Side Exterior View - 2010 Jeep Patriot FWD 4-door SportEnlarge Photo
Jeep's small crossover utility vehicle--based on the Dodge Caliber--is called either Patriot or Compass depending on body style. The tested Patriot Sport 4 X 4's rear is square. It looks like a mini-me HUMMER with small side windows and a pushed forward windshield.
While this Jeep offers a more supple suspension than the same brand's truckish Liberty, it still lacks refinement. For instance, the Mixmaster-like continuously variable trashmission, poorly executed interior pieces and thirsty 2.4-liter, 172-hp, engine (fill-up range to less than 300 miles), gives one reason to ponder whether the Trail Rated badge is mistaken. Shouldn't it be Trial Rated?
Jeep says it improved the interior's materials. Indeed, you'll find low-sheen hard plastic with bright accents, but it's still rife with flubs such as unsightly flashing near the speedometer and sharp-metal edge seat tracks. Ergonomics need further improvement. For example, there isn't enough room between the throttle pedal and the heater's hose. The result: it snags your hiking boots and toasts your right foot. Reflections mar instrument-panel legibility; some displays wash out.
Switches and controls need improvement. For instance, the fan knob's circular surround contains tiny AC, defrost and recirculation buttons. The cruise control stalk resides in a tight space between steering wheel spokes, as if it were intended for a different wheel. The turn signal stalk incorporates the headlight switch, fog light switch and instrument panel dimmer--too much stuff on one stick. Further frustrations include difficult to grasp non-utilitarian, grab handles, sun visors and power window switches.
Loading stuff is a nuisance; bulky panels reduce the rear liftgate's width and height. Worse, the open lid knocks a six-footer's noggin. Missing: below-the-floor stowage.
The Patriot's Osterizer-like 173-hp engine struggles, the powertrain throbs sending vibrations through the floor "boards." EPA estimates: 20 mpg city and 22 highway--I observed 19.2 mpg. This all-wheel-drive vehicle's steering effort is acceptable, Nonetheless, the Patriot plows in corners and has only modest grip. An electronic stability program is standard.
Chunky pillars, tombstone-like rear seat backs, small rear windows and a thick windshield header force you to play peekaboo with traffic and traffic lights. And the front seats with their foam-rubber donut headrests impart a hunkered down sensation.
Jeepsters will like the selectable four-wheel lock, low-range gearing and under-body skid plates, which should provide a modicum of off-road prowess. And if you get stuck in the dark, Jeep provides a rear built-in LED flashlight mounted overhead. And even though the rear lid's opening is tight, the fold-flat front passenger seat, which also fully reclines, is practical. Jeeps bi-level climate setting works--cool air at your face and warm air at your feet.
List price: $24,000. A two-wheel drive model is cheaper and less thirsty. If you're still game, try the five-speed manual transmission.
Get more in-depth coverage at TheCarConnection's 2010 Jeep Patriot page