2013 Jeep Patriot Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
April 2, 2013

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.

Review continues below

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.

7

2013 Jeep Patriot

Styling

With a responsible, compact size and boxy styling that looks rugged but not overwrought, the 2013 Jeep Patriot fits in well almost anywhere.

To some, the Patriot will seem overly traditional-looking; yet to others it's straightforward, with the boxy design 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.

On the inside, the down side up close is that there's still lots of hard, dull plastic; but from a few paces back, it's a sturdy, attractive cabin design, with some brightwork added in recent model years.
5

2013 Jeep Patriot

Performance

True Trail Rated ability and city-savvy maneuverability highlight the good points, but its powertrain performance is a disappointment.

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.

The Patriot is a joy to maneuver and handle around town, and parking is easy. Overall, the Patriot strikes us as being quite happy in two different sets of situations: Low-speed city driving—if you don't have to move too quickly—and snowy driveways and muddy trails. In the rat race, or out on the open road, the Patriot neither performs with enough satisfaction or sophistication.

7

2013 Jeep Patriot

Comfort & Quality

The boxy exterior of the 2013 Patriot amounts to a roomy and versatile interior; but low-rent materials and a lack of refinement fail to entice.

Thanks to its boxy body, the 2013 Jeep Patriot holds the upper hand over the otherwise nearly identical Compass in space, comfort, and usability, although it has some of the same drawbacks concerning noise and a pronounced lack of refinement.

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.

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. Chrysler has in recent model years added a little more noise insulation, a padded armrest, and some bright trim rings to the climate-control knobs, but that wasn't enough to much improve the aura of econo-car cheapness that pervades this cabin.

8

2013 Jeep Patriot

Safety

If small and off-road-ready are priorities, while safety is as well, the 2013 Jeep Patriot remains a good pick.

The Patriot hasn't been rated by the federal government since its ratings system changed (in 2011), and seeing that this is the last model year for this model in its current form, it's unlikely to get tested. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) named it a Top Safety Pick this past year, with top 'good' scores in all of its categories (though it hasn't of course yet been tested in the new small-overlap frontal test).

We've found outward visibility to be excellent in the Patriot—a function of its boxy body—and standard-feature content is quite good for the price, including off-road brake traction control and hill descent control for models with 4WD and for all models, electronic stability control with roll mitigation, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags.

9

2013 Jeep Patriot

Features

Turning the 2013 Patriot into a proper off-roader costs quite a bit extra, but other trims offer a lot of features for the money.

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.

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.

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.

7

2013 Jeep Patriot

Fuel Economy

As an off-road capable small SUV, the 2013 Patriot is surprisingly thirsty.

While the 2013 Jeep Patriot looks like a small, economical, city-friendly vehicle in many respects—and one powered by four-cylinder engines—you should take a careful look at the window sticker and fuel economy figures before you make your final decision.

Fuel economy ratings for the Patriot now range up to 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway (that's for the five-speed-manual model, which gains 1 mpg highway for 2013).

Otherwise, gas mileage ranges from slightly disappointing down to mediocre. Models with the Freedom Drive II package are the least efficient, with ratings of just 20/23. And it all depends on your perspective here; 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.

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7.2
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Styling 7.0
Performance 5.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 7.0
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