Comparison review: Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross
The Jeep Compass and the Citroen C5 Aircross now find themselves in a bit of a sticky situation. Developed and then launched in India completely independently of each other, these two SUVs are suddenly newly anointed siblings, being from two of the 14 brands that make up Stellantis.
To make things more interesting, both are aimed at roughly the same buyer profile. The Jeep and the Citroen will be on your radar if you're looking for an elevated experience from your two-row SUV but don't want to spend luxury brand money, or if the rough and tumble ladder-frame offerings just don't cut it. And for that added dash of colour, the C5 Aircross is the French brand's big first play in the Indian car market while the Compass has had a refresh to cover off the ever-widening range of options that we're seeing in the lower reaches of this segment.
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Styling
If your aspiration towards SUV ownership is driven by a need to stand out, you can do far worse than the C5 Aircross. It looks like nothing else on the road, with its square shapes and rounded edges. That it is substantially larger than photos suggest comes after the fact. There's quite a bit of nuance to the styling, in the way the double chevron integrates into the two-part LED headlamps on this top Shine trim and the way the large swathes of sheet metal are carefully tempered with the squared-off sculpting. The tasteful gloss red highlights specific to this white paint option could have been easily overdone, but instead do just enough to liven up the otherwise relatively dark spaces in the bumper.
This slightly offbeat styling exercise continues to the sides, where the fairly large glasshouse and quite flat body panels are tempered by the 'Airbumps' and the chrome highlighting. The gloss red also makes it to the inner planes of the roof-rails in a striking detail. Topping this are the sharply cut two-tone alloy wheels. The individualistic look continues with the heavily detailed two-part taillamps with the cubed LEDs while the faux vents and the heavy cladding repeated from the front round off a look that is attention-grabbing in all the right ways.
Again with the Compass, nothing screams 'SUV' louder than the Jeep badge and the seven slats it carries on its grille. Jeep hasn't been too busy with the look of the Compass with this mid-cycle upgrade but it can be argued that there wasn't much to fix here either. The few changes that have been made to the face have been effective though. These bring the Compass in line with the more posh, horizontally themed look of the new Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer. So you have the slimmer LED headlamps and the condensed(and ornamental) grille while the high-mounted fog lamps are deftly integrated into the large two-part airdam with the layered horizontal openings.
The hard-edged Jeep look is retained for the rest of the Compass, and to the firm's credit, the slapped-on face doesn't look incongruous. We only wish there were a few more tweaks to the rear, with a mildly revised bumper being the only change. The new 18-inch wheels are a good addition and the Compass isn't completely lost in the presence of the Citroen with its more upright stance, although the smaller footprint is made more noticeable by this dark green shade.
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Interiors and features
Jeep's designers have been far busier with the interiors of the facelifted Compass, enough for the updated cabin to seem like it's from an entirely new car. The stepped layout with its thoughtful mix of materials and finishes looks far more contemporary although equally impactful is the improvement in general fit and finish. Most surfaces on the dash are soft-touch, while the side airvents' seamless integration and the brightwork separating the dash move the ambience a fair bit upmarket. We only wish this strip was better textured and some of the plastics in the footwell were better fitted.
Now the Compass' improvements here are commendable but again with the Citroen at hand, it's clear that you can expect more from these premium brands. Just like on the outside, the C5 Aircross is refreshingly distinct in the way the cabin is executed. There's an immediate sense of openness with the larger glass area and greater space but most impactful is the layout and choice of materials. Citroen doubles down on the geometric shapes and rounded edges here with more or less every element in the cabin echoing this theme. The switches feel just that little bit more tactile and better damped than in the Jeep while some of the material choices like the textured fabric on the dash or the rubberized horn pad bring with them a sense of freshness and singularity to this space.
But the Jeep claws back quite a bit of ground with the intuitiveness of its cabin's layout, and the tech and features it offers. The new 10.1-inch touchscreen holds centre stage here with the UConnect 5 system packing a flurry of features quite legibly. There's also wireless Android Auto/Apple Carplay but similarly satisfying is the physical redundancies to the most frequently used functions. The 10.25-inch instrument cluster is similarly informative but can sometimes overwhelm with the busy screens and deep submenus.
The C5 Aircross goes almost the other way in this regard. The top Shine trim here offers a different but similarly individualistic digital instrument cluster with the same techno-style graphs and bars as the base version. There's just enough to keep you aware and no flashy styles, except for an even more simplified theme.
It's a bit more difficult to access functions in the C5 Aircross than in the Compass though. The 8-inch screen is quite small for this segment, but the lack of physical buttons for the climate control makes getting used to the system just that bit more difficult. The small band of capacitive shortcut buttons don't match the Jeep's straightforward functionality.
Citroen's much-touted seat cushioning genuinely works, they're soft and heavily padded but still with a touch of firmness for support. And with the rear bench with its three separately adjustable seats, three-abreast is easily done. But more traditionally chauffeured owners will find themselves restricted to one of these seats given the generous bolstering, which crams you a bit too close to the doors.
