By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 5.3
When Jeep created the Patriot in 2007, the idea seemed spot on. After all, the compact SUV segment was booming and Jeep had nothing to offer for less than $20K that got much better than 20 mpg. Despite its humble Dodge Caliber roots, the Patriot does possess a modicum of off-road ability, especially with the Trail Rated Freedom Drive II package. And while its overall build quality has improved, the Patriot still lags far behind industry leaders like the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage. However, if your budget is limited and you're not all about engine refinement and performance, the Patriot will hold a spot on your dance card. It's also one of the few remaining SUVs still offering a manual transmission.
If you live in an area where snow and inclement weather are regular occurrences, the 2014 Jeep Patriot's low cost 4-wheel drive model should look quite appealing. When equipped with Freedom Drive II, this little compact can go where many of its rivals dare not.
If you're looking for a refined ride with the latest technologies both under the hood and inside the cabin, you probably won't connect with the 2014 Jeep Patriot. Real off-road enthusiasts will prefer the Wrangler, while those looking for maximum fuel economy might prefer a Mazda CX-5 or Subaru Forester.
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A new 6-speed automatic transmission is now available on most models, although the dreaded continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is still roaming freely among models equipped with the Freedom Drive II option. Front-seat side-impact airbags are now standard on all trims.
Driving Impressions You can't deny your roots, and neither can the Jeep Patriot. The Dodge Caliber econocar platform probably made sense for a low-priced, light-duty Jeep in 2007, but...... the small-SUV class is too competitive for that formula to still work. The Patriot can hold its own in modest off-roading when equipped with the Freedom Drive II package, but almost all drivers spend the vast majority of their time on public pavement, and there the Patriot is simply outclassed. Neither of the 4-cylinder engines feels very strong, and the CVT transmission does more for fuel economy than it does for performance, although the new 6-speed automatic goes a long way to improving the latter. Highway ride and handling are okay, as long as you don't compare the Patriot to a more refined small SUV – of which there are plenty. The all-new (probably Fiat-based) Jeep Patriot can't come too soon.
FREEDOM DRIVE I (ON-ROAD PACKAGE)
For those facing seasonal road conditions, Freedom Drive I provides a full-time 4WD system designed to give year-round peace-of-mind. You won't be tackling the Rubicon Trail with Freedom Drive I, but you could tow your ATV to where the trail starts.
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. It includes a 2nd-generation CVT transaxle with low range, 17-inch all-terrain tires and an abundance of skid plates, tow hooks and fog lights.
Hard plastic surfaces aren't the most inviting but they are easy to clean, which is one benefit of the Patriot's utilitarian cabin. Still, there are some nice techy features to enjoy (a Uconnect media center with iPod interface, SiriusXM satellite radio and navigation with Sirius Travel Link) and a couple of truly clever ideas, such as the cargo-area lamp that pops out to become a rechargeable LED flashlight and the speakers that flip down from the raised liftgate to energize those tailgate parties.Exterior
Jeep's design team did an admirable job of sculpting traditional Jeep proportions onto economy-car, front-drive architecture. Requisite Jeep-family features show up, including the seven-slot grille and "can-do" fender flares. The Patriot's upright layout provides reasonable outward visibility as well as some visual character.
Despite its very affordable starting price of under $17,000 including destination, Jeep's 2014 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 tinted glass and roof side rails. Standard power is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine connected to a 5-speed manual transmission.
You want options? Jeep has supplied them, mostly in the form of upgrades in trim level or package selection. The move from Sport to Latitude adds air conditioning, 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 top-line Limited and you'll enjoy the larger 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, leather seating, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Jeep's Electronic Vehicle Information Center.
Within its three trim levels reside two engine choices (2.0-liter and 2.4-liter fours) and three transmissions (5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic and the CVT2L with low range). The 158-horsepower 2.0-liter is standard on 2WD Sport and 2WD Latitude, while the 172-horsepower 2.4-liter is fitted to 4WD Sport, 4WD Latitude and all Limiteds. Patriots with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road package get the CVT2L transmission, which incorporates a low range for slow-crawling off road.
158 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
141 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (2WD, manual), 21/28 mpg (2WD, automatic)
172 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
165 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 mpg (2WD, manual), 21/28 mpg (2WD, automatic), 23/28 (4WD, manual), 21/27 mpg (4WD, automatic), 20/23 mpg (4WD, CVT automatic w/ Off-Road package)
Jeep claims you won't find a lower-priced 2014 SUV than the 2WD Sport Patriot, at just under $17,000, nor a lower-priced 4x4 than the 4WD Sport, at just over $19,000. At the top end, the 4WD Limited starts at just under $27,000. Given the car's econobox roots, you may feel hard-pressed to justify any of those prices. For a little more money (Kia Sportage, around $20,000; Subaru Forester, just under $23,000), legions of more modern choices open up, albeit without some of the Jeep's special equipment. But if your budget says no to that stretch, then the Patriot may be in play. Plus, a car at the end of its production cycle will likely carry generous incentives. To make your best deal, check our Fair Purchase Price, which reflects real-world transaction prices being paid in your area. And be ready for rapid depreciation; the Patriot's retained value will be well below those of Asian nameplates.