Inexpensive new Patriot fills roll as soft-roader
I like the Jeep Patriot for what it is, an inexpensive sport-utility truck that’s available with four-wheel-drive.
In that, it’s simple and straight forward and has a much Jeepier look than its twin, the Jeep Compass. Let’s get this out of the way up front. Compass and Patriot are the same mechanically, but Patriot looks square and boxy like a Jeep, or the old Cherokee, and Compass is more rounded. Word on the street is that women buy the Compass in larger numbers and the Patriot is a guy buy.
The best line I’ve heard calls both soft-roaders, as they are less likely to be taken out in the muck than a Wrangler, with its high ground clearance and big off-roading tires. Indeed, these Jeeps are most likely to turn up roughing it at a soccer match or Pick N Save lot. Jeep will tell you both can be equipped to be Trail Rated and go off-road, but in reality, these are mainly Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V competitors.
And there, Patriot competes on price. The base front-drive Sport model starts at a modest $15,995, while the upscale Limited 4×4 lists at $25,895. I drove a “rugged brown” (metallic bronze) Patriot Latitude 4×4, which begins at $23,395. With options and a whopping $995 delivery charge mine was $26,055. That’s still moderate for a compact 4-wheeler. Note that the Compass is priced a bit higher.
Both Patriot and Compass were spruced up and are early release 2014 models. Their interiors have been updated and mechanically they add a new 6-speed automatic transmission. After a week aboard Patriot, including a drive to Indianapolis and back, I can vouch for the new tranny. It shifts well and helps the ute get decent gas mileage.
Combined with a 2.4-liter I4 with variable valve timing, the Patriot averaged nearly 27 mpg on the highway, exactly the EPA highway rating. The EPA estimates it’ll get 21 mpg in city drives. The Jeep’s engine delivers 172 horsepower, which one would normally consider quite reasonable for a small ute. But this one labors under heavy acceleration and groans a lot. Just running around town it’s slow on the uptake, but is fine for grocery runs.
Patriot rides on a 103.7-inch wheelbase and the ride can get a little choppy on cement highways with all their seams. Yet I didn’t feel too tired after my 600-mile roundtrip to Indy.
Handling is OK, but with a little more play in the wheel than I’d like and the ute feels a bit top heavy in quick turns. Plus wind buffets this blocky vehicle along treeless I65. So if you’re a prairie dweller, be forewarned. Yet if you’re a hunter or angler, you can load a bunch of gear into its generous (23.0 cu.ft.) cargo area, and fold the rear seat backs down for even more space. Jeeps says Patriot will carry a 1,300 lb. payload and if you need to haul a small camper of boat, that’s possible. This is rated to trailer up to 2,000 lbs.
Braking is good, coming from four wheel disc brakes with brake assist and stability control. The 4WD is full time too.
Inside, Patriot looks nice with a dark brown over tan interior. But the dash is a fairly plain hard plastic while the seats are a pleasant tan cloth. There is pewter-look trim on the steering wheel hub and a chrome look around the air vents, shifter and on the door releases.
I liked the Jeep’s flat seats, which were very comfortable on my trip. Plus, for our wintery climate there were two-level heated seats up front, a benefit at this price point.
Visibility from Patriot is excellent too and all the dash gauges and controls are easy to see and reach, save the rearview mirror, which is quite a reach, even though I had my seat fairly far forward. Head room is generous front and rear and legroom is good up front, moderate in back.
The thick, leather steering wheel is tilt only and has a large collar covering its column under the dash, so getting in and out as I had it adjusted meant taking care not to bump my knee. It’s a tight fit. Trip computer and cruise control also are on the wheel’s hub.
Patriot is no luxury ute, so wind and road noise are more prominent than in some small utes, plus it comes with key start, not a problem for me, but more manufacturers are going to keyless these days.
There are power mirrors here, but no automatic headlights and the seats are manually adjusted, again, not a problem in my mind and at this price.
Patriot’s center stack features two air vents atop it, along with a touch-screen video screen for the radio. It has easily used wide buttons on the screen while tuning and other buttons around the screen are smaller. Jeep’s three large climate control knobs are simple to use.
The test ute included three packages full of electronic upgrades, including a security system, Chrysler’s Uconnect system for audiophiles wanting to link everything together, plus voice command capabilities. The packages also added remote start to the key fob, adjustable roof rails and a few other goodies.
I liked that the sun visors flip to the side and slide, the HomeLink system overhead and the small pen holder built into the console, below the center stack. Two cupholders are standard, naturally, and there’s a small open bin between the seats.
This is a nice low-cost 4-wheeling option that’ll get you into the woods, if needed. It’ll haul and deliver good gas mileage too. But if you plan to do major off-roading, opt for the Wrangler, and if you want spiffier, more modern looks, wait for the new Cherokee coming this fall when Compass is likely to go away. But you’ll likely have to pay more for the Cherokee!
Stats: 2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4×4
Hits: Inexpensive 4-wheel drive vehicle that gets decent mpg and is useful for hauling cargo. Looks more Jeepy than Compass, with good visibility and comfy flat seats that feature 2-level heat.
Misses: Labored acceleration and groaning engine. Feels top heavy in turns and there’s a bit too much play in the steering wheel, and a big collar beneath it that can bump a driver’s knee.
Made in: Belvidere, Ill.
Engine: 2.4-liter I4 VVT, 172 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 103.7 in.
Cargo: 23.0 cu.ft
Payload: 1,300 lbs.
Tow: Max 2,000 lbs.
Base Price: $23,395
Dealer’s Price: $22,578
Package 2GB (Security/cargo convenience group, security alarm, tire pressure monitor, auto-dimming rearview mirror, vehicle info center, universal garage door opener, adjustable roof rail crossbars, soft tonneau cover, 6-speed automatic w/AutoStick), $495
Uconnect 430 CD/DVE/MP3/HDD, 6.5-inch touch screen display,40 gb hard drive, $695
Uconnect voice command w/Bluetooth, auto-dimming rearview mirror w/microphone, remote USB port, satellite radio (1-yr.), remote start, $475
Test vehicle: $26,055
Sources: Jeep www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Jeep and Autoblog