The Jeep Meridian promises some amazing on- and off-road abilities with three rows of seating. We drive it to see if the latest Jeep product delivers on its promises.
Over the past few months, Jeep India has demonstrated that it is deeply committed to the Indian automotive market. Whether it’s the product line-up – which is rapidly expanding and will soon be the manufacturer’s second-largest lineup worldwide, after the USA – or the focus on offering products customised for the Indian market, the brand seems to be making new and sincere efforts to strengthen its hold in the market. The success of the Compass is a testament to the acceptance of Jeep’s offerings in India. And now, with the Meridian, Jeep is entering a segment wherein customers are loyal to one brand alone. So, we ask the obvious question – can the Meridian, with its off-road ability and promised practicality, be the key for Jeep to crack the segment? We drive it to find out.
The design of the Meridian is a definite highlight of the product, and I believe that the Jeep design team has definitely nailed this aspect. From the proportions and design highlights to the overall appearance, the Meridian is an absolute looker. In fact, so good is the design execution that you don’t even realise that the Meridian is nearly 4.8 metres long – its proportions hide its length really well. The front of the Meridian is typically Jeep, with a seven-slat grille, flanked by swept headlights, and rather tasteful use of lashings of chrome. The sides of the SUV are dominated by a strong character line, running at the top of the door, and Meridian badging on the front doors. The 18-inch wheels are particularly good looking and fill the wheel arches very well.
And the rear, with its swept taillamps and restrained use of chrome, gives the Meridian a unique look. Overall, I think the Meridian is a very sharp looking machine. Sure, it doesn’t have that in-your-face aggression of the Fortuner or Endeavour, but it stands its ground with elegance and a clever design – clearly, a job well done by the Jeep design team.
Not Quite Perfect
The interior of the Meridian also gets an upgrade over that of the Compass, as there are many things different here. For one, not only is the Meridian longer than the Compass but also wider and taller. However, the overall design is similar to that of the Compass, and it features the same multimedia touchscreen, as well as the digital instrument cluster. Thankfully, the large front seats of the Meridian are now ventilated – a blessing, really – and very comfortable. There’s also ample room in both the first and the second row of seating, and five full-size adults will have no trouble fitting in. However, the third row of the Meridian is a bit of a downer. For one, getting into and out of the third row is a really cumbersome process, as the floor is quite high, and you really have to make an effort to climb in. Second, given the high floor, the seating is not really comfortable, and anyone above 5’6” will struggle to fit in. This means that the third row is suited more for children or young adults, which does somewhat limit the practicality of the Meridian.
The third row of the Meridian is a bit of a downer. Getting into & out of it can be a bit cumbersome, as the floor is quite high
The Meridian will come with a variety of powertrain options, but the engine will be the same 2.0-litre turbo diesel that also powers the Compass. The various options will include a 2WD version with a manual gearbox, a 2WD version with an automatic gearbox, and a full-fat 4WD version with an automatic box, which is what we drove. To be honest, I was not very sure how the Meridian would fare with the same engine as the Compass, given its extra size and weight, but after a few minutes on the road, all my doubts disappeared. Sure, we drove the Meridian with a light load, but still, the Meridian moved effortlessly on the road. Jeep engineers have worked on sharpening the throttle response and the way the gearbox shifts, and both things have evidently improved a lot in the Meridian. Could it do with more power? Yes, another 25 – 30bhp would give it a boost, but even in its current form, the Meridian feels up to the task.
Another highlight of the Meridian is its ride quality, which is superb and deals with broken roads very well. At the same time, even though it’s nearly five metres long, you never feel its mammoth size – in fact, it is very easy to drive even on narrow roads. However, the biggest highlight of the Meridian is its off-road hardware and the way it performs on surfaces where you never thought this vehicle could go. Whether it’s climbing stairs, going up a 32-degree incline, or coming down a 40-degree ramp, the Meridian is simply effortless to drive – it’s so good that it made even an amateur driver like me look like an off-roading expert. Sure, 99.9% of owners will never take the Meridian off-road, but it’s good to know that the SUV is capable of handling virtually any situation you could find yourself stuck in.
The Big Question
In a nutshell, then, the Meridian has its advantages – it has a striking design, is well equipped, has good quality levels, and is quite practical, both on and off the road. Are there any compromises? Yes, the third row is not as spacious as I would like it to be, and a bit more power would have been nice. Overall, though, the fate of the Meridian rides on how Jeep India prices it. If it can undercut the Fortuner in terms of pricing, the refined Meridian, with its elegant look and terrific all-round capabilities, will definitely be a compelling package for people looking for a three-row SUV with all-road ability.
- Jeep Meridian
Engine: 1,956cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed MT / 9-Speed AT
Power: 168bhp @ 3,750rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1,750 – 2,500rpm
Price: ₹29.90 – ₹36.95 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: Given its all-round ability, you can take the three-row Meridian virtually anywhere!