The Jeep Patriot is an inexpensive compact crossover that offers above-average off-roading capability for what is, admittedly, a very pavement-bound segment. In other areas, such as fuel economy, interior quality, acceleration and overall refinement, the Patriot lags behind the majority of its competitors.
Based on the now-defunct Dodge Caliper compact hatchback, the Patriot first launched back in 2007 with eccentric styling and a seriously downmarket interior. Since then, the crossover has been significantly upgraded with styling that mimics the excellent Grand Cherokee SUV and an improved cabin.
With simple, user-friendly controls and a simple but attractive design highlighted by a three-spoke steering wheel and circular A/C vents, the interior is pleasant and functional but still marred by an abundance of hard, cheap plastics. There's 23 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the rear seat and 53.5 cubes with the rear seats folded - figures that compare favorably with the rest of the pint-sized crossover segment.
The Patriot utilizes a pair of four-cylinder motors developed as a joint venture between Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Hyundai. The base engine is a 2.0-liter mill with 158 horsepower and 141 lb-ft of torque that is slightly overwhelmed by the vehicle's mass, though highway mileage is respectable at up to 30 mpg. The zero-to-60 benchmark comes in on the wrong side of 10 seconds.
A 2.4-liter unit provides a bit more power: 172 ponies and 165 lb-ft of torque. Though mileage falls with the bigger motor, zero-to-60 times are also trimmed to around nine seconds.
A five-speed manual transmission comes standard on base models, while a new six-speed automatic is available on all front-wheel-drive Patriots. Fuel economy for the 2.0-liter is rated at 23/30 mpg and 21/28 mpg with the manual and transmissions, respectively, while the 2.4-liter checks in at 23/28 mpg for the stick and 21/28 for the auto.
Being a Jeep, the Patriot can be upgraded from its standard front-wheel-drive configuration to a "Freedom-Drive I" four-wheel drive system - but only with the larger four-cylinder. An available Freedom-Drive II Group further prepares the crossover for off-road duty with low range gearing for its noisy and crude CVT (the only gearbox available with the package), 17-inch all-terrain tires on aluminum rims, a one-inch raised ride height and skid plates that protect the transmission and oil pan from undercarriage-ravaging rocks. Even with those extras, owners should not expect the Patriot to be a billy goat in the rough stuff.
The Patriot 4x4 is rated at 23/28 with the five-speed manual, 21/27 with the six-speed automatic and 20/23 mpg with the CVT and Freedom-Drive II.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Patriot is offered in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels.
The entry-level Sport comes equipped with the 2.0-liter motor and the five-speed manual as standard in addition to cruise control, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an AUX input, roof rails, 60/40 split rear seats and 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps - notably, expected conveniences such as A/C, power windows and power locks are not included. However, the later two can be added with the Power Value Package, which also brings heated mirrors, body-color exterior trim and keyless entry. A/C and 17-inch alloy wheels are also optional.
The Latitude adds all of the Sport's available features in addition to heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a height-adjustable driver's seat and reclining rear seats.
The Limited builds on the Latitude's features with the 2.4L/six-speed auto combo as standard in addition to leather upholstery, automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver's seat, a trip computer and upgraded interior appearance items. For extra stopping power, it also swaps out the lesser trim levels' rear drum brakes for rear disc brakes.
Highlights from the options list include a sunroof, "Katzkin" leather upholstery, a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system and a Uconnect infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchreen, voice command functionality, Bluetooth connectivity and available navigation functionality.
Buyers can choose from two option packages: Altitude and High Altitude. The Altitude package adds gloss black trim on both ends, black roof rails, model-specific seats upholstered in a combination of cloth and vinyl, heated front seats and black aluminum wheels.
Offered exclusively on 4x4 models equipped with an automatic transmission, the High Altitude package bundles leather upholstery, a power sunroof, a power six-way driver's seat and 17-inch Mineral Gray wheels.
The Patriot comes standard with traction and stability control systems in addition to dual front and full-length side curtain airbags, but front side airbags - a standard item on nearly every other new vehicle - are an extra-cost option.
Unless the modest off-roading capability provided by the Patriot is critically import to you, we strongly recommend checking out one of the Jeep's more accomplished competitors. These include the Hyundai Tucson, which boasts an attractive design and a generous amount of standard features; the eccentrically-styled but sporty Nissan Juke; and the distinctive Kia Sportage.