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Jeep Meridian 4x4 diesel AT: Initial review after 800 kms of driving

We felt that the drive of the Meridian was distinctly 'smoother' than the Compass, perhaps down to some slightly different tuning that its been given

BHPian Axe77 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Jeep Meridian 4x4 Limited (O) Automatic:

  • Color: Techno Green
  • Purchased: June 2022
  • Km log: ~800 kms, at the time of publishing the initial review.

Hopefully this review gives members our own version of the Essential Information Guide & some key ownership insights to this much debated product.

I have split this initial review into four broad parts:

Part 1: My written review of various aspects of the car, including the decision making process that led up to the purchase.

Part 2: The review supplemented and continued via pictures. The official review has an excellent pictoral review so I’ve kept this one to the basics.

Part 3: A third party perspective from two friends who took an extended test drive of the car. One owns a 2021 Fortuner Legender 4x4 A/T and the other owns a 2021 Compass 4x4 S A/T. No mandate was provided. Told them to pen whatever thoughts come to their mind. Free run. Also included comparo pics with each of these two vehicles for ready visual perspective. I have also laid down my own observations vis a vis the two vehicles in this section.

Part 4: Some randomised rapid fire FAQs.

Introduction:

There’s been a fair bit of anticipation around the Meridian launch with some hoping it would finally fill the competitive void left by the Endeavour, while others have hoped it would take the Kodiaq head on with a comparable alternative, albeit with a more economical diesel heart.

It would be fair to say that it seems to have a disappointed many prospective buyers & enthusiasts in some key aspects, including most notably:

  • The engine specs which at some point were rumoured to be ~200 hp, combined with the less than perfect gearbox tune; and
  • Third row space and usability.

In this thread, I’ve tried to outline how I perceive the Meridian (with its imperfections as well as strengths) and why it made sense for my use case regardless. There is no doubt though that some compromises were made and ultimately this was about choosing a product based on compromises I could live with vs those I couldn’t accept.

The need for a second car:

My 3 GT for all practical purpose is my only car as the Grand i10 belongs to my mum and though we live together in Mumbai, it spends extended and unpredictable periods of time in Pune when she visits there. Come October 2022, the GT would complete seven years and I’d been on the lookout for a second car to supplement as well as complement the GT. The broad required criteria being a rugged, abuse friendly, spacious, monocoque, crossover / SUV. Five seats / two rows are enough and reasonably capable AWD / 4x4 abilities were ‘good to have’.

The intention was to make this a workhorse - both chauffeur and self driven - the GT graduating to being a bit more of a personal driven car for me alone. I do intend to keep the GT for another 3 - 5 years depending on how reliability and maintenance progresses so I was keen to buy this car latest before the GT turns 7. This way I can prepay / repay any associated car loans by around 2025, which is approximately around the 10th anniversary of the GT.

Budget:

I had a fairly broad budget with the sweet spot being 35 - 50 lakh but being open to options in the 27 - 35L range and the budget also extendable to 60-70L range. If I was going to extend my budget to 60-70L (+/-) I was not willing to live with ANY material compromise on the product side. I didn’t see this in the 60L+ options available and that’s part of the reason I stayed within the 50L mark for this one.

The Wish List:

(in no specific order):

  • Comfortable back seat;
  • Good ride quality;
  • Spacious 4 - 5 seater (optional +2 is a nice bonus but by no means critical);
  • Reliable, well built, rugged and safe;
  • Easy to drive in the city, and yet …
  • Solid to cruise on the highway;
  • High quality, pleasing to the eye interiors;
  • Fun to drive, both in the city as well as on the open road;
  • Flexible luggage hauling capabilities.

Options considered:

Skoda Kodiaq:

This is literally the closest possible competitor to the Meridian. “Many” (not all) things that are important to me which the Meridian does well, the Kodiaq does as well at least, if not better. MOST importantly, the engine and drive experience are a notch above with its sophisticated DSG and petrol refinement. This would have been the single biggest pull factor for the Kodiaq. The extra few lakhs for the L&K would not have been a deal breaker either, nor would the more expensive petrol running cost, although the latter would have been a constant irritant in my mind for sure.

Finally, where the Meridian has a combination of extremely well finished interiors combined with some slightly scratchy looking hard plastics, the Kodiaq looks more ‘consistently’ sophisticated inside.

So what went against it?

Petrol vs Diesel:

While petrol vs diesel is not an outright deal breaker, it is still a minor negative. I wanted this to be the workhorse taking higher kms load going forward.

Second row comfort:

This is personal but I found the under-thigh support (very important to me) in the Meridian far better than the Kodiaq. While the sliding second row feature of the Kodiaq is certainly handy, the non sliding aspect of the Meridian, though annoying, did not compromise my rear seat seating comfort in any way. I am on the much shorter side though for context and taller folks should independently assess this aspect.

