May 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Friday, 25 March 2011 09:33
Jeep was building sport-utility vehicles before they were called sport-utility vehicles. Now that everyone else, even Cadillac and Lincoln, is building SUVs, Jeep is trying to fulfill a variety of roles. Gone are the days when the brand began with the CJ/Wrangler series and ended with the Cherokee or Wagoneer, with nothing between.
Today, Jeep has five different models. Off-road enthusiasts will gravitate to the Liberty and Wrangler; the other three are more comfortable on pavement.
Our most recent encounter with the legendary Jeep was the Patriot Latitude X, a compact SUV that is more like the mild-mannered Compass than the rough-and-ready Liberty. We didn’t take our Patriot off road and probably would have driven into some trouble if we had, since it was not equipped with the $550 Off-Road Group.This option is attractive because it greatly expands the Patriot’s versatility for a relatively small amount of money. It increases ground clearance from 8.1 inches to 9 inches and includes skid plates, engine oil cooler, hill descent control, hill start assist and full-sized spare tire. So equipped, the Patriot carries Jeep’s Trail Rated badge. Indeed, the only thing separating the Trail Rated Patriot from its major competitors in the off-road sweepstakes is its unibody, rather than body-on-frame, construction.
Our green Patriot was priced at $27,575, including options. Patriots range in base price from $15,995, for the Sport, to $23,895 for the Latitude X with 4x4. All are available with a 5-speed manual or continuously variable automatic transmission; all but the least expensive version of the Sport come with a 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower engine.
Fuel economy is quite impressive for a compact SUV with no “green” pretensions: 21 mpg in the city, 26 highway, on regular gasoline. With the smaller of the two available 4-cylinder engines, stick shift and front-wheel drive, the Patriot can reach 29 mpg on the highway.
For Jeep traditionalists, the Patriot looks and drives an awful lot like the old Cherokee, a well-loved Jeep model that was discontinued about 10 years ago. The Liberty, a more apt successor to the Cherokee in terms of off-road prowess, is a fitting bearer of that tradition.
Not yet subjected to government crash tests, the Patriot has been designated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety when equipped with optional side torso airbags.
Since its introduction in 2007, the Patriot has had average to above-average reliability, according to Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys. This is an often overlooked achievement by Jeep and Chrysler, which historically have not been competitive with the Japanese brands in this respect.
Reviewers for Consumer Reports, edmunds.com and other outlets have not taken kindly to the Patriot, but it does have some appealing traits: competitive price points, available standard transmission, a modestly priced option package that literally lifts it to Trail Rated status, decent fuel economy. And there’s a healthy dose of that iconic Jeep look and personality, too.
Steven Macoy is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 172 horsepower, 165 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Weight: 3,199 lb.
Ground clearance: 8.1 in.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17x6.5 in. polished alloy
Tires: P215/60R17 all season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 23 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 62.7 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 13.6 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 26 mpg highway
Fuel type: regular
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