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Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic First Drive Review

What is it?

Why should I buy it?

Ease and convenience of automatic gearbox, BS6 diesel engine

Why should I avoid it?

Gearbox is inconsistent and slow at times 

Jeep Compass Left Front Three Quarter

What is it?

It’s been more than two years since the Jeep Compass has marked its entry into the Indian market. It was offered with three powertrain choices – including a petrol automatic that was a part of the CarWale long-term fleet and you can read about it over here. Last year, Jeep introduced the go-anywhere ‘Trail Rated’ version called the Trailhawk which debuted a BS6 diesel paired with a new nine-speed automatic gearbox. Now, after much anticipation, we finally have the same diesel-automatic combination in the standard Compass.

Jeep Compass Left Side View

Jeep has launched this two-pedal oil burner in just two trims for now – Longitude and the one we are driving here, the top-spec Limited Plus trim. In terms of appearance, there’s nothing differentiating the diesel-automatic from its manual siblings. The styling of the Compass which car buyers have come to love since its introduction carries on with the imposing grille upfront, body cladding all around, rugged bumpers both fore and aft, well-proportioned profile, a handsome rear and chrome-black finish on 18-inch wheels.

Jeep Compass left rear three quarter
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How is it on the inside?

Jeep Compass Dashboard

Similar to the exterior, updates on the inside are limited. No changes have been made to the layout except for a few additional features. And that's not a bad thing, since the Compass has already impressed us with its nicely put-together cabin. Even the white upholstery along with the dual-tone dashboard looks upmarket and the material used all around is satisfactory as well. There are soft-touch material on all the essential touchpoints elevating the experience furthermore. We also like the contrast red stitching around the gear-knob and on the steering wheel. Talking about the steering wheel, the right-side panel which was blank before now gets buttons for cruise control – a new addition which is standard across both the trims.

Jeep Compass Interior

The electrically adjustable driver seats are comfortable and offer ample support, while the rear seats don’t disappoint either, be it support or sitting posture. Even the large boot space of 438 litres is more than adequate with a flat floor and accessible lip height for convenience. In terms of features, both the Longitude and our Limited Plus trims are well equipped. Few practical features you get here are – 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system, panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming IRVM, and six airbags. 

How is it to drive?

Jeep Compass Instrument Panel Engine Bay

The powertrain in question is the 2.0-litre Multijet II diesel engine, now BS6 compliant putting out 171bhp at 3750rpm and 350Nm accessible at 1750rpm. Mated to this engine is a ZF-derived nine-speed torque converter. Compared to Trailhawk, the carmaker claims to have reworked the turbo-diesel to be better suited for stop-and-go traffic conditions while also enhancing fuel efficiency. This engine now feels more refined than its BS4 counterpart. Besides that, the diesel engine clatter is barely audible on the inside and the silent cabin manages to keep out other road noises as well. 

Jeep Compass Action

On the move, the power delivery is linear and gearshifts from the torque converter are smooth with head nods reduced from little to none. However, the gearbox tends to hold on to the revs (around 2000-2500rpm) before upshifting and that’s when engine gets audible inside the cabin, which isn’t a dealbreaker. So in city commutes, where you will be pottering around at slow speeds, the diesel-automatic doesn’t disappoint.

Jeep Compass Action

On the flip side, the acceleration is more gradual than exciting. Likewise, out on the highway, the relaxed nature of the gearbox becomes more evident. Although the linear acceleration takes you up to the three-digit speed with ease and rather quickly, it lacks that immediate response. You do get the option of taking control and shifting manually, but there are no paddle-shifters on offer which could have made it much more engaging. This manual shifting surely helps since the gearbox isn’t one of the quickest to respond at higher speeds. And in the mid-range, the accelerator tends to act like an on/off switch where even a slight progression of the right foot induces an erratic forward motion and getting off the pedal makes the engine bog down a bit. 

Jeep Compass Action

In terms of ride and handling, the Compass diesel-automatic continues to be a well-sorted SUV. At slower city speeds, the Compass feels supple and manages to take astride worst of the road surfaces with ease. And as the speed increases, the ride remains flat and you would hear the sharp bumps but wouldn’t feel it inside the cabin. Even the steering is light and easy to use in city driving. However, it remains sensitive as the speed increases and doesn’t weigh up enough at highway speeds. What also could have been better are the brakes as their lack of initial bite doesn’t inspire confidence.

Jeep Compass Action

Now, the diesel-automatic only comes in a 4x4 configuration. Although we didn’t plod in for off-roading much, the Jeep’s 4x4 is a proven one. Sure it doesn’t get the hardware of the Trailhawk, but Jeep’s SelecTerrain AWD system is potent enough to make sure the Compass treads through most situations easily.

Should I buy one?

Jeep Compass Front view

The diesel-automatic combination in the Jeep Compass is currently offered only on the 4x4 variants and we hope Jeep introduces it in the 4x2 trims as well to make it more accessible and competitive in the segment. Otherwise, this automatic variant is around Rs 2-3 lakhs more expensive than the manual counterpart. For that money, you get a BS6 motor and convenience of two-pedal in a well-rounded SUV which has comfortable interiors, a long list of features, and well-sorted driving dynamics. So if you are looking to buy a diesel SUV offering a convenience of automatic gearbox, which can also go off the beaten path yet look good in your driveway, it’s hard not to recommend the Compass.

Where does it fit in?

Jeep Compass Action

The Compass diesel-automatic is priced at Rs 21.96 lakhs for the Longitude trim and Rs 24.99 lakhs for the fully-loaded Limited Plus. So while being Rs 2-3 lakhs cheaper than the Trailhawk, it locks horns against the much more affordable XUV500 W11 (O) AT and the Hyundai Tucson GLS 4WD diesel-automatic which is expensive by almost 2 lakhs. Another alternative for the Compass diesel-automatic will be the upcoming Tata Harrier diesel-automatic.

Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi

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