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While mechanically similar to both the more softly styled Jeep Compass and the more carlike Dodge Caliber, the same-sized Jeep Patriot gets boxier, chunkier styling that both outdoor enthusiasts and urbanites tend to agree is better-looking.
Thankfully, Jeep hasn't significantly changed the exterior of the Patriot, which unlike those other related vehicles, doesn't have any awkward angles. Inside, the Patriot is also very purposeful and simple. Some hints of brightwork added over the past couple of model years have spruced it up from the purely drab it had originally been, but there's still a lot of hard, dull plastic up close. At a few paces back, it's an attractive, sturdy-looking cabin, though.
Relative to most other vehicles you might consider, the CVT-equipped Patriot might seem sluggish and noisy. We'd recommend going with the manual-transmission version, as well as opting for the stronger 172-hp, 2.4-liter engine, as you likely won't see any worse fuel economy for it. Thanks to its compact-car size and well-defined corners, the Patriot is one of the easiest vehicles to park and drive in tight spaces. And at low speeds especially, the steering feels responsive and communicative.
While base Patriots come with front-wheel drive, there are two different four-wheel drive systems offered. The star of the lineup is Freedom Drive II, which brings a truly Jeep-caliber level of off-road prowess to this vehicle, surprisingly; it includes low-range gearing (through a special version of the CVT), hill descent control, and extra ground clearance—plus a tougher suspension, skid plates, heavy-duty cooling, and hill descent control.
The boxier shape of the Patriot allows an interior that feels larger and is more convenient for cargo, even if its passenger layout is essentially the same as that of the Compass. There's good seating space inside for four adults; you could wedge a narrow-shouldered third into the backseat if need be, though it is strictly compact-class legroom. Cargo space is where the Patriot shines; the tall roofline and boxy proportions make the cargo space behind the backseat more usable, and rear seatbacks fold forward neatly. The front passenger seat also folds forward to accommodate long items.
Interior refinement is disappointing, even next to other vehicles in this class. While interior appointments have been improved over the past several years, engine noise (and sometimes road noise) can still be obtrusive in the Patriot. There are plenty of other practical pluses, though, including excellent outward visibility, for easier and safer parking, and top-notch safety ratings (it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick).
For 2011, the Jeep Patriot comes in three different models—base, Latitude, and Limited—and the primary difference between the three is the level of interior comfort and convenience items. For extras like heated leather seats, keyless entry, cruise control, a 115-volt power outlet, and other extras, you'll need to step up to the Limited; but all Patriot models now include air conditioning, a CD sound system, fog lamps, cruise control, and power accessories.
Top options include remote start, Uconnect Bluetooth with voice control, a universal garage-door opener, and tailgate speakers, as well as an available media center system with 30 gigabytes of music storage.
- Boxy, rugged-chic exterior
- Parking ease and maneuverability
- Visibility and driving position
- Fuel-efficient for an off-roader
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- Cheap-feeling interior
- Noisy cabin
- Sluggish CVT