2012 Jeep Patriot Review

Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 14, 2012

The 2012 Jeep Patriot is a compelling choice for its versatile interior, maneuverability, and strong list of features—with just a bit of weekend-warrior ruggedness—but it's woefully short on refinement or sophistication.

The 2012 Jeep Patriot is one of the most affordable small crossover-SUV models; and it makes good sense for those who merely want a maneuverable, versatile, easy-parking, and affordable vehicle. But as you might expect from a vehicle that carries the Jeep badge, the Patriot can be surprisingly deft on the trail, or in deep snow.

With chunky proportions that are boxy but not too refrigerator-like, and detailing that keeps it simple but purposeful, the 2012 Jeep Patriot somehow manages to play both of those angles; there's some softness and civility alright, but there's also some rugged Jeep appeal, and influences from the Wrangler and Liberty in the sheetmetal—along with the Jeep slotted grille. We're glad Jeep hasn't tried to change a thing about the exterior in the Patriot, as it's a design that's aging well. On the inside, it's a sturdy, attractive cabin from a few paces back, and 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.

On the highway especially, the CVT-equipped Patriot seems a bit sluggish and noisy compared to other vehicles in this class (Jeep claims to have made more improvements to the CVT calibration for 2012). We'd recommend going with the manual-transmission version, as well as opting for the stronger 172-hp, 2.4-liter engine, as there's not much of a real-world fuel-economy penalty. But there's a lot to love in the city and at low speeds, where the steering feels responsive and communicative, and the Patriot's compact-car size and well-defined corners make it one of the easiest vehicles to park and maneuver.

Review continues below

If you ever only plan to drive the Patriot in the city and suburbs, and you live in a warm climate, you'll probably be happy with the front-wheel drive version. But for the rest, 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 Patriot is closely related to the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass, but it holds the upper hand with respect to interior space—thanks to the boxy body, which frees up a little more space in back and makes loading and entry easier. 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 also where the Patriot is at its best; the tall roofline and boxy proportionshelp maximize usability, and rear seatbacks fold forward neatly, with added space for long items by folding the front passenger seat.

If the Patriot's layout is one of the high points, Interior refinement is the low point. Even next to other very affordable vehicles in this class, hard, hollow plastic panels are still uninspiring, and there's a lot of engine noise—especially with the CVT.

Safety remains a strength for the Patriot; while it hasn't been rated by the federal government since the ratings system changed last year, it's again a Top Safety Pick for 2012. All the expected safety features are standard, too, and the boxy body brings good outward visibility.

The 2012 Jeep Patriot comes in three different models—base Sport, Latitude, and Limited—and the main difference between the three is in the level of interior comfort and convenience items. All Patriot models now include air conditioning, a CD sound system, fog lamps, cruise control, and power accessories, but you'll want to move up to the Limited for conveniences like heated leather seats, keyless entry, cruise control, and a 115-volt power outlet.

Items from the options list worth worth considering include Bluetooth connectivity with voice control, a remote start system, upgraded Boston Acoustics sound plus outward-facing tailgate speakers, a universal garage-door opener, and a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link. 

7

2012 Jeep Patriot

Styling

The 2012 Jeep Patriot has boxy styling that looks in place almost anywhere, whether that's parallel-parked in the city or crawling to a trailhead.

With chunky proportions that are boxy but not too refrigerator-like, and detailing that keeps it simple but purposeful, the 2012 Jeep Patriot somehow manages to look rugged and trail-ready yet not over-the-top macho. It fits right in on city streets as well as it does getting out to the campsite.

In the crisp sheetmetal of the Patriot, we see plenty of rugged Jeep appeal, and influences from the Wrangler and Liberty in the sheetmetal—along with the Jeep slotted grille. We're glad Jeep hasn't tried to change a thing about the exterior in the Patriot (the closely related Compass got a refresh last year), as it's a design that's aging well. About the only tweak Jeep has done is in extending the front and rear fascias, helping to accent the wheel arches.

On the inside, it's a sturdy, attractive cabin from a few paces back, and 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.

6

2012 Jeep Patriot

Performance

The 2012 Jeep Patriot offers a compelling combination of Trail Rated and city-savvy, but its powertrain performance is disappointing.

Powertrain performance remains a weak point for the Patriot and keeps it from being a well-rounded performance package. Otherwise, the Patriot handles quite well and can take on rugged trails when properly equipped.

The unhappy part about the Patriot's performance is how the four-cylinder engines work with the available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). On the highway especially, the CVT-equipped Patriot seems a bit sluggish and noisy compared to other vehicles in this class (Jeep claims again to have made more improvements to the CVT calibration for 2012). We still haven't put a 2012 CVT-equipped Patriot through the paces, but based on past drives we'd recommend going with the manual-transmission version, as well as opting for the stronger 172-hp, 2.4-liter engine, as there's not much of a real-world fuel-economy penalty.

