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2021 Jeep Compass Road Test: Proper Premium = Better Value?


A small bouquet of tweaks to the face hides a near complete overhaul inside the cabin. So does premiumness also add more value?

The Compass was a hit for its abilities, road presence, and status. But the interiors were always a bit of a compromise. They always felt solidly built, but in terms of design and features, they left you wanting more. This update has addressed that with a complete redo inside the cabin and a new set of features. However, all of it has come at a price. So just how does this affect the value proposition of the Compass? And should you drop down or step up a segment instead?

Looks different?

The 2021 Jeep Compass may look familiar, but there have been some subtle changes all around. The seven-slat grille has changed the most, with the gaps now being completely blocked out and the air intakes dropped below the grille unit, just above the space for the number plate. On this Model S variant that crowns the Compass range, the chrome surrounds have been given a gunmetal-grey treatment that also clothes the Jeep logo on the bonnet. On either side of the grille sit the new headlamps, which have narrowed in profile but the shape is pretty much the same and the interior elements are now full LED with LED projectors. The DRL pattern has also changed; it now follows the top line of the headlamps instead of running along the bottom as it did earlier.

The bumper design has also changed. The long slat that houses the radiator intake runs across the length of the car, connecting the new fog lamp units on either side. In profile, the one noticeable change is to the sill, bumper, and wheel arch cladding, which now match the body colour. However, this applies only to the top three variants, whereas the others get the old grey contrasting design. Overall, the look has been refreshed, but the Compass still retains its rugged road presence we were all drawn to. 

Now that’s what we’re talking about!

A complete contrast is what greets you on the inside. The old car had a quirky design with a plain-looking dash.  The side air con vents, central vents, and the infotainment unit were housed in separate pods - rather dated. The new design is a much more classy, contemporary look --  horizontal lines that split the bottom and top of the dash with a long brushed metal accent. The air vents are better integrated into this design, allowing the new 10.1-inch Uconnect infotainment screen to stand out. There’s also soft touch materials everywhere -- on the dash, around the doors and the steering wheel. All the touch points are essentially soft.  Yes, the all-black interiors are a little dull, but there are optional dual-tone choices to brighten up the cabin. 

The infotainment screens and the driver MID have also undergone an overhaul. While the last update itself brought a larger screen to the Compass, this is a step up from that as well. The 10.1-inch display is crisper, the interface better designed, and Jeep claims it’s five times faster than before. If we were to nitpick, our pet peeve would be the lack of more physical buttons to access oft-used functions on the move,especially for things like the ventilated seats controls that need you to spend a couple of seconds every time you enter the car to turn them on again.

The driver MID unit is now a full-colour affair with multiple screen layout options, and it’s even possible to configure the layout of this information. It’s nice, bright, and snappy, but could do with a simpler interface and a few logic changes as well. In some layouts, essential information like current speed, for instance moves about, depending on what else is being displayed. For example, when the 80-kmph speed warning comes on, you just get a notification saying you’ve crossed a speed limit. And your current speed readout reduces in size and shifts to the top of the MID, leaving you searching for it. While nothing drastic, it could result in an unnecessary fraction of a second spent looking away from the road.

Another addition is wireless Android Auto and CarPlay. We didn't try out the Apple version, but there were a few glitches with the wireless Android Auto, with incoming calls freezing the whole system on and off. But that’s more likely a software fault and something that an update should fix. 

Now big on features

The features list has also received a boost, thanks to the 8-way power adjustable front seats with adjustable lumbar support and two  memory settings for the driver's seat. There’s also seat ventilation (only in the Model S variant) up front, excellent for staying comfortable during long road trips in the heat. The other features include Wireless charging, 360-degree parking camera, dual-pane panoramic sunroof, 9-speaker Alpine audio, and connected car tech. However, note that though the connected car tech has vehicle health status, geo fencing, and analytics, there’s no app-based remote-start or cooling. Remote start is only possible via the keyfob, but that would require the car to be in range of the key fob. Still the features list now feels proper modern and you won’t be longingly looking at cars a whole chunk of change cheaper, yearning for features you didn’t have.

Same to same?

When it comes to mechanical changes, there have been none. All the hardware -- the 2.0-litre diesel engine, 1.4-litre turbo-petrol, 6-speed manual, 9-speed auto (diesel), and the 7-speed DCT (petrol) -- stay the same, with no changes to their power outputs.  While suspension hardware is the same as well, we feel that the tune has been altered for the better. The Compass now doesn’t quite feel as heavy riding as before. So, smaller sharp-edged bumps like level changes, expansion gaps, and speed breakers don’t upset the cabin as they did previously. Also, there is a noticeable improvement in the crashing sound from the suspension. In terms of the performance and driving characteristics of the diesel motor paired with the 9-speed automatic that we’ve driven before in both the Limited Plus and the TrailHawk before are pretty much the same. 

How much then?

The entry-level Sports Petrol now retails at Rs 16.99 lakh, an increase of Rs 50,000 than before. But at the top end, with the addition of the new Model S top-spec variant, the increase is a lot more. At Rs 25.29 lakh, the Model S Petrol AT is Rs 3 lakh more than the previous top-spec petrol. And at Rs 28.29 lakh, the Model S Diesel AT is Rs 2 lakh dearer than the earlier top-spec diesel. At this price point, you may wonder if you could stretch your budget slightly to accommodate the Ford Endeavour, which starts at Rs 29.99 lakh. Or, maybe  drop down a bit to where there is a host of cars like the Harrier, Seltos, and the Creta, offering similar experience in terms of space and features. Of course, they do lack the status and feel of the Compass.

Verdict

With the new Compass, Jeep hasn’t meddled where it wasn't necessary. It’s still the rugged yet aspirational compact-SUV that it always was. More importantly the areas that were really in need of an update have been given a solid boost. Thanks to the contemporary design and the soft touch materials, it now feels near luxurious on the inside. Also, with the quieter riding suspension setup, Jeep even seems to have tweaked the ride characteristics of the Compass to make it everyday-commute friendly. 

So, while the new Compass may look similar to what it was before, the overall experience has really been lifted up a great deal. It feels proper premium in all areas now, both in terms of the features it packs, the experience in the cabin and the way it drives. So it gets an all round thumbs up from us. Yes, the value proposition has changed quite a lot with the increase in price. But you know what, sometimes, cars are more than just the sum of their parts and features, so if that price is right or ridiculous is really up to how you feel about the Jeep Compass.

More on Jeep Compass

Jeep Compass

Jeep Compass

Rs. 16.99 Lakh Onwards
Ex-showroom, Delhi
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