As the boxiest member of the lineup, the Jeep Patriot has aged reasonably well. Open the door, though, and it’s evident that the stark interior has become quite dated since its debut as a 2007 model, followed by freshening for 2011. Compared to the far newer Cherokee and Renegade, the Jeep Patriot seems like a relic of the past.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for moderately priced transportation and don’t crave the latest equipment, this comparative old-timer still has a lot to offer.
In urban environments, the Patriot promises easy maneuverability. If an off-road journey lies in your future, this upright-stance Jeep can deliver authentic rural capabilities.
The original Patriot was noisy, austere, and sluggish on the road. Since then, Jeep has managed to enhance its appeal. Today, in the twilight of its lifespan, the sensible-size Patriot melds rugged Jeep lines with civility, resulting in a practical family transporter.
That boxy, still-bold exterior contains a highly useful interior, yielding ample cargo space. Rear seatbacks flip forward easily. Getting in and out is especially easy, helped by the Patriot’s high roofline. In both front and rear, passengers enjoy abundant headroom. Oddly, the seating position is somewhat low, facing a rather tall, encompassing dashboard.
A 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder serves as base engine. Four-wheel-drive models get a 2.4-liter engine that produces 172 horsepower. A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard with front-drive, but a 6-speed automatic transmission is available.
Also available is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), bundled with the Freedom Drive II four-wheel-drive system. That system gives Patriot Jeep’s Trail Rated badge, as well as moderate capability for chugging through sand and mud. A suitably equipped Patriot can even handle mild rock-crawling, helped by the CVT’s Low range (absent from the Freedom Drive I CVT).
For 2016, Jeep Patriot is available in Sport and Latitude trim levels. The Limited model is gone, replaced with option packages that include much of its equipment. A new Patriot Sport SE package raises ride height on front-wheel-drive models, adds tow hooks to 4WD models, and brings such upgrades as heated mesh front seats.
In federal crash tests, the Patriot received four stars for overall safety, including an especially worrisome three-star score in frontal-crash and rollover testing. Testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the Patriot Good in most categories, but Poor in the tougher small-overlap frontal test.
Patriot Sport ($17,595) includes cruise control, roof rails, foglamps, tilt steering, cruise control, and 16-inch alloy wheels (17-inch with 4WD). Windows are manual and air conditioning remains optional, but the 2016 Sport gains hands-free Uconnect and SiriusXM Radio. Four-wheel drive adds $2,000. (Prices are MSRP and do not include the $995 destination charge.)
Patriot Latitude ($22,195) adds air conditioning, power windows and locks, heated cloth front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, and new automatic headlights. Four-wheel drive is available ($3,300). A High Altitude package includes leather-trimmed seats, a power driver’s seat, sunroof, and painted 17-inch wheels.
Safety equipment includes electronic stability control with roll mitigation, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags.
Next to the new Renegade, the Jeep Patriot looks dated. Yet it still looks rugged: a boxy, city-sized crossover, laden with Jeep design heritage. Some frontal design cues are borrowed from the iconic, hard-traveling Wrangler, while slab-sided styling harks back to the old-model Cherokee.
Body proportions are squared-off, but don’t convey a refrigerator aura. Careful detailing keeps the exterior simple, yet purposeful. Such familiar elements as the seven-slot grille and stocky door handles demonstrate an appealing blend of civility and masculine themes.
The Patriot’s upright exterior translates to useful interior space.
There is a sense of cheapness in the cabin details, however. Updating since its introduction has brightened and softened the cabin, but it’s hard not to notice the low-rent materials and hard, dull plastic. In addition, you get a strange, tall dashboard layout, along with a relatively low seating position.
On the plus side, the interior is versatile and practical, providing good cargo space and decent space for four passengers. A fifth might squeeze in, but won’t like it. At least, the Patriot’s tall roofline makes entry/exit easy.
Seating comfort is less appealing, with front seats that fail to provide much support. Rear seats are somewhat stiff, feeling short on padding.
Noise and vibration become apparent underway.
Outward visibility excels, helped by the boxy body and plentiful glass. A rearview camera is now available on both trim levels.
Jeep Patriot scores well in a couple of areas but fails to impress in others. Maneuverability is excellent. So is the four-wheel-drive Patriot’s true Trail Rated ability. Otherwise, the driving experience is unremarkable.
A few years back, the Patriot improved considerably when the original CVT gave way to a responsive, smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. Now, three systems are available: front-wheel drive and a choice of two four-wheel drive setups.
Snowbelt residents who plan only mild or no off-roading are best off with Freedom Drive I, which includes a locking center differential and either a manual transmission or 6-speed automatic. Hardy off-roaders will be tempted by Freedom Drive II, which includes a Low range for true off-the-pavement activities. It’s a worthwhile system, but you must accept the CVT, which has the Low range built-in. Reflecting the traits of the worst CVTs, it’s short on responsiveness and suffers pauses reminiscent of a rubber band, accompanied by droning sounds.
A Patriot is especially useful for urban tasks: a joy to maneuver and easy to park. It’s also acceptable on the highway, or for modest off-roading on a budget. If you want more than the minimum, this Jeep falls well short on refinement and sophistication. Ride quality, while satisfactory, can become a little more active than in newer small-size crossovers.
For its size, the Patriot isn’t all that fuel-efficient. Thriftiest is the 2.0-liter engine with manual shift, EPA-rated at 23/30 mpg City/Highway with front-drive, followed by the 2.4-liter with automatic at 23/29 mpg. Pick that CVT-equipped Freedom Drive II package, and the estimate drops to 20/23 mpg City/Highway. Other variants fall between those estimates.
The Jeep Patriot is a dated product so it lacks the latest safety features and technology and is built on a structure that’s now 10 years old. However, it offers value, especially in the case of the front-wheel-drive model. Look for deals or wait for the next-generation version.
Driving impressions by Bengt Halvorson, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.