By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/8/2011
Porsche 911 enthusiasts have their Cayenne to bear/loathe/ignore (pick one or all); Jeep loyalists have their Patriot and Compass. No one, of course, suggested love of your off-road brand would be easy. Jeep's Patriot is the perfectly appropriate corporate response to a market (quickly) realizing that while gnarly SUVs might look the business, few in the consuming public are actually doing the business. In short, the public wants the "outdoorsy" look, but is rarely venturing off-road. For those users, car-based SUVs such as the 2012 Jeep Patriot are perfect, while for the Jeep loyalist this Patriot would more appropriately be labeled "Traitor."
If all-season driving means you need power to each and every wheel, the Jeep Patriot with 4WD is a viable contender in the category. With enhancements to the drivetrain in 2011, Jeep's Patriot has received the "Trail Rated" designation. Those living in Utah, however, should note that Trail Rated is not the same as "Boulder Rated." Avoid large, round objects at all costs.
If your ideal Jeep provides both off-road capability and long-lived durability, buy a Wrangler. Based on Chrysler's Caliber platform, the Patriot is far closer to its econobox roots than anything emanating from Jeep's main plant in Toledo.
Aggressively freshened in 2011, the 2012 Jeep Patriot offers four new exterior colors, along with calibration improvements to the CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). The retuned CVT improves launch acceleration and pedal responsiveness, while reducing engine noise.
The rework of the Patriot and its platform sibling, the Compass, in 2011 was significant. It wasn't, however, a clean-sheet approach, and at this point in the competitive segment a clean-sheet approach is what's needed. We're told one is coming, but in the interim anticipate the Patriot to provide benign handling on pavement, along with credible capability – with Freedom Drive II – off-road. Jeep loyalists won't understand four cylinders mounted transversely, nor the buzzy CVT transmission. But this one isn't for them; it's for those more timid souls wanting to be like them.
Freedom Drive I (On-Road Package)
For those venturing no farther off-road than a McDonald's drive-through, but confronting seasonal climate issues (at least) seasonally, Freedom Drive I provides a full-time, active 4WD system designed to give drivers year-round assurance in virtually all types of weather. You won't, to be sure, tackle the Rubicon with Freedom Drive I, but you could tow your ATVs to its trailhead.
Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package
For those preferring the road less traveled – or no road at all – Jeep offers the optional Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. The package is comprehensive, and includes a second-gen CVT transaxle with low range, a 19:1 crawl ratio, 17-inch all-terrain tires mounted on alloy wheels, a full-size spare and an abundance of skid plates, tow hooks and foglights.
Having benefited from much-needed interior upgrades in 2011, the 2012 Patriot soldiers on with those enhancements, along with a veritable cornucopia of available technology. Some of what Jeep terms "cool" available features include a Uconnect media center with iPod interface, SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation with Sirius Travel Link and a premium audio system with nine Boston Acoustic speakers. Very cool.
Given what they had (the aforementioned Caliber) to work with, Jeep's design team did an admirable job of combining traditional Jeep proportions with a front-wheel-drive architecture. And unlike so many of today's crossover/car-based SUVs that attempt to imitate a 4-door GT, the Patriot's upright architecture provides reasonable visibility in combination with an unabashed "spunk" factor.
Despite its very affordable starting point of under $17,000, Jeep's 2012 Patriot Sport is well equipped. Standard features include electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, Hill-Start Assist, ABS, audio jack, fold-flat rear seats, deep tint glass and roof side rails. Standard power is a 2.0-liter four connected to a 5-speed manual transmission.
You want options? Jeep's marketing team has supplied them, most of which are obtained via bumps in trim level or package selection. The move from Sport to Latitude provides the buyer with A/C, power windows and door locks, 17-inch aluminum wheels, remote start, front heated cloth seats, body-color exterior door handles and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and speed controls. Opt for the upscale Limited and you'll enjoy the larger 2.4-liter four, leather seating, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and Jeep's Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC).
Within its three trim levels reside two engine choices (2.0- and 2.4-liter fours) and three transmissions (5-speed manual and two CVT automatics). The 2.0 liter is standard on 2WD Sport and 2WD Latitude, while the 2.4 liter is fitted to 4WD Sport, 4WD Latitude and both 4x2 and 4x4 Limited. Those Patriots with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road package are equipped with the CVT2L transmission, which incorporates a low range for aggressive off-roading.
2.0-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
141 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/27 (2WD CVT2), 23/29 (2WD 5-speed manual)
2.4-liter in-line 4
172 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
165 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 (2WD 5-speed manual), 21/27 (2WD CVT2), 22/28 (4WD 5-speed manual), 21/26 (4WD CVT2), 20/23 (4WD CVT2L Off-Road package)
To the Jeep team's credit, you'll be hard pressed to spend more than $25,000 on your 2012 Jeep Patriot. Given, however, its econobox roots, you'd be hard pressed to justify anything beyond $20K. We built a mid-level Latitude with Jeep's Trail Rated capability. With a base of just over $22K we added the Freedom Drive II off-road package, which necessitates opting for the CVT2L with its own off-road capability – essentially an electronically controlled low range. The result was a window sticker – with transportation – of under $25,000, along with incentives appropriate to a car in the last phase of its production cycle. To make your best deal, be sure to check our Fair Purchase Price, which reflects real-world transaction prices being paid in your area. And when making your investment, prepare for rapid depreciation, although not as severe as its Compass stablemate, but well below that of Subaru's Forester.