The Jeep Patriot was designed to be a baby Liberty/Wrangler for those who want better fuel economy in an SUV with a Jeep logo on it. In 2007 when the Patriot was released, there was no Renegade, or Cherokee to provide for a fuel efficient alternative, your other choices were the Compass, which looks like a baby Grand Cherokee, the tank Liberty, and the family-sized Grand Cherokee and Commander. Now that the Jeep lineup has the Renegade, Compass, and Cherokee, where does the Patriot fit in? Well, it won't for long, because 2017 is the last model year unfortunately, but when it was around, it served as the value Jeep. Most Chrysler dealers seemed to option the Patriot towards the low end, while the Compass, which is the same damn car, gets optioned as a more premium car, even though they could both be optioned at impressively low prices. Sure, you could find a Patriot brand new with the bells and whistles, but I could never find a base model Compass at a couple of the dealers I looked up online. Plus, the Patriot base model is cheaper than the Compass base, at $18,040, and sometimes lower for the earlier model years. That doesn't sound so low, but when you compare other compact SUVs in the class, most of them start in the low to mid $20,000s, making the Patriot the cheapest compact SUV in America. *cue eagle soar and explosion* Meaning if you're low on budget, you can get a newer 4WD SUV for a lot lower than the competition. And that's what I did.
I traded in my 2010 Ford Focus SE with the 5 Speed Manual, for a 2013 Jeep Patriot Sport with the 5 Speed Manual, mostly because I wanted something with more room and 4WD, because snow I guess. And maybe mud if I can find it. The exterior styling of the Patriot is conservative, for a boxy SUV. Compared to the Fiat-based Renegade, the Patriot feels more traditional Jeep. Although not as straight-up box boxy as the old AMC Cherokees, which I love, it's a more rounded box, if that makes sense. The headlights are round, and they could be a bit brighter, and the rear looks like a baby Liberty. One thing the hatch does not do is allow the glass to be opened, which is a bummer. Now I can't haul wood longer than the interior of the car. I'm just going to have to stick with wood the same size as the car. (I don't know what use I'd have if the glass did open, but it'd be nice to have.) What's also nice is the rear windshield wiper, which coming from a Focus sedan is a welcome feature.
The interior is LARGE in comparison to the Focus. The dashboard is huge. I don't know why Chrysler can't design a normal dashboard, but I could sleep on this dashboard. It's just really deep and I don't know why. Getting into other cars, and it immediately feels like you're on top of the hood, but it's just because the Jeep makes you sit far back for some reason. Also, why can't Chrysler design a thin A pillar? It's huge, a small car could hide in that blind spot. Same for the C pillar, the blind spot in the back corner of the car in unbelieveable, and Chrysler just keeps churning out cars with horrible visibility in the back corner. It's just not safe. But, like I said, it's very roomy, there's plenty of legroom in the front and back seat, although the bench in the back does not curve up, it's very flat, but the back does recline, so that's a nice feature. In the front, the armrest moves forward for optimal comfort, and it's soft, and for your left arm, only the top of the door is padded, not the bottom. Believe me, I'm impressed that the top of the door is even padded, but I never find myself comfortably putting my elbow up there, it mostly lands on the hard plastic bottom armrest.
I've driven other Compass and Patriots and one thing that bothers me is the steering is very loose. It has decent feel, but it always feels like the car is out of alignment, and this is something I've noticed in other Patriot/Compasses, it's just very loose steering. I have the 2.4 L 4 Cylinder with the 5 Speed Manual, and it's not too shabby. The shift travel is longish, but not too different from my Focus, although first to second gear is a bit hard to shift into. The clutch isn't heavy, and with the manual, it's got some nice power to it. Nothing that will plant you in your seat, but it certainly surprises me everytime I hit the pedal. 0-60 MPH is achieved in an estimated 8 to 9 seconds, which is fine. I've driven the CVT and the 6 Speed Automatic, and honestly, the CVT is fine, especially if you want good gas mileage. The 6 Speed Automatic is great too, it just gets lesser gas mileage. The brakes don't inspire the most confidence; takes a bit to stop the car.
