The Jeep Compass created a price quake in India’s auto market when it recently launched the long awaited SUV at a surprisingly affordable price. While most people expected this iconic model to be priced at par with the low-end Audi, BMW or Mercedes models, it shocked competition with a price comparable to the Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson and only a little more than the Mahindra XUV or Tata Hexa.

The great Jeep name, associated with World War all-terrain vehicles, has not been forgotten and the new parents of Fiat Chrysler Corporation (FCA) clearly intend to make a mark. FCA is the seventh largest automaker in the world and their Jeeps in the US like the Cherokee and Wrangler are bigger than the Compass that is 4.3 metres long in response to the rising demand for compact SUVs. For comparison, the Toyota Fortuner is 4.7 metres long. This makes the Compass a five-seater instead of a seven-seater.

The Jeep Compass is powered by two small yet amazingly powerful engines. There is a 2000cc turbocharged diesel plant that churns out 170 HP comparable to a 2800cc Fortuner that delivers 176 HP. It therefore has enough torque to propel the roughly 1700 kg vehicle over rough terrain. There is also a small but peppy 1400cc turbocharged petrol engine that generates an astonishing 160 HP with very adequate torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed manual gearbox though a seven-speed automatic is also on the cards. The select-terrain transmission allows the driver to choose the traction needed for smooth or rough roads as well as for slippery conditions. It normally drives in an economical two-wheel front wheel drive mode but instantly slips into four-wheel drive mode if the sensors spot any slippage from any of the wheels. With a 208 mm ground clearance, the Compass can take you effortlessly over fairly rough terrain or bad roads. It also claims to be able to wade through water up to a depth of 330 mm.

To keep the costs down there is no sunroof and cruise control but it does not lack in other features for comfort and convenience. It is pleasing but unremarkable to look at with the trademark Jeep seven-slat chromed front grille. The interiors are well appointed with comfortable seats and the rear bench is wide enough for three passengers. Like all new cars it has a large touchscreen infotainment system displaying driving information plus a four-speaker music system. Push button start, rear camera, daylight running lights and many other features are also now standard. Needless to say the Compass also has all the features for active and passive safety.

FCA is assembling the Compass at the Fiat plant in Ranjangaon near Pune and is going for volume production not only to meet the demand of over 5000 pre-launch bookings but also for its export plans that seem to be initially targeted at left-hand-drive markets like South Africa and Australia.

The Jeep Compass will therefore offer all the space, comfort and convenience of a good executive saloon but with big fat wheels that will not only take you through bad terrain but also give you a nice rough and tough feeling. Being easy to drive, it will also appeal to the many smart young ladies who believe that anything a man can do, a woman can do as well or better.

— The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist