10.3sec, not bad for a heavy SUV like this.
The gearbox feels marginally quicker on the draw too. It is, however, still a bit too relaxed, especially when you want to execute a quick downshift, and there are no paddles behind the steering wheel either.
The handling of the Compass facelift makes it a joy to drive.
The best bit, however, is that the Compass remains an absolute joy to drive. It is light and easy to drive at low speeds, and then drive it around a few corners and you will marvel with how poised and confidence-inspiring it feels.
Should you buy the 2021 Jeep Compass ?
Jeep’s new 2021 Compass, priced between Rs 16.99-28.29 lakh (ex-showroom, India, except Kerala), is expensive. This is especially true of the fully-loaded top-spec Model S trim that gets all the bells and whistles, but is around a lakh dearer than traditionally expensive rivals like the Hyundai Tucson. In addition, it isn’t as large on the inside as some rivals, and the 9-speed automatic gearbox isn’t the quickest around and engine refinement isn't great either. Still, performance is strong, it has the best ride-handling balance of any SUV in its class, it comes with a high-spec four-wheel-drive system, it is robustly put together, and comfort on the inside, space apart, is first rate.
What makes the 2021 car rise towards the top of its class is that the new cabin is a huge step forward. Made with more sophisticated and built of high-quality bits, it comes loaded with kit and looks and feels like a more expensive SUV. Want one SUV to do it all? The expensive but very capable 2021 Compass deserves a place on your shortlist.
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