2016 Jeep Patriot Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 29, 2016

Available equipment in the 2016 Jeep Patriot will take you where other small crossovers won't; but its dated cabin design keeps it from feeling as smart as it could be.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot may be somewhat overshadowed by the larger Cherokee and smaller Renegade models—both of far newer, with far superior packaging—but it's worth considering if cost-conscious transportation is one of your top priorities.

The Patriot lands in an intriguing middle ground between mainstream compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, or Toyota RAV4, and some of the smaller models such as the Kia Soul, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, or Chevrolet Trax.

While the original Patriot was something of a disaster—think loud, sluggish, and austere—Jeep has found ways to make this vehicle a far better, more appealing vehicle. Today, it offers a sensibly sized package that combines macho Jeep lines with enough softness and civility to make it practical family transport. It may not be the newest or best-equipped, but there's a lot to like regardless. 

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From a design standpoint, it offers what the Subaru Forester has in its past iterations. The boxy, trim, bold exterior yields a tremendously useful interior, with good cargo space, and rear seatbacks that flip forward easily to make more room. We’ve found entry and exit very easy, thanks to the tall roofline, with plenty of headroom front and back—although the one surprise is that the seating position is lower than expected, with the dash rather high and enveloping.

The base engine on the Patriot is a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4. Top Limited models and any version equipped with all-wheel drive come standard with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter version; a 5-speed manual gearbox is standard, while the 6-speed automatic is offered across the lineup and the CVT is bundled with Freedom Drive II.

That system, by the way, enabled the Trail Rated badge—and some degree of capability for churning through sand and mud, and even doing some mild rock-crawling—in part because the CVT has a low range. But the CVT definitely brings drivability down on streets and highways, with rubber-band-like responses and the sort of engine boominess that has otherwise been banished from this lineup. Think twice before going with the top four-wheel-drive system, as the 6-speed automatic has the Patriot feeling much more zippy and refined. 

The Patriot is offered in Sport and Latitude models, as part of a lineup that's been slimmed down somewhat in the Renegade's wake (and in what could be a long goodbye, as this model is due to be retired in a year or so). Base equipment on the Sport includes fog lamps, illuminated cupholders, rear-seat heater ducts, tilt steering, cruise control, roof side rails, tinted glass, and an auxiliary input. There’s no standard air conditioning, but those super-budget-conscious types are going to appreciate how it keeps the base price to around $18,000.

Patriot Latitude models add air conditioning, power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, front heated cloth seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 115-volt power plug, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

Last year's Limited model is gone, but it's been replaced with some expanded option packages that cover most of that ground—except the four-wheel disc brakes, perhaps. Later in the year a new Sport SE package will step up ride height on front-wheel drive models, add tow hooks to four-wheel-drive models, and bring other upgrades like heated mesh front seats and Mineral Gray alloy wheels, and roof rails.

In base configuration with front-drive and a 5-speed manual transmission, the Patriot returns 23/30/26 mpg. With all-wheel drive, the larger 2.4-liter, and an automatic, those numbers dip significantly to 20/26/22 mpg.

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2016 Jeep Patriot

Styling

The Patriot's design still looks rugged and restrained in all the right ways; but with the Renegade in the stable it's a little more dated.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot is a boxy, city-sized crossover that's thick in Jeep design heritage, borrowing some design cues from the Wrangler in front, as well as some of the slab-sided side styling of the old Cherokee and Wagoneer models.

Up until now it's been the most traditional model in Jeep's lineup to some eyes, while others see it as more stylish—it's all in the eye of the beholder. Yet there's no denying that the boxy exterior creates lots of usable interior space.

From the outside, there's a lot to like in the Patriot, with proportions and sheet metal that are squared-off but not too refrigerator-like, as well as detailing that keeps it simple but purposeful. With details like the Jeep seven-slot grille and chunky door handles, there's just enough softness and civility blended in with the right amount of macho.

