Stepping into the Jeep showroom will pull your attention in many different directions. Huge Wrangler four-door models stand next to cute Renegades in bright colors — and then there’s the Patriot.
It’s hard not to feel a bit of compassion for the boxy crossover and its “that’s me in the corner” attitude. With its old-school, boxy exterior, the Patriot hearkens back to the early days of Jeep brand when looks were more about toughness and aesthetics was merely a word that rhymed with “athletics.” Fans of the original Cherokee design are still drawn to the edgy corners, boxed wheel wells and that iconic grille.
According to Jeep, Patriot will be getting a full makeover next year (check out the new model at the Chicago Auto Show Feb. 11–20), so this 2017 is the last model year where you may see such devotion to the Cherokee’s “edginess.” Nonetheless, Patriot manages to combine serious Jeep lines with enough capability and civility to make it a practical family crossover. You won’t hear me say anything about Patriot being the best equipped, but its value is hard to beat.
The Patriot’s exterior shape provides lots of extra space for the interior and its passengers. This is a highly functional cabin with clean gauge treatments, some hard plastic surfaces within the dash and an intuitive layout for audio and climate controls.
Thanks to that tall roof line, entry and exit are easy and there is plenty of head room in front and back. Rear seat backs flip forward to easily add to convenience and cargo space. The Patriot doesn’t try to impress with fancy materials or design; on the contrary, it almost revels in its simplicity and rugged capability.
Under the hood, a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-four can be mated to either a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The 2.0-liter engine is only offered with front-wheel drive. I have tested the four-wheel-drive Patriot with a 2.4-liter inline-four that puts out 172 horsepower and is mated to either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
If you opt for the Freedom Drive II package, you get a true four-wheel-drive Patriot. That package offers upscale off-road capability with hill descent control, skid plates, tow hooks and the CVT. I found the CVT to be average at best and definitely not the kind of response I’d want off-roading. I’d have to recommend the six-speed automatic as a more enjoyable option.
The front-wheel-drive Patriot will be a great fit for most families that plan to stay on the pavement. The Freedom Drive I package adds a locking center differential that can split power between the axles for maximum traction in tough conditions, and the aforementioned Freedom Drive II package adds a Trail Rated badge and brings with it a simulated low range (which locks the CVT into a low ratio).
With a base price at $18,000, the Sport model is not as sporty as it is sparse — but that is an essential part of the original Jeep DNA, too, so it may be viewed as a plus for some enthusiasts. The Latitude trim level adds some cozy comfort features, including a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a household-style power outlet. The Latitude is also optionally available with features like automatic climate control, a trip computer and a Boston Acoustics audio system.
Fuel economy for the Patriot is 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway (a combined mpg of 23) for the 2.4-liter engine with the six-speed automatic transmission. This is not exceptional, but average for this crossover class.
Again, the Patriot does what it needs to do to get the job done with little fanfare. This trait of Jeep has made it an endearing brand and it makes the Patriot a value in the class.