Is the Jeep Patriot truly a Jeep? While the first-generation sported a 7-slot grille and a Trail Rated badge on some models, many Jeep lovers scoffed at the idea of a Jeep based on the Dodge Caliber. From the cheaper than Lego plastic interior, to the buzzy powertrain, the Patriot was everything you’d expect a Caliber-based Jeep to be – bad.
Being the Jeep guy that I am, I was actually quite delighted to have a new Jeep Patriot in my driveway for a week. How much better is the interior? Is the powertrain still buzzy? Does it deserve that Trail Rated badge? Lets find out.
Quick, look at the above picture. Tell me, is it the first generation Jeep Patriot or the newly refreshed one? Can’t tell, can you?
The differences are barely noticeable if you don’t know what you are looking for. The main change is up front with the slightly reworked fascia. The fog lights are now integrated into the bumper, and the grille is now color-keyed. Out back the rear bumper no longer says Patriot (hooray!) and the wheels are now 17-inches in diameter.
While the design is essentially the same, the minor tweaks do wonders for the car’s overall appearance. It’s cleaner, and much easier on the eyes. I’d even go as far as to say it doesn’t look as cheap.
Inside you’ll find the same soft-touch dash panel that is making its way into many new vehicles in the Chrysler family. The door panels also feature soft touch material, and the gauges are now surrounded by chrome rings. The three-spoke steering wheel is lifted directly from the new Grand Cherokee parts bin.
The infotainment system looks the same as before, but now offers Garmin-based navigation. This is one of two navigation units offered. The other optional unit is not Garmin-based, but features voice command integration and live traffic. Sadly, the Garmin unit lacks both of these features. Ease of use is top notch though; if you’ve ever used a Garmin, you’ll feel right at home with this unit.
The first thing I noticed when I hopped into the Patriot was the seat material. If it’s leather, it feels cheap and sticky. If it’s not leather, it still feels cheap and sticky. Either way, it feels like an issue.
There is a storage bin above the glove compartment in front of the passenger seat. This storage bin is terrific. It actually may be one of the best packaging features inside the Patriot. It’s terrific for cell phones and sun glasses on a long road trip.
Overall the interior is a huge leap forward from the last-generation Patriot. The materials are better, the ergonomics are fine, and the storage is plentiful.
The CVT is OK. It definitely has the rubber band sensation if you wind it up, and sometimes it is slow to wind up if you slam the gas. Moving the gear selector to shift-it-yourself mode can sometime kick the process into gear (no pun intended) a little faster. But I would still prefer a traditional automatic transmission instead of this CVT unit.
The particular Patriot I had was equipped with Freedom Drive I. This system has a switch that activates the AWD Lock.
When it comes to off-roading, the Patriot can handle much more than you would ever give it credit for (when equipped with Freedom Drive II). I personally witnessed a Patriot cover the same trail that a Range Rover and Grand Cherokee drove down.
I drove the Jeep Patriot both to the MAMA Spring Rally, and up North for Memorial Day weekend. On the highway, the Patriot is as you would expect, somewhat noisy, and moves easily when driving in high winds. The laws of physics apply when driving a box down the highway North of 70 mph. With an EPA rating of 21/26, I averaged 23 mpg on one highway trip, while only managing 21 on another. Not amazing for a vehicle this small, but still well within what you would expect based on the EPA ratings.
While my Patriot tester had a sticker price of $27,800, it has a base price of $15,995. To say mine was nearly fully loaded would be a lie. At nearly $28,000, this Patriot was not the Trail Rated version with Freedom Drive II – it didn’t have the rear drop-down speakers, and it didn’t have the top trim navigation unit. Feels awfully expensive to not be fully loaded.
The Patriot isn’t the best small vehicle for running around town, and it’s not an amazing highway trip vehicle. No, the Patriot is for those who want to go light off-roading, or just want to enter the Jeep family.
Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Chrysler