- Boxy but handsome exterior
- Maneuverability and parking ease
- Features for the money
- Real off-road capability
- Sluggish powertrain (CVT)
- Noise and vibration
- Cheap-feeling interior
The 2013 Jeep Patriot is handsome and utilitarian and makes sense for urban-dwelling weekend-warrior types on a tight budget—but its lack of refinement could make it tough to live with.
The Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass are both small, economical crossovers—and closely related mechanically—but it's the more upright, traditional, and boxy look of the Patriot that arguably makes more sense. With its more straightforward packaging, it hits the mark for those who want a maneuverable, versatile, easy-parking, and affordable vehicle.
The brand is calling the 2013 Patriot the lowest-priced SUV on the market; but more importantly it's also the lowest-priced 4x4 in the U.S. market according to Jeep.
To some, the Patriot will seem overly traditional-looking; yet to others it's straightforward and the boxy design is refreshing in a class of rakish rooflines. From the outside, there's a lot to like, with proportions and sheetmetal that are boxy but not too refrigerator-like, as well as detailing that keeps it simple but purposeful. There's just enough softness and civility mated with lots of macho Jeep appeal and influences from the Wrangler and Liberty—including the Jeep slotted grille. Jeep hasn't messed with a thing on the Patriot's exterior, but its interior could have used more attention. It's passable from some feet away, but up close it still feels drab, with low-rent materials and an econo-car look.
The Patriot steers and handles relatively well, revealing its car-based underpinnings, but there's not much to like with respect to its powertrains, which are simply too loud and coarse—as well as sluggish in some cases. Many of the Patriot variants come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that tends to bring out the noise and vibration in these engines, and there's too much of a lag when you need a quick burst of power (out of a corner, for instance). Manual-gearbox versions are much more enjoyable, and we recommend going with the stronger 172-hp, 2.4-liter engine, as there's not much of a real-world fuel-economy penalty.
For those in warm climates, a front-wheel-drive Patriot will be just fine; but if you have deep snow to get through part of the year, or if you head out to secluded camping spots sometimes, you'll want to consider one of the two four-wheel drive systems on offer. 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.
Thanks to its boxy body, the Patriot holds the upper hand over the otherwise nearly identical Compass. Inside there's good passenger space for four, and the tall roofline makes entry and exit easy. You could potentially wedge a third into the middle position in back, but you'll be reminded that this is a compact vehicle. Seating comfort is lackluster, with somewhat unsupportive front seats and rather stuff, unpadded back-seat accommodations. But if you need cargo versatility, the Patriot is impressive; rear seatbacks fold forward nearly, and the front passenger seat even tips forward for long items.
The Patriot's Achilles' Heel—which some will find hard to accept—is the amount of noise and vibration that enters the cabin, as well as the hard, hollow plastic panels that line the cabin. The other surprise is that in 4WD form, the Patriot is as thirsty as much larger SUVs—at as low as 20 mpg city, 23 highway. But in safety, the Patriot has been a Top Safety Pick and does include a complete list of standard features.
The 2013 Jeep Patriot includes air conditioning, a CD sound system, fog lamps, and cruise control even in base Sport guise, although this is a vehicle that still gives you hand-crank windows. You'll need to step up to the Latitude for power accessories and other extras, and the top Limited model earns heated leather seats, keyless entry, cruise control, and a 115-volt power outlet. Among available extras are voice-control Bluetooth connectivity, a remote start system, a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link, a universal garage-door opener, and an upgraded Boston Acoustics sound system with outward-facing tailgate speakers.