Demand for six & seven seater SUVs is picking up and a slew of them are available in the market today. It’s no surprise that Jeep wanted to get a 3-row SUV in their portfolio to attract a larger number of customers, and thus the Jeep Meridian was born. Even though it is heavily derived from the Jeep Compass, there are actually a lot of differences between the two. Jeep had missed inviting us for the Media Drive of the Meridian last year, but it was high time we sampled the Meridian to find out if it was worth the upgrade.
Let’s talk about the design first. The Meridian does look daunting and the design language speaks more Cherokee than Compass. It is longer, wider and taller as compared to the Compass. Lots of bits are inspired from its elder sibling and the most noteworthy change is the longer wheelbase, to accommodate the third row. To get this done, the rear door and the window have been modified. Rear discs are now present and overall the car does scream SUV from all angles. This shade of red looks pretty dope too.
Jumping inside, you notice that the dash is exact to the one you get on the Compass. The seats are comfortable and offer adequate support, the second row is overly spacious as well. The doors get leather finishing but also have a lot of hard plastics. However, the talking point of this car is the third row and let’s directly get to that. To be honest, I was a little disappointed as the third row is extremely cramped for adults, there is barely any legroom, let’s not even get to the under thigh support. The third row is best suited for kids at most. However, if you are going to seldom use the third row, you do get a lot of boot space, which is certainly a huge positive. The Meridian gets a powered tailgate which is missing on the Compass.
Powering the Meridian is the same 2-0 litre oil burner which produces 170 HP and 350 Nm. Now in spite of the Meridian being heavier than the Compass, at no point does one feel the lack of power, inspite of the massive weight. However, if you compare it to the Compass, it is a full second slower to 100 km/hr. The 9-speed torque converter does the job well, although it’s a bit lazy in downshifts. Ratios are suited to in both city and highway conditions but the omission of paddle shifts is a little disappointing. Acceleration is brisk and the brakes are predictive and ensure there is no drama. Due to the massive weight this car carries, expect about 8 km/l in the city and about 11 km/l on the highway and these are actual tested figures we got on our drive, no ideal condition hogwash.
The car is well balanced and holds the road pretty well, yes, it is definitely not meant for corner carving but it does it so well and how! For a tall SUV, body roll is there but is well controlled and predictive. The monocoque chassis has its part to play in the balance it offers. The longer wheelbase does have its positive effect on the high speed manners. Ride quality is fantastic, a tad on the stiffer side but becomes much better as the speeds pick up. Independent suspension tackles the off road patches beautifully. For hardcore off-roading, you get the multiple drive modes too. Steering is light at low speeds, weighs up nicely as the speeds build up offering a very balanced feedback and feel. So from the engineering perspective, the Meridian deserves nothing less than five stars.
Now coming to the most important question, should you buy the Meridian? The on-road price difference between the Meridian and the Compass is about Rs. 7 lakhs for the top-of-the-line 4×4 variant which is considerably on the higher side. However, dealers are throwing in good discounts on the Meridian which begs the question, is it worth it? Yes, if you need an additional row of seats which will be seldom used but can be folded away for the majority of the time for additional boot space. Yes, if you are going to seat children in the last row. If your answer was no, with the discounts considered, the Meridian is still a very attractive upgrade over the Compass with the only drawback being the cramped last row, for everything else, it feels right in almost every other department.