Reliability:

This is a big one. I want a car that occupies minimal mind space 365 days a year. Even if I allocate a pre-set monetary budget for unforeseen issues, I simply don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to deal with service stations on out of ordinary issues. This continues to play on my mind every time there is a VAG car under consideration. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Jeep will not disappoint on this front, although their reputation is also a mixed bag - this is a calibrated call I’ve taken against the almost certain screw-over that brand VAG promises.

Availability:

And finally … even if I accepted all of the above factors and still wanted the Kodiaq, the analysis & decision would be moot, because the car can’t be had even if you landed at the showroom with a suitcase full of 5 mio greenbacks (I know there is the odd case of one off availability if you track it). Its simply not available till 2023 and that’s not an amount of time I’m inclined to wait, that too for a product that has its own significant compromises.

As a moot point - would I have picked the Meridian had the Kodiaq been readily available? I’m not really sure and while it would have gone to the wire, I think the Meridian would still have cinched it. It helps that the Meridian is a pleasure to drive in its own right, by any measure. Its not like you’re picking the tortoise over a hare. In fact having done a few highway runs since I bought it, its definitely fun to drive in most conditions. More on this aspect in the more detailed review.

VW Tiguan:

Again - an excellent choice, but neither my wife nor I, liked the interiors. While I’m all for understated classy designs, somehow the look and feel of the Tiguan is just too 2017 - it felt plain and also really depressing with its all dark interiors. It’s beautiful to drive, has a great boot, (adequate for my requirements) but didn’t feel like a pleasing place to be, the rear seat comfort also fell short of my requirements, much like its cousin. I don’t recall even checking the price in the final assessment. At the end of the day, if I had to go with VAG with this particular engine, I’d always prefer the Kodiaq over the Tiguan. Buying the Tiguan just because the Kodiaq is not available would not have cut it in the long run.

Toyota Fortuner:

The Toyota Fortuner is a brilliant vehicle - one that has an incredible fan base for very good reason, and I have nothing but the highest regard for it. In fact, my close mate and riding buddy has bought an Innova Crysta as well as a Legender - such is the fantastic fan following of these Toyota workhorses.

But … its just not for me. I am graduating from a lifetime of hatchbacks and sedans and for the first time ever am buying an SUV. I am really sure I want it mostly for its practicality on various fronts but compromise as little as possible on the car like experience to drive. The Fortuner is just too unwieldy and heavy for my liking. I also don’t think it provides the car like driving experience which monocoque crossovers provide, neither is its ride quality likely to have the comfort that its monocoque competitors are likely to have. Overall this was simply a non-starter for me.

Hyundai Tucson:

Other than the Kodiaq, this is probably the closest alternative that I actively considered. Ultimately, I think I just felt a greater pull from brand Jeep.

There’s a desirability quotient to the Jeep that was simply not the same with Hyundai. I’m a big fan of modern Hyundais and I think they’ve come a long way in the last two decades. Having said that, I have driven a current gen Tucson and I just felt that the Meridian felt that little bit nicer, plusher, more solid and robust as a car. I also felt if I do decide to use the car for some occasional off road fun, the Meridian will handle it better (my untested ‘perception’). Finally, from all the images I’ve seen, while the 2022 Tucson is a funky looking design, I generally found the clean straight lines of the Meridian a bit more appealing than the overstyled Tucson - both inside and out. I can’t quite justify it in specific terms but felt a stronger pull to the Meridian than the Tucson. Finally the generally low standards that Hyundai / Kia cars have come up with on safety even on their recent products just added to the cons list.

Outliers:

MG ZS EV:

I am really impressed by the MG ZS EV and as an outlier decision I was wondering whether to abort the heavy duty SUV / crossover plans and give EV ownership a shot. It is a decent size (nearabout Creta like), has a decent enough back seat and would have been an interesting foray into the EV space. However, I think the market is set to boom with options in this space and I’d much rather revisit an EV purchase 3 - 5 years down the line when I’m done with the 3 GT, when there are a LOT more options to consider and the ecosystem may also have matured a bit more.

Used Discovery Sport:

Didn’t really find any options that were less than two years old and older models generally gravitate to the lower (~150 bhp) power output variants. Add to that the fact JLR ownership can still be a massive hit or miss, felt more secure going down the new Jeep route for now.

Compass:

The Meridian pricing is a funny thing. When you look at the Kodiaq, Tiguan etc and what they offer, one could argue that the Meridian is no better or no worse priced than any of these options. On the other hand, one can’t help but ponder that at the end of the day, one is paying 8L more than the Compass for:

  • a bigger boot;
  • a more comfortable second row;
  • a better tuned engine that feels distinctly smoother;
  • slightly more pleasant interiors with that incredibly tasteful mocha finish; and…well, that’s it!

