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Jeep Compass Sports Plus: An SUV with a distinguished heritage

It all started during World War II when the US and its allies used the old Willys Jeep as their primary lightweight transport vehicle; the Willys MB made a name for itself as a light off-road capable military utility vehicle. The American vehicle got popularised to such an extent that we still call SUVs ‘jeep’. But, there must be a difference between an SUV and a jeep, right? The simple answer is that an SUV is not a jeep while a jeep is an SUV. At this point, you might be wondering ‘Why’?

An actual advertisement campaign by the American automotive company Jeep in 2008 read, “They invented ‘SUV’ because they couldn’t call them jeep”. We all know SUVs are sports utility vehicles but what is a ‘jeep’? We scoured the internet and concluded that the term ‘jeep’ is synonymous to a durable and rugged 4×4.

So, that must mean that all vehicles produced by the American automotive giant are capable rugged off-roaders, right? We too wanted definitive answers, so with high expectations, we set out to test the latest entry-level Jeep for the Nepalese market, the Compass Sports Plus.

Exterior

The Jeep Compass Sport Plus is eye-catching! Like all Jeeps, the Compass sports the iconic seven-slot grille with the logo in the centre. On either side of the grille are LED DRLs accompanied by projector units which make the front of the car look menacing and will turn heads with its mighty street presence.

As busy as the front of the vehicle is aesthetically, there isn’t much to look at from the sides. The car follows signature Jeep design cues with its muscular and boxy shape complimented by boxed wheel arches. The base variant of the Compass comes with good looking 16-inch alloy wheels with a five-spoke rim.

As with the side profile, there’s nothing fancy on the back with standard tail lights integrated with indicators and the reflectors sit beautifully in the bumper. 

Interior

The menacing look and muscular design of the outside are contrasted by a very comfortable and welcoming interior. The silver and black contrasting centre console is pleasing to the eye and the quality of materials used is top-notch. The interior is loaded with features for convenience like a full-length floor console with sliding armrest, dual-zone automatic climate control as well as armrest and cupholders at the rear. Adding to the list, the steering column and seats are height adjustable for the driver’s comfort and a modern Electronic Parking Brake (EPB) replaces the conventional handbrake. Though the Compass Sport Plus misses out on keyless entry and leather upholstery, it still looks and feels premium.

The Compass also gets a 3.5-inch infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity, which, to be honest, felt dated. Though the interface is intuitive, the hard to operate touch-screen leaves the infotainment system much to desire. But fret not because you’ll hardly ever use the touch screen while on the go with steering mounted controls.

Performance and Handling

The Jeep Compass Sports Plus feeds on petrol and is driven by a 4-cylinder, 1.4-litre Turbo Multiair engine producing 160 BHP at 3750 RPM and 250 Nm of peak torque at 1750 RPM. It is mated to a six-speed gearbox.

On the petrol variant we tested, the power delivery is linear and the gear shifts quite well but we were left yearning for more torque while off-roading. Though the Compass Sports Plus propelled through the trails and cleared obstacles beautifully, the vehicle lacked a sense of urgency and excitement that we expected from a pedigree Compass. 

However, it’s a different ball game on the tarmac. The car handles very well for its size with precise power-assisted steering and a light clutch, making it a perfect city as well as a capable highway commuter. Talking about the mileage, the company claims an ARAI mileage of 17.1 kmpl which further solidifies its position as a great commuter. But, with a width of 1,818 mm and a length of 4,395 mm, the Compass Sports Plus does feel a bit bulky if you’re driving on narrow roads.

Braking and Safety

A car that drives great is judged by its ability to stop and the Compass Sports Plus is loaded with disc brakes at the front as well as the rear. The brakes provide great feedback and stopping fast is not a problem at all.

On the safety front, Jeep has cut no corners and provided the Sports Plus with the same safety features available on the higher end Longitude. It comes standard with EPC, ABS, Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist, and dual airbags. The vehicle earned a safety rating of four-stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of USA (NHTSA).

Suspension and Comfort

The Compass Sport Plus sports a McPherson Strut with Lower Control Arm Disc at the front and Multi-Link Suspension with Strut Assembly at the rear. The suspension setup is on the firmer side which makes hitting the twisties at high speeds great fun. Though the suspension is on the firmer side, the Compass Sports Plus comfortably glides through small potholes and anomalies on the road. It’s when you truly veer off the road that you start feeling the hard suspension setup.

On the comfort side of things, the Jeep Compass Sport Plus doesn’t disappoint. The seats are clad in high-quality fabric and provide ample cushioning and lumbar support, the automatic climate control works like a charm, and the ride quality is stellar while on the tarmac. 

Verdict

After the review, we discovered that the Jeep Compass Sport Plus is an excellent and capable commuter, but we were still left with the question whether we should tag it as an SUV or a ‘jeep’. With its front-wheel-drive and limited off-roading capabilities, we at Autolife felt that the Compass tips the scale towards the SUV side rather than a true ‘jeep’. And, that’s perfectly fine. 

We tend to have high expectations from an iconic brand such as Jeep, and we tend to dwell on its heritage rather than practicality. But with the launch of the Sports Plus, Jeep has prioritised practicality above everything else. One doesn’t need a rugged 4×4 to commute to work or go on a road trip with friends and family. What one needs is a practical and comfortable car and that is exactly what Jeep has been offering with its Compass Sports Plus. 


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