Angular Front Exterior View - 2010 Jeep Patriot FWD 4-door SportEnlarge Photo
Does the Patriot make a great college car?
If nothing else, the Patriot 4X4 is true to the Jeep brand. The looks are unmistakably Jeep and looks a little like a cross between a Jeep Liberty and the Jeep Commander. The Patriot was brought to market in 2007 along with the Compass and they both share the same platform with the Dodge Caliber hatchback. The Patriot is available in 2WD and an AWD version, and I test drove the Limited 4X4 ($24,550) for the week.
It is powered by an updated and economical 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. The optional Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Off-Road Crawl Ratio worked well. My tester also came with the optional Freedom Drive II off-road package. The Jeep Patriot gets an EPA-rated 20/22 mpg City/Highway with all-wheel-drive.
Driving the four cylinder Patriot was a little surprising. When you put the pedal down, it has more power than you would expect from a 2.4 liter engine. It had plenty of power driving up I-70 into the mountains west of Denver, and did well while merging into traffic. It does make more noise than you would expect under heavy throttle, despite additional sound deadening material for 2009.
The Patriot feels light and nimble on mountain roads and when maneuvering around town. The body is well isolated from the wheels: You can hear the tires hitting the expansion strips on the freeway, but you can't feel it. The independent suspension works well. During a long day of driving on patchy two-lanes, hard-packed dirt roads, and off-road trails around Breckenridge, it delivered steadiness and comfort in every abusive situation.
If you plan on going off-road, make sure you get the optional Trail Rated Freedom II AWD system. It adds one inch to the ground clearance for a total of 9 inches. With the CVT in low range, Hill Descent Control is automatically engaged. This keeps the Patriot under 5 mph and under control, going down steep hills, even icy ones. You can take both feet off the pedals and it will do its thing, a feature associated with more expensive vehicles like the Land Rover.
The AWD system has a locking center differential that sends half the power to the rear wheels. The Trail Rated version also has a brake lock differential that can shift the power from side to side on each axle, important in slippery terrain. Other important features included with the Freedom Drive II off-road group includes a full-size spare tire, skid plates underneath the engine, transmission and fuel tank, an engine oil cooler, tow hooks, and a trailer tow wiring harness.
Inside, the Patriot has plenty of room. There's 39.4 inches of legroom in the back seat, giving most adult passengers enough room to be comfortable. The Patriot's 60/40 split rear seat folds flat, and a flat-folding front passenger seat is optional; with all the seats flat, there is enough room for all your snow boards and ski equipment. With all the seats in the upright position, there's 23 cubic feet in the back, comparable with any compact SUV. The rear cargo area has a removable carpeted floor instead of a washable, removable vinyl floor.
For 2009, Jeep redesigned the Patriot's interior, with a new dashboard and instrument panel, soft-touch surfaces on the door armrests and center console, and a carpeted floor instead of vinyl. The new dash is black instead of tan or gray and it has nicer graining and a more attractive shape, but it is still hard plastic. The leather upholstery comes standard in the Limited.