You can play alphabet soup all day long with C segment and D segment tags, but from a functional standpoint, the Meridian presents a larger Compass with a very limited use third row, even though it does create significant design differentiation while doing so. I don’t consider this a long haul 3 row people mover by any ‘stretch’ (pun intended), although it can serve to seat your least favourite child on the odd occasion.

With this price to value equation in mind, I did test drive the Compass one more time to see if I’m ok with living with that interior size rather than blow an ~8L rupee hole for the larger Meridian. Test driving it back to back, both wife and I were clear - the additional space in the Meridian was a must have and much welcome.

8L welcome? No.

But did we want to pay 37L and buy into the Compass with its tight internal footprint. No!

We also felt that the drive of the Meridian was distinctly ‘smoother’ than the Compass, perhaps down to some slightly different tuning that its been given - another key factor.

So the Meridian it was then, yet again. I chose the 4x4 top of line automatic variant. Manuals are simply off the table for me. If I'm going to buy an SUV with some of the natural SUV limitations then I was clear I wanted 4x4 capability - I didn't want to spend all that money and then pick 4x2, even if for the very rare occasions that it may actually prove useful.

Likes, dislikes & other notables:

What I Like:

  • Classy modern styling inside and out, with an extremely well appointed interior.
  • Fast, smooth & refined - three words that best describe the Meridian’s engine and driving character.
  • Solid build quality. It feels like a well built European car.
  • Mature ride and handling characteristics - high speed handling in particular is excellent and the suspension is fantastic.
  • Superbly calibrated steering which is easy / breezy at low speeds and weighs up nicely at faster highway clicks. No dead 11-1 center zone in this steering like what plagues many other cars, including the Fortuner, Innova, some Hyundais and some others.
  • Rear bench has comfortable under-thigh support and the reclining seat further enhances the seating comfort. I find the Meridian very comfortable for 4 passengers and adequately comfortable for 4 adults and a child occupying two rows. A little more leg room would have been nicer though, specially for much taller families.
  • This is my first car with Apple CarPlay and I love this feature. Perhaps not really a positive in a premium luxury car in 2022 but even my 3 GT doesn’t have this and I’m loving the upgrade in user experience.
  • The rear as well as 360 camera setup is excellent! The quality of the view, both in daylight and in the dark is brilliant and the camera view proportion is actually really helpful, unlike some other cars where either visibility is not that great or alternately the views are too skewed to be helpful.

What I Dislike:

  • Overpriced (so is a lot of its immediate competition though).
  • The engine / gearbox combo. As an enthusiast, I do wish it had just a hint more of grunt and the gearbox was quicker in all conditions. Having said that, it’s definitely not underpowered by any measure.
  • No paddle shifters and no sports mode either! Absolutely inexcusable for a car of this price and segment. If you're going to badly overprice a product, at the very least, don't leave it short with material omissions or shortcomings.
  • While my variant has an 18” wheel, the spare in the car is a 17” space saver. This is ridiculous!! In the event of a puncture, you're going to have to keep the full sized damaged wheel inside the car. Good luck with that if you're on a long trip with a full load of passengers + luggage.
  • Lack of sliding middle row. It fortunately does not adversely impact middle row comfort for me but I would still have appreciated it for the flexibility in getting your perfect seating position.
  • Some bits of the interior have slightly hard scratchy plastics. It is plush for most part but you can tell it has the odd mediocre bits interspersed here and there.
  • The tiptronic is not that great for hard driving - the engine protests if you try redlining using the tiptronic controls. Works well enough for engine braking though.

Other notable points:

