Low compression ratio (LCR) approach in diesel engines can reduce the oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and soot emissions simultaneously owing to lower temperatures and longer fuel-air premixing time. The present work investigates the effects of lowering the geometric compression ratio (CR) from 18:1 to 14:1 in a naturally aspirated (NA) single cylinder common rail direct injection (CRDI) diesel engine. Based on the investigations done across the entire speed and load range, significant benefits were observed in the NOx and soot emissions. However, lowering the compression ratio had adverse effects on brake specific fuel consumption (BSFC), unburned hydrocarbon (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions, especially at low-load and high-speed operating points. To overcome these limitations, novel strategies including split-cooling system (SCS) and secondary exhaust valve opening (SEVO) are proposed in the present work. While the fuel injection parameters optimization specific to LCR could help to improve the BSFC, HC and CO emissions penalty to a reasonable extent, the SCS concept can provide further benefits by reducing the heat loss to coolant and improving the engine component temperatures. Increasing the residual gas fraction using the optimized SEVO concept could further improve the charge temperature leading to a further reduction in the BSFC, HC and CO emissions. The net benefits of the optimized LCR approach are quantified for the modified Indian drive cycle (MIDC) using a one-dimensional simulation tool. The results obtained show a signification reduction of 22% and 74% in NOx and soot emissions respectively as compared to the base 18 CR engine results. Moreover, the penalty in HC and CO emissions could be contained to a large extent resulting in only a slight penalty of 23% and 20% respectively. Furthermore, the higher BSFC with the LCR approach could be successfully addressed and the final values were found to be better than the stock compression ratio by 1.5%. Overall, the strategies proposed in the present work are found to be beneficial to develop modern diesel engines in compliance with the future emission regulations which demand extreme control on NOx and soot emissions. © IMechE 2020.