Today I got a chance at taking a first hand look at the much-anticipated Jeep Compass in Hyderabad. The iconic brand from the States has been brought in under the parent company’s (Fiat-Chrysler Automotive) attempts at recapturing the dwindling Indian market. It is safe to say that a lot hinges upon the success of the Compass for the FCA conglomerate in India- with Fiat as a brand showing consistent decline over the years as a presence in the Indian automotive market.
That being said, the Jeep hierarchy seems to have found the nerve of the Indian buyer with the Compass. Going solely by the looks, it has a masculine presence with perfectly lined cuts at all the right places. Up at the front, the brand defining 7 spoke grille gives the Compass a very sure-footed look. Its almost as if it knows what its doing. Not to be fooled though, the company has very cleverly installed the honeycomb grille as a pseudo vent for the radiator as the actual vents lie below this one.
The bonnet is long and this creates an illusion of the car being bigger than it actually is. Extensive use of plastic cladding all along the bottom and sides of the car shows that one may be able to indulge in a bit of off-roading without worrying much about vital components.
Moving down along the sides of the car, the square wheel arches are what really give the Compass the edge. Fine, simple, sharp lines are what works well for the looks of the Jeep.
Move on to the back and you will find the roof slanting downwards in an almost Range Rover Evoque fashion and once you are standing at the rear of the car, its hard to miss the striking similarities between the two cars.
Climb in to the driver’s seat now and you’d immediately notice the well-stitched leather upholstery. Neat and tidy, the supple leather with its Alpine-snow theme provides the Compass a soothing and luxurious vibe. The instrument panel on the other hand, presents the other end of the spectrum with extensive plastic usage, but then again, it is tidy and not flimsy at all. The gear knob is perhaps the one bit that stands out, as it does not seem to be going with the rest of the theme. Better work could have been done with it rather than the round knob with silver painted plastic on top.
A functional glove box and some more plastic later, one finds themselves looking at the steering wheel where something seems to be wrong. Then you realize it’s the dummy steering mounted control buttons within the reach of your right hand thumb that are a massive let down. Jeep could have done a much better job at that by spreading the control buttons to either side but for some reason, they stuck to giving all control to your left hand thumb.
Talking about the driver’s seating, it is nice and comfortable even for larger frames at the shoulders, but I found myself having to push the seat all the way back to accommodate a 6-foot frame. Any further up, it all starts feeling snug around your legs. Time now to move on to the back seat where one can sit comfortably in an upright position with good support, but that’s about it. The designers have cleverly scooped out the back of the seats to make more legroom for the rear passengers and that is a masterstroke. But still, the Compass is strictly a 4 seater and not 5. It remains to be seen how comfortably one can sit in a long journey in that upright position though. My guess is, not too comfortable.
All in all, the Compass is a good-looking car with good designing and some clever bit of space utilization. The Indian buyer has seen his options growing with each coming festival season and even though his purchasing power has also increased, automotive companies in India still fight to launch the most value-for-money product they can. Jeep as a brand is unquestionably iconic, and as such the product coming out of their stable will undoubtedly be a winner in all aspects. With a home produced vehicle, the Indian market should open up its arms to a global brand like Jeep so as to encourage more top brands to come and invest and ‘make in India’ as this is the only way in which India can afford such global names. Then again, this might turn out to be completely the opposite if Jeep fails to price their product within the reach of the Indian buyer and this will make other automotive companies rethink their strategies. Volkswagen, for one, is not too happy with the Indian market and if things go south for Jeep, Fiat for sure has its days numbered in India. After all, it’s always been hard to gauge the Indian customer.