  • No 12v socket in the front. Why!!!
  • While the MID menus are quite detailed and reasonably intuitive to use, the font used is extremely dull and boring looking. For such a snazzy interior, the visual appeal of the MID display is underwhelming.
  • Chrome overkill. Compass S A/T’s grey overtones are classier in places where the Meridian throws in the chrome.
  • I’m not a big fan of ADAS features and I’m personally glad the car skips on these.
  • The 80/120 beep is actually not too intrusive in volume although being my first car with this feature - it is still annoying nevertheless. I’m not immediately inclined to have this removed - will wait and assess this later.
  • The rear tailgate closing button is really weirdly placed “inside” the boot on the bottom left. Its hard enough to get mall security to press a button when its placed in plain sight, ON the tailgate - getting them to realise its inside the boot will be even harder.
  • I’m not an audiophile but the speakers sounded pretty good to my untrained ears. You do need to play around with the settings though to get the best out of the system.
  • Front as well as rear get two power ports - one USB C and one regular USB. Really handy.
  • Buttons behind the steering for audio controls are a neat touch and I’ve gotten around to using them quite frequently. Very ergonomically friendly design.
  • No sunglass holder anywhere near the driver / front passenger - annoying!
  • 4x2 diesel automatic helps widen the appeal. Indeed a majority of bookings did seem to be for the 4x2 diesel automatic with the 4x4 variant being lower in numbers. I can see some prospective Compass customers who are indifferent to the 4x4 aspect and find the Compass too small, gravitating towards the Meridian 4x2 for the additional space on offer.
  • The overall finish is excellent for most part but not uniformly rich. For instance, the plastic quality of the left and right stalks (indicator / wiper) seem ‘all right’.
  • The Jeep Life App is quite a nifty feature. I've only JUST activated it and may not have enough real time experience of using it at the time of publishing the review but I will post more information about it in due course. It can allow even locking and unlocking the car remotely and even shows current location of the car at any given point. Handy if you want to keep a remote watch on your chauffeur too if he uses the car alone a fair bit.

The Sales Experience:

Landmark Jeep, Worli.

I had paid a Rs. 20k fully refundable deposit to Jeep Worli around mid February, placing the proverbial handkerchief on the chair, marking my spot in the demand / supply circus prevalent in the current new car market.

Got a test drive within a couple of days of launch. I was convinced enough to 'up' the deposit to 50k (still fully refundable) based on this test drive to ensure I still remain in the first lot of allocations. Took a longer 45 km test drive early one morning and the decision was made - all within about 5-7 days from the car hitting the showroom. Proceeded to finalise loan paperwork and wait for the car to arrive in Mumbai. My entire file was handled by Siddhesh, who was extraordinarily helpful from the word go. I would in a heartbeat recommend him to anyone dealing with the Worli showroom.

Jeep’s PDI shortcomings:

A few aspects of PDI and delivery. My glove box light was not working intermittently - I had to ask them to look into this and resolve. The other more disturbing issue was a "service battery" message that popped up with the voltage not showing the ~14.1 that one should expect to see. They promptly looked into both issues (returning my car within the same day) and sorted both out. Having driven the car a couple of 100 kms this has sorted itself out. But for what ought to have been a properly PDI'd car, this was not cool. I'm also aware that I'm not the only new car owner who's faced this - both with the Meridian as well as previously with the Compass. Jeep dealers really need to pull up their socks on this front.

Detailed car explanation:

Jeep organises a very detailed explanatory session on the car by one of their earmarked expert employees. For Landmark Jeep, Mumbai this was done for me by Mayur, a really knowledgeable and helpful chap. I scheduled this together with the accessory installation in the interest of time - so we did this about 10 days after getting the car, ensuring that my wife and driver (the two primary drivers other than me of course) also join this briefing.

I have to say - the briefing was excellent. Mayur was extremely knowledgeable, thoroughly systematic and organised (I'm sure Jeep has set out the format pat), was very handy with any questions that I had over and above what his practiced presentation was - and he was also full of impromptu practical advice which was clearly beyond the pre-set script. I've already made connects with the head technician who also seems like a helpful guy but am now also pleased to have made the introduction with Mayur as well.

This entire session, every aspect of it, left me thoroughly impressed.

Extended warranty & accessories purchased:

Extended Warranty:

Default warranty is three years & 100,000 kms and extended warranty, which enhances this to 5 years / 150,000 kms is priced at Rs. 50,000 (the Compass is for ~42/43k). I have already paid and opted in for this, since we do tend to hold our cars long and 4 - 5 years (if not longer) of ownership is fairly likely.

Accessories purchased:

Mud flaps

Slush mats (super quality)

Small card perfume (useless)

Coat hanger (nice)

Clip on sunshades on four windows (nice)

Getting the accessories though was a royal pain. I received the accessories (including something as immediate and obvious as floor mats / mud flaps etc) a good 8 - 9 days after receiving the car, despite having communicated which ones I wanted well before delivery. I think Jeep should have at least managed production of the most common accessories aligned to anticipated deliveries. Not their best moment so far on this front. What I’ve listed above cost me ~INR 23k or thereabouts.

Pricing:

MRP listed price in Mumbai was about 45.20 lakh which included a ludicrous 2L towards insurance. I had always made it clear that I would not be paying this astronomical amount towards insurance and I expect this to be shaved off in the ultimate bill. I didn’t try to press them to remove handling charges etc - one way or the other they also will try to make their margins, but my ultimate on road price included a 96k discount on insurance, bringing the final purchase price to a shade under 44.25L. Costs of accessories and extended warranty were over and above so one can assuming factoring all of that I will ultimately have paid approximately 45 lakh.