For this year, there's a bit of an elephant in the room, and that's the Jeep Renegade, which starts at a price not much higher than the Patriot. Also boxy, and in some respects nearly the same size as the Patriot, the Renegade seems to make a bit better use of the same space; and the Renegade does away with any of the Patriot's niggling cheapness in the details and buttons.

Indeed, the look of the Patriot's cabin was one of mediocrity and cost-cutting not too many years ago; but it has been upgraded, with several rounds of brightwork, some soft-touch materials, and a few more details. Once you get up close, however, you'll still notice the low-rent materials, with lots of hard, dull plastic, and the odd tall dash layout coupled with the lower-than-expected seating position. That Renegade's looking even better now, isn't it?

There's one other visual change for 2016: a new exterior color, Mojave Sand.

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2016 Jeep Patriot

Performance

Maneuverability is excellent, and so is the Patriot's True Trail Rated ability; but the rest of it is unremarkable.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot drives a bit more like a budget-conscious small sedan or hatchback than you might expect; and there's a good and bad side to that from a performance standpoint.

The base engine for the Patriot is a 158-horsepower, 2.0-liter inline-4, while top Latitude models—and any version equipped with all-wheel drive—come standard with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter version. A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard on the Sport, while the 6-speed automatic is offered across the lineup and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is bundled with Freedom Drive II.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot was made a much better vehicle a couple of years back, when for most of the model line its mediocre CVT was replaced by a responsive, smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission for most of the model line. 

There are three different drive systems for the Patriot, which helps explain why the CVT is still on board. If you have snowy winters to navigate or plan to do some light off-roading, you’ll want the available Freedom Drive I system, which is pretty standard, but includes a locking center differential. There you get the 6-speed automatic (or manual). But the Freedom Drive II system is hardier and includes low range for real off-road conditions. It's the only Patriot that earns a Trail Rated badge, and is accompanied by other upgrades like additional skid plates.

It's actually one of the better systems you can spec on a small SUV. But for that, you have to accept the CVT, which has the low range built into its transmission. That transmission has some of the worst traits of CVTs, feeling less responsive in ordinary city driving, with rubber-band-like pauses, followed by noisy motor-boating drones, when you need a quick burst of power.

Whether for daily commuting or out on the open road, for outdoor types on a budget, the Patriot works well enough. It's especially useful around town, where it's a joy to maneuver and handle, and parking is easy. That's the good; the bad is that if you have more discerning tastes, it's sorely lacking in refinement and sophistication.

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2016 Jeep Patriot

Comfort & Quality

Cabin ambience is mediocre; but the Patriot otherwise delivers the package it advertises on the outside.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot is, inside, much as it hints from the outside—tremendously useful and versatile, with good cargo space and decent space for rear passengers. 

The trim, boxy, bold look indeed yields good passenger space for four, with rear seat backs that flip forward easily, 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.

The feel of the interior is utilitarian. It's not beautifully trimmed, by any means, and although Jeep might have applied a very light spruce-up to this vehicle a few model years ago, someone seems to have lost the memo wiring funds for the sort of cabin rehab afforded to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as the latest Cherokee and Renegade.

Despite some improvement, this model'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 with an econo-car cheapness.

Seating comfort is lackluster, with somewhat uncomfortable front seats and rather stiff, unpadded back-seat accommodations. And ride quality, while not bad, can be a little more active than in newer small-crossover models.

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2016 Jeep Patriot

Safety

For those who prioritize the latest safety features, the Patriot isn't the way to go.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot is built on a structure that's now 10 years old, and during that time crash standards have changed.

So it's not surprising that the Patriot doesn't do well in either of the two U.S. crash-test programs.

In federal testing, the Patriot received four out of five stars for overall safety, and that includes an especially worrisome three-star score in frontal crash and rollover safety. In testing by the IIHS, the Patriot earns top "Good" results in most categories, yet it has a "Poor" rating in that agency's tougher new small-overlap frontal test.

