Jeep Patriot — Small crossover with iconic Jeep style

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Jeep Patriot has a charm about it, an endearing quality that gives it an appealing demeanor despite some shortcomings. We like the rugged iconic sport utility stance with a hood that sits out front in the driver's view — its upright Jeep grille from the past; its large round "Jeep" eyeball lights; its good seating position behind a back-to-basics dashboard layout that proved a rather delightful break from the electronic complexity of modern switchgear and "infotainment" systems; and its maneuverability with a tidy 35.6-foot turning circle.

The Patriot can be outfitted with four-wheel drive equipment that gives it a modicum of off-road capability. But reality is that very few people will buy the Patriot to leave the road, they will buy it for bad-weather driving, and in that regard it will deliver.

The big news for 2014 is that the Patriot can now be outfitted with a standard six-speed automatic. When mated to the 2.4-liter four-cylinder producing 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque the Patriot offers reasonable performance. The automatic is standard on most all-wheel drive models and optional on the front-drive Sport and Latitude. Performance by our seat-of-the-pants guess would be about 9.5 seconds from 0-to-60.

The standard engine is a raucous 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. It can be mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or a five-speed manual, but even so we don't recommend this engine, which makes the Patriot one of the slowest vehicles in the compact crossover class.

Gas mileage is not stellar with either engine. The 2.4-liter with the automatic is rated at 21 city, 27 highway and 23 combined. With the CVT it's even worse at 20/23/21. The smaller engine with front-wheel drive and the automatic transmission is rated at 21/28/24.

We enjoyed the drive in the Patriot with all-wheel drive, the six-speed and the larger engine. It offers nothing out of the ordinary, just good, old fashioned transportation. It will seat four comfortably and will haul 23 cubic feet of cargo behind the seats. Fold the seats down and the cargo hold measures 63.4 cubic feet, a bit smaller than most current small crossover models, but good enough to accomplish a myriad of hauling duties. Storage space includes a big open bin above the glovebox and a small bin behind the center-console cupholders good for storing a cellphone.

The Patriot comes with two all-wheel systems, Freedom Drive-I and Off-Road Freedom Drive-II. Drive-I is best for bad-weather situations and comes with a lockable center coupling should you find yourself in deep snow or muck. Here's the thing. Freedom Drive-II includes all-terrain tires, hill descent control, tow hooks, skid plates, and a low range for steep grades, rock crawling and log climbing — but it also includes the carryover CVT. If you want all the off-road capability the Patriot can muster you won't get the six-speed. Go figure.

The interior looks nice even with considerable plastic. The gauges are easy to read and the switchgear such as the three-dial climate control system harkens back a few years, but it is effective. The 6.5-inch touchscreen readout offers standard Chrysler audio controls and readouts, which means they are generally user friendly. Our test vehicle included Chrysler's UConnect infotainment system with voice command and Bluetooth connectivity, a 40 GB hard drive and a couple of clever features including a cargo area lamp that pops out to become a rechargeable flashlight and Boston Acoustic speakers that flip down from the raised liftgate to provide music for a tailgate party.

If you want to go bare bones, the Patriot has bragging rights as the lowest-priced compact crossover on the market starting at $16,990 including destination charge. But before you head out the door, you may want to know that it comes with old-fashioned roll-down windows, no air conditioning and sans power locks. You will at least want to add the Power Value Group which includes full power accessories and keyless entry. That's $1,360 more. And air conditioning is always a good thing. It runs another $900 taking the bottom line up to $19,250. So much for bragging rights.

More realistically the way to go is the mid-level Latitude outfitted to suit your tastes and needs. It starts at $21,090. The 4x4 Latitude with Freedom Drive-I and a handful of options carried a bottom line of $26,055. The well-equipped Limited starts at $24,990. Our 4x4 Limited 2.4-liter four-banger with the six-speed automatic, hill start assist and numerous extras plus $2,390 in options came to $26,055.

Base price: $16,990; as driven, $26,055
Engine: 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 172 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 165 foot-pounds @ 4,400 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 103.7 inches
Length: 173.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,331 pounds
Turning circle: 35.6 feet
Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds
Luggage capacity: 23 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 63.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 13.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 27 highway, 21 city
0-60: 9.5 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rouge

The Good
• Traditional Jeep look
• Above average off-road capability for a crossover
• Clear gauges, easy-to-use switchgear

The Bad
• Underpowered base engine

The Ugly
• Below average fuel economy