A lot has been said about the pricing of the Meridian. Let’s address that elephant in the room as well now. In my view, the vehicle is a roomier compass with a third row, which is as usable or unusable as a Tiguan Allspace / Kodiaq etc. It does have some additional advantages over the Compass in terms of engine refinement / smoothness, slightly better ride and handling etc. For comparable variants, I don’t believe it warrants more than 2.5-3.5L total (at best) over an already richly priced Compass. It is definitely 4 - 5 lakh overpriced in that sense in my opinion.

Jeep should have priced the Meridian closer to this more realistic benchmark, gauged market reaction and then, if needed, done a creeping price hike over a period of time, calibrated to customer response. Right now, they've left themselves between a rock and a hard place on pricing. Models that don't succeed at launch tend to stutter for much longer periods and Jeep executives have their work cut out to turn this around from here.

Having said that, my most obvious competition to this purchase ranged from the Compass, Tiguan, Kodiaq and the Fortuner. In my opinion, the Compass itself is overpriced by 2 - 3L; the Tiguan and Kodiaq overpriced by about 3-4 lakh each and the Fortuner is overpriced by about 5 - 7 lakh. Extending the discussion to other more remote alternatives, in my view, the Innova is overpriced by 3 - 5 lakh; the Tucson is likely well priced (at least the current gen) although looks 1.5 - 2 generations older than anything else on the market today.

If you are choosing your steed from within the entire Fortuner / VAG etc segment, then you may need to see the pricing in that context, although the difference is that the above brands earned their chops over several years to get to their current pricing.

Am I happy overpaying for the Meridian - absolutely NOT! But within such a narrow band, I am ultimately going to select the car I want, not the price / VFM quotient that I want. Any other options that might have outright held more appeal (like the X3 or Discovery Sport) are nearly 1.8-2.0x the price of the Meridian.

What might queer the pitch slightly for the Meridian is the 2022 Tucson, if it comes at a really attractive price. Most customers don't really care too much about 4x4 etc - we've already established that the third row of the Meridian has very limited passenger use. In that sense, as a spacious modern 5 seater monocoque SUV, if the Tucson top of line AWD can come in at under 37 lakh (on road), I think it has the potential to pull away a lot of the 4x2 Meridian customers (for reference, with the reduced insurance amount, that retails at ~41 lakh).

Lets see how Jeep addresses this going forward. I'm expecting demand to remain muted at these price levels.

The Meridian review:

With that background and context, lets move on to the various aspects of the review itself.

Exterior:

This is a handsome vehicle with the classic and clean rugged lines that are the trademark of brand Jeep. While functionally it may be a more spacious Compass, from a design perspective, it carries its own distinctive styling and by no means looks like a stretched compass. This is particularly apparent once you’ve moved past the A pillar and completely clear from the rear. Purely one on one, I still feel that in terms of proportions and look, the Compass looks absolutely dope and its proportions are spot on but the Meridian is also extremely handsome in its own right. If I had to mark these two cars on external looks alone, it’s the Compass that would get my vote, but not by a lot. The fact that junior’s top of line S variant has dark contrast highlights in many areas where the Meridian Limited (O) goes with unappealing chrome only seals this further. I have, later in this review included some comparison pics of the Meridian and the 2021 facelift Compass - luckily, both vehicles for these pics came in the same techno green color to make the comparison even more direct.

The front carries the unmistakably handsome Jeep looks, very similar to the Compass, underscored by that distinctive grill. As you move along the side and towards the rear, the car unveils its distinct identity. It has an imposing jacked up stance and despite sporting generous 18" wheels, looks a tad under - tyred at the rear, such is the raised stance of the Meridian. The clean lines continue all the way till the rear - view it head on from the rear and the stark difference from the Compass is evident thanks to the distinctive tail lights of the Meridian. The alloys too have a nice classy look to them - absolutely loved their design.

All in all, this gets an 8 / 10 from me in the external looks department. Would have been 9 if they had not done the chrome overkill.

Interior:

The Look:

Visually, the Meridian certainly looks rich for most part. The two tone mocha / black interiors are tastefully executed and all the leather bits on the seats and specially on the dash look very high quality. Combined with its larger internal space, it gives the Meridian a much roomier ambience over its smaller sibling. Metal bits on the dash look equally well designed. The more mediocre bits are not excessively apparent and is largely felt through the slightly scratchy black plastics on some panels as well as the quality of the stalks etc.

The infotainment system looks absolutely fantastic and is reasonably intuitive to use. Overall this vehicle exudes proper European class through and through. The MID screen in the cockpit too is pretty detailed and fully digital though it does not reflect the richness of the rest of the cabin. The primary reason for this is that the colors and font used do not lend it a snazzy look that would be commensurate with its positioning as well as the quality exuded by the rest of the cabin.

