These days the word 'SUV' is being plastered onto pretty much everything, including on hatchbacks. Most of the urban crossovers, or compact SUVs, are basically front wheel drives and based on a car platforms. This does have its advantages (for example, nimbler handling and and easy of operation in city traffic), but calling them SUVs would be a big disservice to the term.
An SUV needs to look and feel like one: big and brawny with a 4WD or at least some degree of off-road capability. They should tower above other cars and even require some effort to drive — for, is that not part of the fun of driving an SUV? The three vehicles compared below embrace the old world SUV charm rather well.
But which one is the best to drive around? Read on to find out.
The mystique around the origins of the Hector and its mouth-watering pricing has worked its magic already. MG Has sold more than it hoped to and bookings are closed already. This is quite remarkable during a phase when other car manufacturers are desperate to see of their stocks.
The Hector is the largest SUV in its class and bullies the Fortuner in terms of road presence. The front-end, especially, is brutishly spectacular. Both the Harrier and Hector use the split DRL and headlamp design trend to good effect, but it is the Hector which has the meaner stare. While the front looks good the side gets a bit MPV-ish and those small wheels do not help the matter either. Still the rear looks neat and overall the sheer size means it towers over others.
The Harrier comes across as more lithe, but is the best looking of the lot. The proportions are just lovely and you cannot find a bad angle here. The way the front and back combine along with a swooping look is simply stunning.
The Compass is like fine wine and goes old-school with its traditional Jeep grille and square proportions. It is neat and looks perfect. While it is smaller than the other two, it carries itself well and has a sporty look that is enhanced by the red/black detailing.
Interiors and space
Buyers want it all at this price range and all three do a good job of convincing you that your money is spent well. The Harrier simply shocks you with its interiors as few expected Tata Motors to come up with such a nice-looking cabin.
The wood finish, soft touch dash and the leather covered cabin looks fantastic. However, look closer and some ergonomic glitches like the fiddly handbrake or even things like the placement of the USB port are sore spots. The seats of the Harrier are some of the best here and there s ample legroom/headroom. The rear seat is the best of the lot here.
The Hector comes across as more restrained and sombre with its all-black cabin. However, it is sporty and feels tighter in terms of fit and finish. The massive 10.4 inch touchscreen though is the central nervous system of the car and has all the functions. There are very few physical buttons as everything is put out orderly via the portrait style touchscreen.
The graphics and menus are all top notch but touch responsiveness could have been better. In terms of legroom nothing matches it and the seats also recline, which means it feels massive, with the huge panoramic sunroof adding to the effect. The lack of thigh support at the rear is the only issue.
The Compass is more restrained, but you are impressed by the bank vault-like quality inside. Everything feels it can last a million years. There is less techno wizardry here but it has a rather well sized touchscreen and good amount of physical buttons. The quirk here is that the steering controls are placed behind the steering wheel. The Compass cannot match the other two in terms of space at the rear.
The Hector pretty much tramples its rivals here. On top of the massive touchscreen, one gets pre-loaded apps and Internet connectivity via a 5G sim. Unlike any other car, the Hector will also receive over the air updates. It also has powered seats, front and rear sensors and a massive panoramic sunroof.
The Compass too has powered seats along with a sunroof and a good number of features including an electronic handbrake plus the usual, parking sensors etc.
The Harrier covers the basics but in front of the Hector or Compass loses out on a sunroof or powered seats or other stuff. The Hector has the best touchscreen in terms of look and feel. The audio system is also fantastic. That said both the Compass and Harrier too have a good audio system plus a more than decent touchscreen functionality. That said the Compass has the best rear camera display while voice command is best in the Hector.
All three are diesel manuals and all three feature the ubiquitous 2.0 diesel. You can have the Hector with a petrol and a DCT auto; same for the Jeep but the Harrier has only one engine option. Anyways diesel is what works best for these SUVs and that is what we have here.
All three have a 6-speed manual and both the Hector/Compass make the same 168 bhp/350Nm while the Harrier is slightly less at a power output of 138 bhp and 350Nm.
No one will drive these at a racetrack nor hustle them around corners on a Sunday morning, but what most will do is take the occasional road trip along with the daily grind. The Hector is relatively easy to drive despite its massive dimensions. The clutch is reasonably light but is a bit sharp however the steering is well weighted but not very heavy at low speeds also.
The engine is very refined though-the best here and in the city there is a lot of low-end grunt, which means you can potter around in higher gears easily. On the highway the Hector cruises well and power builds up smoothly. However the overly soft suspension while providing a cushy ride, means that it rolls a lot and floats a bit. That said for cruising in city the Hector does well and we got 13 kmpl.
The Harrier has much lighter controls including the gearshift and steering plus the clutch. However the engine is quite noisy and lag is a bit more pronounced. That said the power delivery is stronger in the Harrier. The rush of power is felt more over the relaxed Hector. It also cruises more confidently and feels more stable around corners. The ride is better and feels more polished no doubt thanks to the Land Rover architecture. In terms of mileage we got 12-13 kmpl.
The Compass has the least amount of roll and the best steering. The lovely manual gearbox with the silver finish gear-lever feels premium. Its ride is also solid and it feels like a tank here. It also cruises brilliantly too. Of course having 4x4 means it does off-roading better than others here by a long shot. However in the city the clutch feels the heaviest and the sharpest which means modulating it in city traffic needs some getting used to. We got 13 kmpl, too.
Both the Hector and Harrier are Rs 19 lakh for their top-end diesel manual trims while the top-end Compass Limited Plus diesel is Rs 26 lakh. All three have their own USPs and of course their fair share of cons. However let us break it here.
The Harrier looks the best and offers the most premium looking cabin along, and the Land Rover DNA means it is good to drive and also easiest to live with in the city. It's a huge achievement for Tata and if you are seduced by the looks, go ahead. However in face of competition the lack of features is obvious and a few ergonomic glitches are also apparent.
The Compass is the best to drive here and has the best suspension set-up. Being 4x4 also helps on those road trips. It looks good and the cabin is premium plus the Jeep badge carries the kudos to justify the price. If you want a smaller SUV but that does it all with an old school touch, this is it.
The Hector is not as fun or as accomplished off-road but the scores heavily in areas which the consumer notices. The huge size for the price ratio means there is no competition in term of sheer presence but what impresses is the long features list as that is what attracts buyers.
For city use the refinement and comfort oriented dynamics works too. The Hector is textbook stuff at doing an SUV suited for the market. Thus, if the above mentioned qualities floats your boat, the Hector it is. There cannot be outright winners and losers as all three bring a lot to the table; sos choose what suits you. You’ll have the authentic SUV experience in all three.