This isn't an issue with the Compass, even with its much cosier rear-seat space. There's not as much legroom here, with the all-black theme not helping, but the seat itself offers better underthing support and you aren't restricted by heavy bolstering. In the front, a major plus is the very effective seat coolers. Slightly disappointingly in both SUVs, we found that some of the soft-touch panels on the doors are replaced by hard plastics at the rear.
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Driving impressions
The very recent FCA-PSA merger has brought with it an unusual turn of events. In a time where shared architectures run the automotive industry, these two competing SUVs are completely unrelated mechanically, even with their very similar diesel engine and torque converter configurations.
The Compass retains the familiar 2.0-litre Multijet diesel with its 170PS and 350 Nm, pairing with the 9-speed automatic here. This engine been our benchmark in this segment for a while now, and its positives are apparent in isolation. There's a wide powerband which is useful in most driving situations, doling out enough torque to keep the Compass on the boil in the city or on a steady highway cruise. As before, this 9-speed automatic remains the weak link. It is a bit more alert under heavy inputs than before or under measured throttle application, but is still not the happiest when you need a big kick of power to overtake or say after going over a speed bump. The lack of drive modes is most apparent now than ever, a more alert map or paddle shifters would have extracted significantly better responses from the engine we think.
Step into the Citroen after the Jeep, and the difference is stark. It's much quieter here and there are no real vibrations felt through the steering wheel or the pedals, unlike the Compass. The double-glazed windows and windscreen help with this we're sure. But more striking is this motor's demeanour. It's 177PS and 400 Nm better the Compass, but in application, the differences are even more apparent. The engine is far more alert to throttle inputs and revs rise with much more eagerness through the powerband. Lag is negligible, and there is a sense of effortlessness here that you really only expect with something with a luxury badge on the steering wheel.
The Aisin 8-speed automatic is similarly quite a regular occurrence on luxury SUVs, and is as impressive here as elsewhere. Shifts are more or less imperceptible, but Citroen's tuning of this gearbox is commendable in the way it coheses with the engine. The gearbox will keep the engine within the optimum range of revs always so there's never an occasion where you are left stranded. The Sport and Eco modes offer some minor alterations in response, but the normal mode should suit most needs. There are paddle shifters here but they seem largely unnecessary with the intelligent gearbox.
But if there's one reason to pick the C5 Aircross over its many rivals, it is unquestionably for the ride comfort it offers. The hydraulic bump stops that Citroen uses, combined with a generally pliant setup means that cracks and imperfections like expansion joints somehow vanish as you drive over them. There's a sense the SUV skims along the road which gets better as speeds rise, only broken by some of the bigger potholes you might encounter. But even these are handled with a sense of solidity that is confidence-inspiring. This does mean the Citroen rolls and pitches quite a bit in most situations but these movements are fluid and don't get too disconcerting, helped by the quite direct feel from the steering.
The Jeep Compass has been a favourite of ours for the balance between control and comfort it manages. The SUV straddles this middle ground well, and impresses with the poise it shows at high speeds or around bends. Body movements are tight for an SUV and the added security of an AWD system is apparent when driving on loose surfaces or even when you try and hustling along a twisty section of road, although a more direct steering tune would have been welcome after the C5 Aircross. The balanced approach does lend the Compass a slight sense of firmness over rough patches but while it doesn't completely dismiss these like the Citroen, things never really get too uncomfortable. An added advantage is the vault-like sense of solidity you'll only get with a Jeep.
Another big tick for the Compass is all the off-road hardware it comes with. The Citroen is best used over the occasional dirt road with its traction modes while the Jeep offers that added assurance in tackling reasonably difficult terrain. The off-road modes offer up a significant difference in power delivery and response and a low range mode will be useful if you find yourself in an especially tricky situation.
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Safety
Both SUVs here are closely matched in this regard with front, side and curtain airbags fitted to the top-spec versions. Aside from the mandated safety systems, there is traction control, hill descent control as well as TPMS. The Jeep Compass offers a useful 360-degree camera while the Citroen C5 Aircross gets blind spot monitoring but only a single rear camera.
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Verdict and prices
The top Citroen is priced at Rs 39.16 lakh, over Rs 5 lakh more than the Compass. This is a significant price difference but surprisingly the C5 Aircross does enough to justify the premium. It's larger inside and out, and far more striking to look at. And then with its more alert drivetrain, pairing with levels of comfort you'll need to stretch deep into luxury car territory for otherwise, we think the Citroen is worth the big bucks it demands.
The Jeep is no pushover, and if you don't want to spend the significant premium, the Compass is now better than it has ever been. The new interiors have moved the ambience up a significant few notches as has the vast list of features. Combine this with the lively ride and handling set up and long list of off-road gear, and the Compass now fills its niche as a premium C-SUV completely.
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Scorecard
Jeep Compass vs Citroen C5 Aircross: Real-world mileage and performance
Photography: Sumit Gaikwad
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