The same quality continues in the second row with the added richness provided by the massive pano sunroof, which extends all the way till the back of the second row. Open the internal roof lining under the sunroof and the spaciousness of the Meridian is enhanced even further. Where the Compass (while comfortable for two at the back) seems a bit claustrophobic and cramped (specially in the all black S trim), the marginal extra width, additional length and the mocha interiors of the Meridian do wonders to make it a far roomier and comfortable space to be in.

Overall on the interiors, I'd give this interior an 8 / 10. Would have been a 9 / 9.5 if the leg room was a bit more and the seat reclined to Tucson levels, combined with more consistently rich finish.

The Feel:

Front row:

The interiors are for most part extremely comfortable. Front seat comfort is completely fine for me but the proportions of the seats are “adequate”. For someone with a large frame though, I can imagine the seats being just about average in comfort. They’re certainly not XXL size.

The ergonomics are fantastic, the storage well designed and all controls fall to hand easily. Even the touchscreen responsiveness is really good so its easy to use even while you’re driving the car. The central console has a nice leather rest along the sides (missing in the Compass).

Side door panels have a nicely scooped out recess to hold bottles. I’ve subjected these to my Headway test (placing the various Headway branded flasks I use in the centre as well as side pockets) and they fit in fine. A sunglass holder would have been nice to have but is missing. Some of the controls are not where you’d intuitively expect them but again, nothing fatal here. The wireless charging works well and is complemented by two ports - one regular USB and one Type C USB.

There is a really useful narrow crevice beside the centre cup holder which allows a cellphone to be placed within - a really handy design feature as well, one that’s missing in the Compass it seems. The glove box though is strictly average. I couldn’t even fit the 10" iPad Pro in it when I tried recently.

2nd row:

Move to the rear seat and it is similarly comfortable. Personally I loved the second row seat design. Its well contoured with the right level of under-thigh support. The rear leg room is adequate too and while one could argue about the second row not sliding, I haven’t found that to impair my comfort in the back seat. There is a useful recline to the second row, enhancing comfort. Second row seating comfort was a BIG factor for me and I’m more than happy on this front. For direct comparison, I’d say the Tucson second row is marginally more comfortable in leg room and seat recline) but the Meridian trumps it in under-thigh support. The Fortuner is likely the more comfortable back seat in design but when looked in totality with ride / handling / suspension / body roll and similar factors, I’d much rather be in the Meridian 2nd row than the Fortuner’s.

3rd row:

Best used for luggage. Drop the third row and you have a spacious comfortable 4 / 5 seater with massive luggage room for those long road trips. Put it back up and you can squeeze a couple of kids in.

How I use the third row?

  • Late night city drives with the neighbours (4 adults; 2 small kids): Plonk the bachchas in the last row and the 4 adults can occupy first two rows.
  • Long weekend getaway with another family. While you can drive their in your respective cars, the above setup of moving around locally when you’re AT the holiday destination is handy.
  • I like the luggage loading flexibility that the third row provides. I usually have one half down and one half up with the backrest incline of the latter adjusted to need. Keeps large luggage fixed in one place. For instance, my folding bike fits neatly in the space behind the (half) upright third row seat and helps it stay in place and not toss around the entire boot.

This is NOT a vehicle that would enable three row touring for people with luggage. Having said that, I’m hard pressed to think of very many three row vehicles that enable that in any case. The only examples I can think of are Carnival, Innova and Fortuner perhaps but even in the latter two, luggage management is a challenge.

Boot:

With all seats up, boot space is predictably modest, as is the case with most such three row cars. It has excellent boot space with the third row folded down though. Drop down the last two rows and it can create a nice flat floor for loading in stuff like - in my use case - an entire bicycle placed in for those longer training sessions.

This is the exact sort of flexi boot space / storage I was looking for from this purchase and ticks this aspect perfectly for me.

Driving the 2.0 LTR diesel A/T:

The engine and gearbox:

In the city:

What the Meridian lacks is that shove in the back sort of acceleration from rest and urgent kick downs on demand. If you keep aside these two aspects, the Meridian is an extremely rewarding car to drive both in the city and the highway. It needs a certain knack to extract the smoothest and quickest power delivery though - just lifting off momentarily off the accelerator when you’re trying to push hard seems to do the trick on many occasions.

The Jeep takes off with a smooth, linear power delivery and I’ve rarely found the car wanting within city limits. Combined with its excellent suspension and taut handling, I consider this a fast, fun to drive car but not one that will provide stupid grin-inducing acceleration. It is extremely easy to drive in city limits and with its light and easy to use steering and at no point have I felt that I’m piloting an Innova sized SUV around the city. This is as car like to drive as one can expect a reasonably full size SUV to be.

