The Patriot was something of an also-ran when introducted in 2006, with class-trailing dynamics, a cheap, penalty-box interior and a horrid example of the continuously-variable transmission making for excruciating forward progress. A major refresh in 2011 has turned it into an acceptable player in the compact crossover class, and it actually has some standout attributes.
Chief amongst these is the way it looks; properly butch compared to most of the anodyne entries in the class. Riding on tough 17-inch five-spoke alloys, it looks like a modern day interpretation of the original Cherokee. Inside, quality was raised dramatically; now the plastic moldings are a match for most competitors and there is even a semblance of style. What couldn’t be addressed in the freshening was the platform’s limitations in terms of door aperture tightness, which makes entry and exit harder than it needs to be, and a cramped driving position. It is hard to get properly comfortable and the seat has absolutely no lumbar support. The Patriot’s infotainment interface is at least decent—easily sussed out and fairly fast to respond to inputs, and the sound system’s not too bad.
Driving this Jeep is no longer the chore it used to be, either. The biggest change is wrought by the switch from that horrid CVT to a modern 6-speed automatic, which calms things down inside considerably, while still keeping the Patriot’s 2.4-liter, 172hp engine in meatiest part of its powerband. That’s important as it is not as smooth as competitors’; the Honda CR-V and class-leading Mazda CX-5 rev in a more refined manner while also getting better—much better in the Mazda’s case—real world fuel economy. You can read about the Mazda here.
The Jeep’s steering cant match the CX-5’s, but is better than that of the Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage twins. It is also generally quieter than those two and rides much better over broken pavement. When all is said and done it is remarkable what the company did, taking such a vehicle and bringing it within striking distance of some of the class’s bigger sellers. It should do fine holding the fort until a revamped version comes along, and as long as one doesn’t pay for it what a leading Japanese competitor costs—for it wont hold its value as well—the Patriot doesn’t make for a bad buying decision.
EPA ratings: 21/27mpg; 23 combined
Price as tested: $27,370
Here is Jeep’s take on the Patriot.