The effect of compression ratio on sensitivity to changes in start of injection and air-fuel ratio has been investigated on a single-cylinder DI diesel engine at fixed low and medium speeds and loads. Compression ratio was set to 17.9:1 or 13.7:1 by using pistons with different bowl sizes. Injection timing and air-to-fuel ratio were swept around a nominal map point at which gross IMEP and NOx values were matched for the two compression ratios. It was found that CO, HC and ISFC were higher at low compression ratio, but the soot/NOx trade-off improved and this could be exploited to reduce the fuel economy penalty. Sensitivity to inputs is generally similar, but high compression ratio tended to have steeper response gradients. Reducing compression ratio to 13.7 gave rise to a marked degradation of performance at light load, producing high CO emissions and a fall in combustion efficiency. This could be eased by reducing rail pressure, but the advantage in smoke emission was lost.