On the highway:

I’ve now done about two runs on the highway in this car, the first mostly relegated to the old Bombay Pune highway till Karjat and another one on the expressway until Lonavla and then onward to the twisties until Aamby Valley. The Lonavla to Aamby stretch was done back to back with a Fortuner Legender, where we took turns driving each of the cars. The one caveat is that these drives are still in the running in period so I'm not unduly pushing the car hard to its limits. I'll post further updates once the car is beyond the first few 1000 kms and the engine has opened up a bit.

The Meridian is clearly a fast highway cruiser as well and will comfortably munch miles all day long, providing great cornering and handling abilities as well while at it. It has a beautifully weighted steering that is really easy and light at dead slow speeds and weighs up nicely as you speed up. One could nit pick and say it’s still a hint too soft at higher speeds but that’s splitting hair to some extent. Again, as mentioned in the city driving notes, if you discount its unwillingness to provide hard kick downs or push back against the seat take offs, this is a fast rewarding engine. The gearbox is good but not outstanding - but by no stretch a deal breaker. It gathers speed in a linear manner without the manic urgency of an outright high performance engine. Again, like other reviews have acknowledged, this should tick the boxes for most prospective owners - only that top 5 or 10 percentile of enthusiasts are likely to feel that pinch of disappointment.

Overall:

What strikes me straight off the bat is just how refined and smooth this engine has been tuned. I have now driven the Compass and Meridian back to back on two occasions and the Meridian engine just felt smoother than the Compass for some reason. I would ask prospective customers who’re put off by the engine specs and gearbox reputation to take an extended test drive of the car before deciding either way. Many may find that it delivers more than what on paper numbers suggest. For instance, despite carrying the same engine specs as the Compass, at no point have I found the drive / responsiveness inferior to the Compass. It is as peppy as its younger sibling and if anything, feels more sophisticated in the way it delivers its power thanks to the additional smoothness.

All in all, an 7.5 / 10 from me on this front. This would have been an 8 / 8.5 if the engine / gearbox combo had been spot on.

Ride & handling:

The suspension is one of the strong points of the Meridian. Where the Compass suspension is impressive, this one, with its longer wheelbase provides an even better ride and handling experience. The car dispatches bumps fantastically and while it brings strong BOF like capability in handling bad roads, it combines it with remarkable high speed handling and stability. As anything higher than a sedan goes, I’d be much happier tackling curves aggressively in the Meridian than I would be in vehicles like an Innova or Fortuner. The car feels rock solid at fast speeds and is very reassuring even for quick swerve manoeuvres at highway speeds - clearly superior to its BOF alternatives on this front and much like what I’d expect (haven’t experienced) in vehicles like Kodiaq / Tiguan. I’ve driven a Fortuner on a highway and I can say without a doubt that on all the above fronts, the Meridian delivers a superior driving experience.

An 8.5 / 10 from me on ride and handling, with perhaps half a mark lost just for the ‘slightly’ harder ride quality at very low speeds although that’s a perfectly acceptable proposition to me for the overall driving dynamics they’ve delivered.

Miscellaneous:

Braking:

The car sports disc brakes all around with a nice progressive feel to the pedals. Braking is strong and the car remains composed even under hard braking. I did simulate a hard braking scenario with a slight swerve and the car was extremely well composed and handled surprisingly predictably for an SUV body style. No complaints whatsoever from the big Jeep on this front.

Air Conditioning:

I found the air conditioning really mediocre for some reason, specially in the first row. There were times when I was trying to adjust the blower in whatever way possible and the air flow still seemed totally inadequate. Seems really strange. The vents themselves are also very compact, perhaps contributing to this feeling of not enough air coming through. I want to observe this more carefully over a longer period. I'll leave the jury out on this over more extended usage but for now I'm inclined to give this a 6 / 10.

NVH:

The NVH management on the Meridian is absolutely outstanding. A super smooth engine combined with excellent NVH management means this really does not feel like buying into the clattering unrefined diesel engines of yore.

Fuel Efficiency:

I’ve only done a couple of fuel top ups at the time of writing this review and in mixed (city / highway) running, its delivered around 7-8 kmpl efficiency. Based on my conversations with diesel AT Compass owners, I expect this to improve over a period of time as the car runs in. Will keep the thread updated with these figures from time to time. Some of my Compass owner friends now routinely get early double digits in similar usage.

One point - the MID is impressively accurate. I did a tank to tank calculation where the MID displayed 7.0 kmpl while the full tank to full tank calculation yielded 6.99 or something. Impressive indeed - my BMW can be off the mark by almost 2 - 3 kmpl at times, with the MID displaying the more optimistic numbers compared to actual consumption. Maybe this was a one off but that's what I have seen so far. Will continue to track its accuracy level going forward as well.

