What You Get
Despite being a relatively new vehicle, the Patriot has received a significant makeover. In March 2007 Jeep Australia introduced the sleek Compass compact SUV and added the Patriot to its range just five months later.
The Compass, priced from $32,490, was aimed principally at female buyers while the Patriot (from $29,990) was more traditionally Jeep in image and the marketing experts believed it would be the choice of male customers.
In fact, men and women alike chose the Patriot over the Compass, almost as soon as the Patriot went on sale. Its cheap looking interior was the biggest negative but Jeep already had plans in store.
This latest Patriot reflects the thinking within Chrysler-Jeep that improved design and classier materials were needed if the inside story was to match the exterior appeal. Expect it to win many converts to the brand.
Under The Hood
The Patriot is offered with just one engine, which is a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol unit in combination with either a five-speed manual transmission or a CVT automatic with torque converter for smoother launch and six 'virtual' ratios (a constantly variable transmission, by definition, not having any ratios!).
Performance is about average for the class. Torque is modest below about 3000 rpm, but fuel economy is exceptional at 8.4 overall for the manual and 9.1 for the automatic.
A more attractive and functional interior is the high point of the latest Patriot. Where the previous model had a jarring mix of colours and materials for an overall cheap effect, the 2009 Patriot has a cabin to equal most rivals in the class. An elegant dark grey colour is used throughout and there has been a major rethink about what customers expect.
Padding has been added to the armrests, stain-repellent upholstery is standard and the cloth is of good quality. The entire dashboard has been redesigned. Hard plastics are still used in places but not where it matters, such as under one's elbows!
Exterior & Styling
The Patriot's exterior is a clear expression of trademark Jeep themes so that the vehicle will not be confused with any other brand.
From its seven-slot grille flanked by round headlights through those chunky squared guards to its tailgate, it offers a strong statement of style which is entirely in keeping with its character (even though a little more 'grunt' would be welcome in the underbonnet department). Classic five-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels are standard and they look great.
On The Road
Jeep's engineers have resisted the trend to electrically assisted steering in favour of the more traditional hydraulic power assistance. So the Patriot has more steering feel than many current vehicles, which is particularly welcome in a softroader unlikely to see action in testing conditions. Ride comfort is good. The anti-lock brakes have been calibrated for offroad conditions and work well. Acronyms stud the specifications list, including BA (Brake Assist), ASTC (All-Speed Traction Control) and ERM (Electronic Roll Mitigation).
Welcome, too, is Jeep's Freedom Drive-on demand system which adds rear-wheel drive to the default front-wheel drive whenever the vehicle senses (within one wheel revolution) that it might help. On dirt roads you can engage 4WD, but there is no low-range. Despite the absence of a costly and heavy transfer case, the Patriot proved surprisingly competent offroad with its 21 degree approach angle, 20 degree breakover angle and 33 degree departure angle.
Despite being a Jeep, the Patriot experiences the limitations of most softroaders but has better offroad credentials than many. Don't expect it to follow a Wrangler anywhere. The CVT automatic transmission does not suit the character of the car nearly as well as the five-speed manual.
There is a fantastic value story here with the Patriot on offer from just $29,990 driveaway. The CVT transmission adds $3000. Choose the CVT-only Limited model with its leather interior and you'll pay a further $2000 (that is, $35,990 driveaway).
But even the standard Patriot Sport is well equipped with stain-resistant upholstery, air, removable cargo (self-charging) lamp, fold-flat front passenger's seat and security alarm. The Jeep brand values are especially appealing in the compact SUV sector.
The Patriot offers class-leading value for money, especially in base manual Sport guise. You pay $29,990 on-the-road for many hatchbacks. Standout rivals include the stylish Subaru Forester with its appealing horizontally opposed engine, the Toyota RAV4 with its mini-Land Cruiser theme and reputation in the bush, and the Mitsubishi Outlander which also tells a good value story. But the Patriot backs its tough Jeep image with the best fuel economy in the class, which could prove the deciding factor for many drawn by the brand's unique heritage.
Unique Jeep image without the old compromises, excellent offroad ability, class-leading economy
lack of torque at low rpm, no diesel engine option