Fashion photographer Tijo's wait for the Jeep Compass started at the time when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced its plan to bring the vehicle to India. What made the locally made SUV from the American brand so enticing for this Kochi resident? Let us ask him:
Q: Why the Jeep Compass?
Tijo: First, affordability. Second, the brand image.
Q: What other small SUVs were considered?
Tijo: Took a test drive of the Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson.
Q: How did they fare?
Tijo: Good vehicles, but both are priced high. Also, they aren’t as alluring as the Compass.
Q: If not the Compass, what else?
Tijo: Have taken a look at the Mahindra XUV 500.
Q: Mahindra vs Jeep?
Tijo: In the hilly areas of Kannur, where I belong to, we depend Mahindra vehicles for everything, and we called those Jeep. I have great respect for the capability of Mahindra vehicles. Took a test drive on the XUV and I liked it. It costs less and comes with heavier features. So, for me, the choice is between the Jeep Compass and the Mahindra XUV 500.
With this discussion in the background and rains pouring, we set off to Vagamon to pit the two vehicles — one homegrown and the other American — against each other.
Jeep vs Jeep
For us Indians, Jeep has been the synonym for Mahindra's four-wheel-drive vehicles — perhaps until as recently as this year when Fiat Chrysler launched the Compass in this market.
Of course, the Wranglers and Grand Cherokees have already been available here, but their prohibitive price had kept most away from Jeep showrooms. The Compass is priced aggressively, and it is sure to conquer the Indian roads.
For the XUV, the first challenge is to overcome the image of a rival that has a thoroughbred off-road pedigree.
Compass: We took the two-wheel-drive Limited variant of the Compass for the test drive.
At first glance, the Compass resembles a youth who burns fat every day in the gym. In that sense, the XUV is kind of a bodybuilder who works up his muscles.
The Compass is a true head-turner. What catches the eyes first is the seven-slat grille. The chrome lining extends through the top of the window line and circles the windscreen in the back. The vehicle offers a projector headlamp.
The Compass is smaller than the XUV, but scores higher on looks. It is easy to get in and get out. Not as tall as the XUV, but the height isn’t bad either.
XUV 500: Tall and handsome. Wheel arches and body lines stand out. While all these are good, when parked side by side, the need of some more trimming seemed evident on the Mahindra vehicle.
The XUV offers the advantage of seven seats against Compass' five. It is bigger and heavier, but still easy to handle.
The Compass looks more handsome even as the XUV offers muscular looks. Though the length, width, height and wheelbase are more for the XUV, the cute-looking Compass scores higher on design.
Compass: The fit, finish and the quality of material used are beyond comparison. Once inside, it offers a more premium feeling.
The white artificial-leather upholstery looks brilliant, but could get soiled easily in Indian conditions. Electric height adjustment for the driver seat is a notable absence.
The interiors don't look revolutionary, though it is different, of course, when compared with the rather dated dash board of the XUV. The touchscreen interphase that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto looks nice. Good-looking dials, superior-quality plastic, dual-zone climate control, six speakers and a built-in compass are among other features on offer in the Compass.
Jeep hasn't compromised on quality even though the Compass is priced competitively. Even the seatbelt fasteners have a Jeep feel.
The steering wheel is light, but offers excellent response. In fact, that leather-wrapped small steering wheel makes the interior quite pleasant.
The audio control buttons are given under the steering spoke. The buttons on top are to control the screen in the center of the meter console, while those on the right side are dummies.
XUV 500: Feature-heavy. It offers sunroof and electrically adjustable driver seat, and a lot of space. Steering wheel is heavy. Plastic and build quality could have been better.
It's time to bring freshness to the interior that looks a bit dated. The upcoming facelift could deal with some of these issues.
Nevertheless, the XUV offers one of the best interiors in Mahindra vehicles. And when the features are also taken into account, it is great value for money.
The driver seat can be adjusted in six ways. There are manual lumbar-support knobs for the front seats. Also on offer are 7-inch touchscreen that supports Android Auto, dynamic reverse camera, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, light-sensing headlights and a cooled glovebox.
Compass: The rear window is small, but headroom and legroom are more than adequate.
Comfortable journey is guaranteed for two in the rear seat, but a third person will find it a little tough.
There are AC vents and a USB charging port in the back. The seats can be folded in the ratio of 60–40, which allows to fiddle with the storage capacity which is 438 liters with all five seats up.
XUV 500: Its leather seats offer more space and comfort. In the middle row, three people can easily fit in. The seats offer good thigh and back support. Sunroof is another feature.
The AC vents are on the B-pillars. Folding the third-row seats opens up 702 liters of storage space, nearly double of the Compass.
Mahindra has offered AC vents and power sockets on the third row as well. The XUV gets full marks for space and rear-seat comfort.
Engine and drive
Compass: Fiat introduced its two-liter multi-jet diesel engine in India with the Compass. Its 173 PS of power and a lighter body makes the Compass a delight for the driver.
The six-speed manual gearbox is spot on. Compass is currently available only in diesel and with a manual transmission. The smooth gearbox, though, makes up somewhat for the absence of an automatic transmission.
The Compass is more fun-to-drive than the XUV. It trashes the belief that Mahindra is the monopoly when it comes to torque. Its engine sends 350 NM of torque to the wheels, more than the XUV.
The Jeep SUV is a great performer in both cities and on highways.
Though the Compass offers frequency selective damping suspension as a segment first, some feedback from the road still reaches the cabin.
XUV 500: There are automatic and manual variants in the W10 trim to compete with the Compass. It uses an all-wheel-drive system from American company BorgWarner. It senses different terrains on its own and regulates power to the wheels accordingly — so better the performance here when compared with the two-wheel-drive variant of the Compass.
On power delivery, XUV's 2179 cc engine lags that of the American rival, but its performance masks most of that shortfall.
There is a lag in the response of the 6-speed gear, but the all-wheel-drive automatic version doesn't disappoint much.
The manual version comes with a short gear shift and it suits more for this muscleman.
When compared with the Compass, noise reaches more in the XUV's cabin.
The Compass is more fun to drive. Its engine is tuned to deal with any terrain. It will be at home in the city, on the country roads or in the wilderness.
The Mahindra XUV is a good choice if you are looking for an SUV that is feature-heavy and offers a lot of space. You will get the XUV all-wheel-drive automatic for the price of the two-wheel-drive Compass.
If you want a vehicle that catches attention wherever you go and is fun to drive, it is the Jeep Compass for you.
Brand value, build quality, freshness of the design and drivability also go in for the Compass.
Of course, the Mahindra XUV 500 is a capable SUV, but FastTrak's choice is the Jeep Compass.