2010 Patriot New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Patriot is unmistakably a Jeep, with its squared-off lines, seven-slot grille, and round headlights. The Patriot and its sibling, the Jeep Compass, are based on a car platform, but still can deliver impressive off-road capabilities.
The four-door Patriot has plenty of room inside. There's 39.4 inches of legroom for rear-seat passengers, the 60/40-split rear seat folds flat, and a flat-folding front passenger seat is optional; with all the seats flat, you can slide an eight-foot kayak inside, for example.
There are two available engines. The larger of the two, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, makes 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, is EPA-rated at 23 mpg City, 28 mpg Highway with the manual transmission, and is standard equipment. It delivers good power; put the pedal down while cruising uphill at 75 miles per hour and it will accelerate. The smaller engine is 2.0 liters, makes 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque and is EPA-rated at 23/29 mpg with the manual transmission. The optional Continuously Variable Transaxle works well and we found the Auto Stick manual-shift feature useful.
We found the Patriot light and nimble on twisty roads and when maneuvering around town. Turn-in is sharp. The body is well isolated from the wheels: You can hear the tires hitting the expansion strips on the freeway, but you can't feel it. The independent suspension works well. During a long day of driving on patchy two-lanes, hard-packed dirt roads, sandy off-road trails, shallow rivers and deep gullies, it delivered steadiness and comfort in every abusive situation.
The Patriot is available with front-wheel drive or a choice of two all-wheel-drive systems, one that Jeep qualifies as Trail Rated. Those who like to go off-road should choose the Trail Rated Freedom II AWD system. With the CVT in low range, Hill Descent Control is automatically engaged. This keeps the Patriot under 5 mph and under control, going down steep hills, even icy ones. You can take both feet off the pedals and it will do its thing, a feature associated with expensive Land Rovers.
Changes for 2010 are minimal. There are driver and front-passenger active head restraints, and some changes to the available options.
The Jeep Patriot comes in two trim levels, Sport and Limited, with a choice of front-wheel drive (2WD) and two all-wheel drive (AWD) systems. The two engine choices, of 2.4 and 2.0 liters, are all-aluminum, with variable valve timing that optimizes power, torque, and efficiency, and balance shafts to enhance smoothness. The smaller engine delivers slightly better fuel economy, but is not available with the Limited trim level. A continuously variable automatic transaxle (CVT) is optional. It can be ordered with the Auto Stick manual shiftgate ($1,100) or an off-road crawl axle ratio ($1,050).
The Patriot Sport 2WD ($17,795) and AWD ($19,545) have cloth upholstery, air conditioning, outside-temperature indicator, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack and four speakers, 60/40-split rear seat, tilt steering column, roof rails, and P205/70R16 all-season tires on steel wheels. AWD models also have a locking center differential and four-wheel antilock disc brakes.
Options include the Sport E Package ($2,170) with Yes Essentials stain-repellant cloth upholstery; cruise control; power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry; height-adjustable driver's seat; fold-flat front passenger seat; reclining rear seat; and a 115-volt power outlet. The Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package ($1,315) features a brake-lock differential, low-range gearing, Hill Descent Control, heavy-duty alternator and engine cooling, interior air filter, height-adjustable driver's seat, fog lights, skid plates, full-size spare tire and P215/65R17 all-terrain white-letter tires on alloy wheels. The Sun and Sound group ($1,295) includes a sunroof, two articulating liftgate speakers, six Boston Acoustics speakers, a subwoofer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Standalone options include a six-CD changer ($350), front side airbags ($250), and P215/65R17 tires on alloy wheels ($590).
The Patriot Limited 2WD ($22,800) and AWD ($24,550) add cruise control; leather upholstery; heated front seats; height-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment; fold-flat front passenger seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; Sirius satellite radio; power windows, mirrors and locks; remote keyless entry; rear privacy glass; fog lamps; four-wheel disc brakes; and P215/60R17 tires on alloy wheels. The AWD model also gets a locking center differential.
Options for the Limited include a Security and Cargo Convenience group ($1,235) with front side airbags, daytime running lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, alarm, roof rack, cargo tonneau cover and Jeep's UConnect wireless cell phone link. Other options include an AM/FM/CD with Sirius satellite radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless cell phone link, and Jeep's UConnect GPS with hard-drive-based radio and navigation system with real-time traffic information ($1,285). The Freedom Drive II package costs $825 for the AWD Limited.
Safety features on all Patriot models include dual front airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, and active front head restraints. Torso-protecting front side impact airbags are an option we recommend.