By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 6.1
Laying claim to being America’s best-priced SUV doesn’t necessarily make the 2017 Jeep Patriot the compact SUV of the year. An aging design, lackluster repair and reliability ratings and outdated audio and safety features make the Patriot a rather bare-bones prospect. However, for those seeking basic transportation at a good price with the added bonus of having light off-road credentials, the Patriot is hard to beat. Although Jeep’s own Renegade is a better compact SUV in every way, the Patriot offers a bit more interior room and cargo space. And while vehicles such as the Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Tucson all offer more power, better handling and more advanced features, they also cost significantly more than Jeep’s admittedly less well-equipped Jeep Patriot.
If you’re looking to get the most from your tight budget and a used SUV holds no appeal, Jeep’s compact Patriot SUV for 2017 might be worth a look. Carrying Jeep’s Trail Rated badge is a plus, as is a choice of two 4-wheel-drive (4WD) systems.
Although it bears the Jeep name, the Patriot compact SUV is really more car than truck, so no rugged off-road trails in this one. The Patriot also lacks the modern safety and infotainment features every other rival offers, and its reliability history is nothing of note.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2017 Jeep Patriot SUV remains unchanged this year.
You either buy a Jeep for its off-road prowess or powerful on-road performance. Unfortunately, the 2017 Jeep Patriot excels in neither category. While the top-line models do carry a Trail...
... Rated badge worthy of tackling mud, snow and up to 19 inches of water, the Patriot is no Wrangler. Even the little Renegade Trailhawk offers a better off-road setup. On the highway, the Patriot is slow and loud and lacks any will to pass with urgency. We experienced fuel economy lower than the EPA estimates, and that was with the CVT automatic. The 6-speed automatic is preferable for both its performance and better reliability record, but is not available with Freedom Drive II. Ride comfort is rather car-like, a nice change from the firm suspensions of the Mazda CX-3 and Subaru Crosstrek. However, just about every other competitor is more fun to drive, offers superior ergonomics and will hold better resale value.
FREEDOM DRIVE I
For normal winter-road conditions and very light off-road trails, Jeep’s Freedom Drive I delivers full-time 4-wheel drive without impacting fuel economy or towing ability. You won’t be following the tire tracks of Jeep’s other SUVS, but you’ll get further than in a Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5.
FREEDOM DRIVE II OFF-ROAD PACKAGE
Jeep’s ability to venture over some pretty rugged terrain is what separates it from all other small SUV manufacturers. In the 2017 Jeep Patriot, the Freedom Drive II package includes all-terrain tires, skidplates, tow hooks and a low-range mode for tackling small boulders and rutted trails.
The 2017 Jeep Patriot features a 2-row, 5-passenger interior. Depending on trim level and options, it ranges from simple and utilitarian with hard plastic surfaces to nicely equipped with leather seats and a 6.5-inch touch-screen navigation and entertainment system. In base models you'll have to pay extra for a driver's seat that adjusts for height, and no Patriot model comes with a steering wheel that telescopes, making it more difficult to find a perfect driving position. The rear seats do fold nearly flat for extra cargo capacity, and in all but the base model also recline.
Few will mistake the Patriot with its 4-door Wrangler Unlimited sibling, but at least the family resemblance is there. Like its beefier brother, the Patriot has a boxy shape, Jeep's traditional front grille with seven vertical slots and signature round headlights. Standard roof rails add to the Patriot's presence and practicality. For added toughness, skidplates and tow hooks are fitted to models equipped with the Freedom Drive II off-road package. Base Sport models ride on 16-inch steel wheels, while the Patriot Latitude version comes with 17-inch aluminum versions.
We'll say it again: The Patriot's base price is tempting, but it buys only a budget vehicle in the strictest sense. You'll have to crank your own windows, lock the doors manually and even forgo air conditioning. What you will get is a 5-speed manual transmission, cruise control and 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary input and, new for this year, hands-free phone connectivity and SiriusXM satellite radio. A better bet is to step up to the Latitude model, which includes the basic creature comforts omitted in the Sport trim, plus heated front seats, power outlet, keyless entry and automatic headlights.
Both trims of the Jeep Patriot can be had with either of the Freedom Drive 4WD systems. On the Sport model, you can get power windows and creature comforts like air conditioning. The Sport SE package bundles a leather-trimmed steering wheel with built-in audio controls, heated front seats and 17-inch wheels. Latitude models can be had with infotainment and navigation systems with a 6.5-inch touch screen, while the High Altitude package bundles the leather interior, power-adjustable driver's seat and sunroof. A rearview camera, which is standard on most competitors, is optional with the upgraded touch-screen audio.
For 2017 Jeep Patriots offer two 4-cylinder engines and a trio of transmissions. The base engine is a 2.0-liter that's for front-wheel-drive (FWD) models only. A more powerful 2.4-liter engine is optional on either model and is necessary if you want 4WD. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard for both engines. The automatic transmission offerings are a 6-speed (now only with the 2.4-liter engine) or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Models with the Freedom Drive II off-road system use the CVT that has a 19:1 crawl ratio for slowly navigating touchy off-road conditions. The Patriot's towing capacity maxes out at 2,000 pounds. The Patriot isn't all that fuel-efficient -- especially with the Freedom Drive II package -- but at least it uses regular unleaded gasoline.
158 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
141 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (FWD, manual), 22/26 mpg (FWD, CVT)
172 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
165 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 mpg (FWD, manual), 21/27 mpg (FWD, automatic), 22/27 mpg (4WD, manual), 20/25 mpg (4WD, automatic), 20/23 mpg (4WD, CVT w/Off-Road package)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The 2017 Jeep Patriot has an alluring Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $19,000, but you’ll forgo such comforts as power windows and air conditioning. Better-equipped versions start around $21,000 for the Sport SE and $23,300 for the Latitude model. The fully loaded High Altitude package 4WD can bump the price past $30,000. At these prices, most Patriot models still undercut similarly equipped Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Subaru Forester models, but those rivals are newer and generally more appealing. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Jeep Patriot. Long-term residual value is another aspect in which the Patriot lags competitors.