My Patriot is the Sport, which is the base model, but nice try, Chrysler, trying to disguise the base model with a cool sounding name. Now, you can option the Sport to be pretty nice, however, mine is rather base. Meaning I have manual windows, manual locks, and manual mirrors. However, I do have air conditioning, 4WD, nice visors (my Focus had these horrible, thin plastic visors that didn't stay in place), a nice sounding 4-speaker AM/FM CD radio, light-up cup holders, hill start assist, and a complimentary flashlight in the back of the car. All of this, but I can't have power anything. I swear, Chrysler finds the weirdest ways to option their cars. Some people might want crank windows, and manual locks, and this is pretty much the only brand new car you can get that will let you do that without getting a truck, but it just seems odd that you get all the rest of the things you'd want, but no power convenience. Whatever. So to give more info on that list:
- The air conditioning is nice. The fan speeds are more than just four to choose from, and they push a lot of air.
- The visors don't have a light, but they do extend when you move it to the door.
- The speakers, although could sound better with a subwoofer, sound damn good for being 4 speakers in the door.
- The cup holders light up the same color green as the dashboard when the lights are on, which I love.
- I don't know if it's called hill start assist, but when I'm on a hill, the car will hold itself in place, allowing me to have some time to get the car in gear, which I don't need but is certainly a nice feature.
- That flashlight kicks ass, and if I had the better sound system, I'd also have the liftgate flip down speakers, so when your hatch is open, the speakers can face the outside, allowing for maximum entertainment if you do things outdoors with your car near you.
Also, because I have the Sport, I have the 16 inch wheels. Good news is when I have to replace them, they're cheaper because they're regular tires, but the bad news is they look tiny and the wheels look dumb compared to the 17 inch wheels.
The road feel in my Sport model with the cloth manual seats is not soft. You will feel bumps, not every single one, it certainly could ride worse, but when you do hit bumps, it sort of bounces the car. The front seats are not very comfortable, not a lot of padding in them, and they're very flat. The car handles decent for what it is, I wouldn't take turns very fast in it, but the body roll isn't as bad as you'd think. One thing that's great is the 4WD, or I guess the on-demand AWD. The Patriot and Compass have a 4WD lock lever, so when you want constant 50/50 4WD, or so Jeep says, it stays on. Now, I'm not sure it does when that is off, because I read that the Dodge Caliber, which is pretty much the same damn car, operates its AWD system as front wheel drive most of the time, but sends power to the rear wheels when slips occur OR when the driver hits the accelerator hard. So I'm not sure if the Patriot/Compass are front wheel drive until slips occur, or if they too send power to the rear wheels when high acceleration happens. Either way, it works great in the snow, the 4WD kicks right in, and it inspires a lot of confidence.
One thing I will say about the Patriot is I make a lot of excuses for it. Even though it doesn't have the smoothest ride, or the best fuel economy, I just chalk it up to it being a Jeep, and I just roll with it. That's something no other car can offer. Yeah, I could've gotten a Dodge Caliber AWD, and it would probably feel exactly the same. And I'd probably not really like it so much. I have nothing against Dodge, it's just not a Jeep. That's the thing I think a lot of people will feel when they drive this car. I could've gotten a Honda CR-V, which is a lot smoother, and has much better gas mileage. And I probably would hate it. I didn't want a compact SUV with AWD. I wanted a Jeep. That's why even though the Patriot ranks 19 out of 19 on U.S. News and World Report car reviews, a lot of people buy this car. The car beat out, in terms of sales, a lot of great cars in 2015 and 2014, as you can see here. The Patriot is a great compact SUV, but a lot of people will look elsewhere, even up the Jeep line to the Cherokee because it's simply a better car that can compete with a Honda CR-V. The Patriot is a great value SUV, they're cheap to buy, cheap to maintain (hopefully), and have a great 4WD system. I love this car because I love the Jeep look and feel, and if that's your thing, this will be a great car.