On paper, the Jeep Meridian doesn’t do anything remarkably different from the Compass. Apart from offering a third row of seats, it uses more or less the same formula. So, why would you buy it over the Compass if you don’t have seven people to ferry?
For all intents and purposes, the biggest draw of the Meridian is its size. And size, especially of your SUV if not anything else, matters in India, because might is right on our roads. Now, although based on the same platform as the Compass, the Meridian is longer by 300mm, at 4.7 metres, and taller by 40mm. The wheelbase is also longer by a whopping 158mm. And all of these increments in its dimensions mean that the Meridian lands right into the segment of the Toyota Fortuner, which is the undisputed king of SUVs in India. But the problem with the Fortuner is that it’s a little too crude, brash, and utilitarian. So, if you don’t intend to contest in local elections anytime soon, you might want something more polished, which is exactly what the Meridian is.
The Meridian has the right mix of aggression and elegance. Inside, it’s brimming with the latest tech and definitely looks and feels way nicer and more premium than its rather truck-like rival. Whether you’re driving it or lounging in the back seats, it makes you comfortable and welcome. In short, the Jeep’s cabin is a nice place to be.
What’s even better is that it drives like a car and not a utility vehicle. Thanks to its monocoque construction, it handles really, really well, and the ride quality isn’t jarring or bouncy either. For a vehicle of its shape, size, and length, the way it went around the racetrack during the test was kind of physics-defying. The chassis is beautifully tied down, the steering is precise, and its road-holding is impeccable. Similarly, when you take it off-road, it’s not a softy. Armed with Jeep Selec Terrain management, optional AWD, and an electronic locking differential, it has the go-anywhere capability of any SUV that’s worth its salt in its segment.
There are a couple of things that could have been better though. Like, the engine isn’t an outright thriller – since it’s a 2.0-litre diesel unit making 168bhp and 350Nm, its performance is just about adequate. And it’s noisy. And, lastly, it may be a good-looking SUV, but it doesn’t quite scare the living daylights of fellow motorists like the Fortuner, which for many buyers in this segment can be a deal breaker. Not kidding, really!
- Jeep Meridian (Lap Time – 01:17.0)
|COMFORT / SPACE||5||3.5|
|RIDE & HANDLING||5||3.5|
|VALUE FOR MONEY||30||19|