Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic Review: First Drive

By Arup Das | on February 16, 2020

It’s been a long time coming, but the Jeep Compass finally gets an automatic gearbox to go with its diesel engine.

Jeep entered the mainstream SUV segment with the Compass in 2017. It not only became an instant hit, but also managed to poach buyers from segments above and below it. As a matter of fact, the Compass was even at the top of our ‘Best of 2017’ list. It ticked all the boxes, except one – it didn’t have a diesel-automatic variant. As a result, an important piece of the puzzle was missing for Jeep, as almost 50 per cent of buyers in this segment opt for an automatic SUV.

But, in 2019, Jeep finally launched a diesel automatic variant – the Trailhawk. But there was a catch – the Trailhawk is not any ordinary SUV, as it comes with some serious off-roading features, like low range four-wheel-drive and a Rock mode. Now, the Trailhawk, no doubt could climb over steep inclines and wriggle its way out of rocky trails, but it was way too expensive – at about ₹33 lakh on-road.

So, Jeep decided to kickstart the new year with the launch of the standard Compass automatic diesel, BS-VI compliant of course, in two variants — Longitude at ₹21.96 lakh and Limited Plus at ₹24.99 lakh (ex-showroom). The one you see on these pages is the top-of-line version. 

Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic rear three quarter


Clutch free play
Let’s first get into the driving experience. Now, the 9-speed automatic transmission is mated to a 2-litre engine, which produces 170bhp – 2bhp more than the Trailhawk. According to Jeep, the engine has been calibrated to make it more fuel-efficient and more apt for urban driving conditions. In simple terms, expect this automatic variant to return a higher mileage than the Trailhawk.

Once you fire up the engine, you’ll notice that, although reduced, the diesel clatter is still audible in the cabin. The Compass’ powerplant continues to be gruff and harsh at times. For a vehicle that costs almost ₹30 lakh on-road, Jeep could have improved sound insulation under the hood. 

Like the Trailhawk, this model isn’t the quickest off the blocks, and a lot of that has to do with the ZF torque converter gearbox, which is lazy in nature. To make matters worse, the turbo lag is evident under the 2,000rpm mark. 

Now, while all this may dissuade you, be rest assured that I’m just getting the negatives out of the way first, so please bear with me. 

The 2-litre diesel engine has an impressive mid-range punch, and the automatic transmission is a smooth operator – with effortless upshifts. And to get the downshifts to be that little bit more responsive, you simply have to slide the gear lever to the left to opt for ‘Manual’ mode. Sadly, the Jeep SUV still doesn’t get Sport mode or paddle shifters.

Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic Gear Lever


In the real world
Now, in terms of driving dynamics, the Compass has always been impressive, with its phenomenal suspension and steering setup – it allows you to enter and exit corners at high speeds completely effortlessly. The body roll is well controlled, and you don’t need to keep working on the steering wheel, for the Compass stays glued to its line around bends. The ride quality also is impeccable. On the highway, it remains stable at triple-digit speeds, and when you show it a corner, it doesn’t wallow or get out of shape.

Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic Front Three Quarter


Fortress of solitude 
The Compass has the best interior in the segment in terms of build quality and fit-and-finish. The top-of-the-line Compass variant now comes with a bigger 8.4-inch infotainment touchscreen, with sharp resolution. The touch sensitivity, however, could have been a bit more responsive. The dashboard layout, though, is slightly cluttered, with lots of buttons below the touchscreen. 

A special mention must go to the seats, especially the very comfortable rear seats, which have great under-thigh support and a nicely contoured backrest to offer more than adequate support. But when it comes to leg room, the rear seats do feel a bit cramped and constricted.

The front seats, on the other hand, get plenty of adjustment options. Also, the high driving position offers a good vantage point for better outside visibility.

Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic Dashboard Layout


Is it worth the money?
Yes, it is! It’s the most capable SUV in the segment, both on and off-road, which is now effortless to drive. The ZF 9-speed automatic transmission is a bit slow to react, but it’s one smooth operator. It gets plenty of goodies too, like a panoramic roof, a bigger 8.4-inch touchscreen, a powered driver’s seat with memory and auto headlights & wipers. 

The Compass’ driving dynamics and cabin fit-and-finish remain class-leading. However, its price could make people think twice – it’s almost `30 lakh on-road, but then it is in a league of its own. I mean it’s literally its own rival, as there isn’t any other SUV that offers this level of features, quality, and ability in this price bracket.  

  • Jeep Compass Diesel Automatic 

Engine: 1,956cc / In-line 4-Cylinders / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 9-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive

Power: 170bhp @ 3,750rpm

Torque: 350Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm

Price: ₹24.99 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: The most capable SUV in the segment is now effortless to drive.

• Cabin fit-and-finish
• Impeccable ride quality
• Lazy transmission
• Gruff engine


Also read - Jeep Compass Trailhawk vs Honda CR-V AWD + Isuzu D-Max V-Cross: Comparison


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Tags: Jeep Jeep Compass

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