Auto Review: The Patriot is Jeep’s thrifty utility

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Jan. 30, 2014
- Contributed Photo

Funny how an automotive icon like Jeep evolves over time, not just in terms of the signature vehicle, but in the offerings found in its range of vehicles. Jeep used to basically offer variations of one vehicle (the Jeep) but over time expanded into SUVs, autos (the Jeep Eagle line) and even pickup trucks. These various vehicles are interesting in that they really do reflect the times and market conditions when they were launched, and are a great portal into what types of cars the public desired for their personal transportation needs.

These days Jeep has the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited to carry the iconic Jeep legacy forward, as well as the all-new Cherokee that we’ll review in the very near future, and the sophisticated Grand Cherokee. Jeep has also introduced some models aimed at fuel efficiency, like today’s test subject: the Jeep Patriot. This compact SUV is aimed toward all-weather utility and economy, wrapped in the kind of rugged persona for which the Jeep name is famous.

Riding on a 103.7-inch wheelbase, the Patriot can be purchased with three trim variations: Sport, Latitude and Limited. It’s also available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and the latter drivetrain offers two 4WD systems called Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II. Engines include a 2-liter Inline Four with 158 horsepower (front drive only), and a 2.4-liter Inline Four with 172 horsepower. The transmission is either a five-speed manual or a six-speed Powertech automatic gearbox. We tested a Latitude 4X4 model with the 2.4 engine, six-speed automatic and Freedom Drive I. This is an all-wheel drive system that operates full time, with a lever to lock the center differential for use in more extreme conditions. This, in combination with unusually good ground clearance for the class, makes the Patriot an excellent companion during a snowstorm. Acceleration is adequate and handling is likewise secure, with some road noise but other-wise a quiet ride. The new six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and no doubt helps overall fuel economy, but can be a bit abrupt when accelerating using the cruise control. Freedom Drive II adds even more off-road capability if required.

The interior of the Patriot Latitude is a mix of versatility and durability, with front seats that are firm but needing a bit more lateral support. The driver’s instrument cluster is simple and offers a traditional analog look with modern touches. The steering wheel tilts but doesn’t telescope, which may make finding the ideal driving position more elusive. The rear seats are firm like the fronts, and offer acceptable room and can be reclined slightly. The cargo area looks quite durable, and with the rear and front passenger seatbacks folded, the cargo space becomes a useful 63.5 cubic feet.

Overall, this is a durable, flexible compact SUV that also offers decent fuel economy as well as a reasonable price of admission. The 2014 Jeep Patriot 4X4 Latitude is EPA rated 21 MPG city/27 highway and has a base price of $23,795. With options, our sticker came to $26,875.

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