In all fairness, considering the age of the Patriot means, it wasn't designed with this test in mind; but it serves to underscore how some of the other models in its class will be safer in certain kinds of accidents.

Outward visibility is excellent in the Patriot—a function of its boxy body and plenty of glass—and a rearview camera system is now available on both trim levels.

Safety equipment includes electronic stability control with roll mitigation, front side airbags, and side-curtain bags, as well as off-road brake traction control and hill descent control for models with four-wheel drive. What's missing here, however, is any sort of front crash prevention system, or any other systems to help with blind spot vision or lane markings. 

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2016 Jeep Patriot

Features

The 2016 Jeep Patriot is a good value for the money, although you'll pay a lot of extra money to get the Trail Rated badge.

The 2016 Patriot is offered in a reduced number of trims than before. It's now only available in Sport and Latitude models, but with a reasonably wide range of options and packages instead of multiple trims with varying features.

At the base Sport level, the Patriot includes cruise control, roof rails, fog lamps, illuminated cupholders, rear-seat heater ducts, tilt steering, cruise control, tinted glass, and an auxiliary input for audio. Air conditioning remains optional, which is likely part of the reason why the base price lands around $18,000.

The Jeep Patriot Sport now, for 2016, also offers telematics, satellite radio, and automatic headlamps as standard features.

The Altitude package is mostly cosmetic, adding a blacked-out exterior and wheels, as well as cloth/vinyl upholstery. Latitude models step up to air conditioning, power windows and locks, power heated mirrors, keyless entry, front heated cloth seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 115-volt power plug, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.

The High Altitude package nets some of what was included with the (now-discontinued) top Limited model—including leather seats, a power driver's seat, a sunroof, and Granite Crystal painted 17-inch wheels. Or separately, a Power Value Group adds to the base Sport some convenience items such as keyless entry, power heated mirrors, power windows and locks, and automatic headlamps.

Other options include Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, a remote-start system, a navigation system with Sirius Travel Link, a universal garage-door opener, and a Boston Acoustics sound system with tailgate speakers that flip to face outward.

Front-wheel drive is standard, but there's also a choice of two four-wheel drive systems—Freedom Drive I, and Freedom Drive II. The latter includes a low range plus a heavier-duty suspension, skid plates, and other enhancements. The All-Weather Capability Group adds 17-inch all-terrain tires, an engine-block heater, and tow hooks. All four-wheel-drive Patriots include the 2.4-liter inline-4.

Later in the year a new Sport SE package will bring a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, heated cloth mesh seats, 17-inch Mineral Gray alloy wheels, roof rails, increase ride height for front-wheel-drive models, and tow hooks for four-wheel drive models.

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2016 Jeep Patriot

Fuel Economy

For its size (and purpose), the 2016 Jeep Patriot isn't all that fuel-efficient.

The 2016 Jeep Patriot may strike you as compact and frugal, yet it's not necessarily any more fuel-efficient than much larger SUVs.

EPA fuel-economy ratings remain as high as 30 mpg on the highway, but they're down near the 20-mpg mark (20 mpg city, 23 highway, 21 combined) if you get that Freedom Drive II package—and yes, at that point it might make sense to go with the more capable Wrangler.

In some ways, the Patriot still makes sense. Stick with one of the simpler front-wheel-drive models, and you'll get a (reasonably) economical, city-friendly vehicle with a low sticker price. Take a good look at the mileage on the window sticker before making a decision.

It might also pay off to look across the showroom. Jeep Renegade models are virtually the same size inside, and they're rated better—for the most part—in EPA mileage.

In base configuration with front-drive and a 5-speed manual transmission, the Patriot returns 23/30/26 mpg. With all-wheel drive, the larger 2.4-liter, and an automatic, those numbers dip significantly to 20/26/22 mpg.

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