The baby SUV in Jeep’s lineup has come of age. Y’s Alvin Thomas throws every test he can at the Compass – only to find its direction stays true.
The compact SUV has to be one of the most overcrowded and lucrative segments in the automotive sector right now. It’s a well-known fact that a greater number of people are now demanding more from their vehicles – the need for a vehicle that can offer utilitarian functions alongside regular commuting duties is what dictates a sale now.
In short, more buyers are now upgrading to larger crossovers and SUVs in lieu of dishing out money for a sedan or similarly-sized hatchback. This is why the Jeep Compass makes perfect sense in the GCC market.
Originally introduced in the U.S. and Indian markets, among various others in Asia, the Jeep quickly rose to cult status. India, a market known for its compact-segment even ousted other entry-level luxury competitors to post 19,000 units sold in the span of just eight months.
If the rumours ring true, the Compass has already been booked out in Oman too – and why wouldn’t it? It’s a peppy little SUV that comes with the typical Jeep charm and allure, as you’d expect.
For a compact SUV, it even looks well-proportioned, albeit, you’d want to shell out a bit extra for larger wheels to suit the look. The Japanese can take a couple of leaves out of the Americans’ book.
The Compass dons the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s design ethos for the most part – looking like someone passed the larger sibling through a photocopier at 60 per cent.
All of that works out for the best though, because the Grand Cherokee-esque headlights, coupled with the traditional Jeep grille, and the plastic panels on the lower portions, complements the rugged look it’s aiming for.
Where my tester really faltered was in the size of the wheels. Simply put, the 17-inch alloys don’t do justice to the Compass’s overall design.
The posterior, meanwhile, has no surprises up its sleeve, although the wide tailgate does make way for easy loading of goods. The luggage space is generous for this segment (770 litres or 1,693 litres with the rear-seats folded down).
Speaking of which, there’s ample leg- and head-space for all passengers – even those in the rear. There’s reportedly 7cms of added leg-room as compared with its sibling, the Jeep Renegade. The rear seats can easily host three people with enough room to breathe.
Inside, you’ll find that soft-touch plastics comprise of much of the panels you’d normally access during your commute, with only a few padded surfaces covered in decent-quality leatherette. The steering wheel, however, is wrapped and stitched in high-quality leather.
The dashboard is uncluttered – and an 8.4-inch touch-screen takes up much of it.
The infotainment screen runs on the same UConnect system you’ll find on Dodge, FIAT, and Alfa Romeo products, and is easy to use. It’s also the closest you’ll get to a faultless Android experience without fitting an aftermarket unit yourself, since the Android Auto feature doesn’t work in Oman for some unexplainable reason.
Other features inside the cabin include a dual-zone A/C, an excellent audio system with decent bass and treble, and Jeep’s terrain select system that allows you to switch between ‘Auto’, ‘Sand’, ‘Snow’, and ‘Mud’ modes. The upper variants should also come with a sun-roof and leather seats, among other bells and whistles.
Where the Jeep really makes a stride is in its performance. The engine – a 2.4-litre in-line four-cylinder – has been updated to now produce 184hp and 321Nms of torque. While the figures don’t necessarily sit well on-paper, the vehicle performs admirably on the tarmac.
The light 1.5-tonne body, along with a smooth (albeit, slow) shifting nine-speed automatic transmission makes sure you hit the 100kph mark a whisker before the 10-second mark. But, there’s plenty of torque from about 2,000rpm, which makes perfect sense when you’re kicking up dust in the mountains.
The chassis is tuned well to provide the right amount of balance between rigidity for when you go off-road, and softness for those times you’re cruising down the highway. Still, the Compass possesses a substantial amount of body roll when corners are taken at speeds of 40kph.
Sure, the Germans can do better in corners, but I must point out that none of them at this price-point can perform nearly as well as the Compass off the tarmac. Besides, should things go out of hand in a corner, there’s also a torque-vectoring (brake-based) system to help you bring the vehicle back into its original stride. The brakes are top-class, too.
There’s also not much in the line of wind noise when cruising at speeds of up to 130kph, which in itself is an achievement. That, along with the high profile tires, makes way for a very comfortable driving experience that’s light-years ahead of the Jeeps of old.
That’s also the order of the day, as the Jeep Compass impressed us on almost all fronts. It may originally have been intended to sit in the lineup as an entry-level SUV – a baby Grand Cherokee of sorts, but we’ll tell you this: It does that… and more. For that very reason, we think of the Compass as a well-rounded SUV that deserves far more credit than it’s already received. We here at Y are eagerly waiting for the souped-up Trailhawk variant next!
• Engine: 2.4-litre ‘naturally-aspirated’ in-line four-cylinder
• Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
• Power: 184hp
• Torque: 321Nms
• Speed limiter
• Cruise control
• 8.4-inch touchscreen with UConnect
• Leather-wrapped steering wheel
• Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
• 17-inch alloy wheels
• Locking differential
• Selectable drive modes
• Apple CarPlay
• Electronic handbrake