Otherwise, there's a lot to love in the city and at low speeds, where the steering feels responsive and communicative, and the Patriot's compact-car size and well-defined corners make it one of the easiest vehicles to park and maneuver.

If you ever only plan to drive the Patriot in the city and suburbs, and you live in a warm climate, you'll probably be happy with the front-wheel drive version. But for the rest, there are two different four-wheel drive systems offered. Freedom Drive I is an active system much like those in other all-wheel-drive sedans and crossovers—although it does have a diff-lock mode. But 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.

7

2012 Jeep Patriot

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Jeep Patriot has a roomy and versatile layout that makes good use of its compact footprint; but interior materials and a lack of cabin refinement still scream 'low rent,' even next to affordable rivals.

Closely related to the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass, the 2012 Jeep Patriot holds the upper hand with respect to interior space—thanks to the boxy body, which frees up a little more space in back and makes loading and entry easier.

The Patriot does reveal its car-based layout with an especially low front seating position; it's high enough for most to be able to see the front corners of the vehicle, yet not so high to feel tipsy as in more traditional SUV designs.

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. The rear bench tends to be a bit too hard and flat for adults for longer distances, but kids will be fine back there.

Cargo space is where the Patriot is at its best; the tall roofline and boxy proportions help maximize usability, and rear seatbacks fold forward neatly, with added space for long items by folding the front passenger seat.

If the Patriot's layout is one of the high points, Interior refinement is the low point. Even next to other very affordable vehicles in this class, hard, hollow plastic panels are still uninspiring, and there's a lot of engine noise—especially with the CVT. New soft-touch door trim panels (front only, oddly); new padded center armrest; a new steering-wheel design, and thin chrome rings around climate control switches altogether help give the Patriot's cabin a lift, at least visually.

8

2012 Jeep Patriot

Safety

Those seeking a compact, off-road-capable vehicle that's also safe should consider the 2012 Jeep Patriot.

Safety remains a strength for the Patriot; while it hasn't been rated by the federal government since the ratings system changed last year, it's again a Top Safety Pick for 2012. All the expected safety features are standard, too, and the boxy body brings good outward visibility.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the Patriot with 'good' scores in frontal and side tests. Roof strength testing, which the IIHS has started to conduct over the past year, also yields a result of 'good.'

Overall, the list of standard safety features in the Patriot is particularly strong for the price; standard items include electronic stability control with roll mitigation, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags. Models with four-wheel drive add off-road brake traction control and hill descent control.

9

2012 Jeep Patriot

Features

The 2012 Jeep Patriot offers a strong set of features for the money, although it costs much more when kitted out as an off-roader.

The 2012 Jeep Patriot comes in three different models—base Sport, Latitude, and Limited—and the main difference between the three is in the level of interior comfort and convenience items.

All Patriot models now include air conditioning, a CD sound system, fog lamps, cruise control, and power accessories, but you'll want to move up to the Limited for conveniences like heated leather seats, keyless entry, cruise control, and a 115-volt power outlet.

Items from the options list worth worth considering include Bluetooth connectivity with voice control, a remote start system, upgraded Boston Acoustics sound plus outward-facing tailgate speakers, a universal garage-door opener, and a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link.

Patriot shoppers who want more than front-wheel drive have a choice of two four-wheel drive systems—Freedom Drive I, and Freedom Drive II Off-Road. The latter includes a low range plus a heavier-duty suspension, skid plates, and other enhancements. Add the All-Weather Capability Group and you'll also get 17-inch all-terrain tires, an engine block heater, and tow hooks.

Just as with the related Caliber and Compass, the Patriot comes with several standout features, including foldout tailgate speakers, and a rear cargo-area rechargeable flashlight.

7

2012 Jeep Patriot

Fuel Economy

Compared to traditional off-road SUVs, the 2012 Jeep Patriot is frugal; but it's surprisingly thirsty otherwise.

The 2012 Jeep Patriot might seem like an affordable and useful vehicle for suburban errands or the commute, but before you sign up you should be aware that it gets several miles per gallon less than some of its somewhat larger alternatives.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the Patriot vary from 20 to 23 mpg in the city and 23 to 29 on the highway, with the 2.0-liter front-wheel-drive model (with manual transmission) getting the best rating of 23/29. A number of roomier crossovers now get over 30 mpg on the highway.

Models with the Freedom Drive II package are the least efficient, with ratings of just 20/23. But compared to serious, more truck-like off-roaders, the Patriot could be seen as one of the more frugal picks—especially if the Patriot could do the job instead of, say, a Wrangler or Xterra. For those who don't need trail ability, there's also a Freedom Drive I system—a more carlike all-wheel drive setup—that doesn't sap mileage in the same way.

Our best advice here is that if you're considering one of the four-wheel-drive models, that you crunch the numbers and consider how much more fuel you'll be using for occasional trail crawling.

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
USED PRICE RANGE
$5,950 - $17,000
Browse Used Listings
in your area
7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
Compare the 2012 Jeep Patriot against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Jeep Patriot?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used