At this point, its a 7 / 10 from me on FE. If over extended usage this vehicle delivers me anywhere around 8.5-10 kmpl in city traffic and 12 - 14 on highway runs, I’d rate it an 8.5 or 9 /10 on this front.

Conclusion:

Overall I'd say this is an extremely competent car, let down, above all else by poor pricing decisions. When you look at other overpriced products like a Fortuner or even an Innova, Jeep has to bear in mind that there is years of proven brand equity that has gone into building their reputation and they all started with far more attractive price tags. Even a brand like VAG has years of pedigree behind their value-luxury reputation.

Jeep for all practical purpose is a 5 years old single product company (in the mass market context) and still has to entrench its brand value before it commands a rich premium for each new product. Mis-pricing this product is an irreversible faux pas that the company can ill afford for what was strategically a key launch. If nothing else, its recent identical experience within the Stellantis family via the underwhelming C5 launch should have been a ready reference point to avoid the same mistake.

If you take this one single biggest folly away, the product has enough merit to stand successfully on its own feet. Yes, there are some areas where it could have done better but my sense is that many sections of the market may have been more willing to overlook these if the car was 3 - 4 lakh cheaper. The ones who need proper three row people movers would still be best served looking elsewhere but there's a large market outside that universe, which Jeep could have tapped into but will struggle to convert at its current price.

The car is clearly extremely capable and for those looking for a spacious two row diesel SUV, the Meridian makes a pretty compelling case for itself, as long as you're willing to part with a few extra greenbacks for that privilege.

The Meridian: Showcased via pics:

A capable product indeed but will it be able to steer brand Jeep to the next level?

The bonnet comes with a nicely designed scoop, distinguishing it from the bonnet of the Compass.

The engine bay, housing one of the more controversial discussion points of the Meridian. Honestly, the engine is a fairly quick and capable highway performer - it would be unfair to tag it as outright underpowered.

Nice proportionate lines lend it a strong look. The heightened stance prevents it from getting an estate like look.

In its natural element. I love how this green color subtly accentuate its adventure-ready credentials.

Strong, clean lines with only the chrome overkill playing spoilsport. I will seriously consider blackening out some of these chrome design highlights, like I did with my 3GT front grill.

LED lights have a decent throw, in both low as well as high beam. The angle of the light throw can be adjusted with a rotary knob next to the headlight switch. I found them neither lacking nor remarkable. Par for course.

The one view which sports the closest resemblance to the Compass. As you move further back the distinct design elements between the two become progressively more evident.

The green blending beautifully with the monsoon enveloped western ghats.

Viewed side on, it resembles its elder sibling a lot more than the Compass. Nice straight stance give it a strong presence, even when its stood beside the big daddy Fortuner.

The predictable Meridian badging on the front door, carried out in chrome unlike on the Compass S where its in a nicer & subtler grey.

Saw this just after our fuel halt, before the Lonavla ghat. Used to sport the Compass below the Jeep lettering. Being redone to showcase the Meridian perhaps?

The rear three quarter view with its distinctive tail lights.

Jacked up stance makes even the 18" tyres look under-tyred (which they're not).

4x4 creds elegantly displayed on the rear.

Minimal fuss at the rear, with only three logos - Jeep, the variant (Limited) and 4x4. The MG Gloster could take a cue on reducing its rear badging.

Really hope that the "Limited" badging is not an uncanny prophecy into its sales numbers.

The view from the stunning sunroof. For our drive to Lonavla from Bombay, I actually spent the better part of it in the 2nd row to get a feel of the ride at the back. With the inner sunroof lining opened up, gazing into the overcast sky is a lovely feeling.

The boot door opens quite high to reveal a flat boot loading lip. The height to which it opens up can be adjusted, a feature not available on the Compass.

The exasperating 17" space saver (from Maxxis). Thanks to the three row format, the space saver sits below the car like most MUVs and SUVs, unlike the Compass in which it is accessed from inside the boot.

Strange trend. The fuel filler has no external fuel cap. It just has a flap just inside which closes shut once the fuel nozzle is removed. Strangely disconcerting mechanism, this. The first time I saw this I was worried as to whether the attendant forgot to replace the fuel cap after our first fuel top up. Next to it is with the blue cap is from where you top up the DEF.

The mirror houses the brilliant 360 camera setup. I was advised to treat it with care. A replacement will set one back an eye watering 45k or thereabouts.

Continue reading BHPian Axe77's review of his Jeep Meridian 4x4 diesel AT for BHPian comments, insights and more information.

 
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