What's New for 2008
Jeep's Patriot compact crossover SUV enters its second year with a handful of minor changes, including standard air-conditioning, AutoStick manual shifting added to the continuously variable transmission (CVT), reshuffled package content and a few chrome bits to dress up the interior. Limited models can also be equipped with an optional navigation system.
The compact SUV display has gotten pretty crowded at your local Jeep store, with the traditional Patriot and stylized Compass car-based crossovers joining the larger and pricier second-generation Liberty. Similar to the old Cherokee in appearance, the 2008 Jeep Patriot is a familiar-looking four-door Jeep wagon meant to be the tougher and more off-roadable version of the brand's two entry-level SUV models. When properly equipped with "Trail Rated" four-wheel-drive components, the Patriot ends up being one of the best small crossover SUVs in terms of off-road capability.
If you're inclined to play in the dirt, there are two four-wheel-drive versions to choose from: the standard "Freedom Drive I" setup with a lockable active full-time system for winter-weather use, and an available "Freedom Drive II" off-road package with an elevated ride height and low-range gearing for true terrain-conquering capability. Those less concerned with venturing far from city lights can save some money and opt for a front-wheel-drive Patriot and still enjoy Jeep's classic, squared-off appearance.
The Patriot's base price has increased since last year, but now includes a number of enhancements plus standard air-conditioning -- which you'd probably spring for anyway. Inside, the Patriot is a bit more dressy and functional with a new dark gray interior option, additional chrome accents and some new features. The interior is still one of this vehicle's biggest drawbacks, however, as it suffers from low-grade materials and subpar cargo capacity.
If you're looking for an affordable compact runabout and are sold on rugged Jeep looks and off-road potential, the 2008 Jeep Patriot Sport would be your best bet. In the same price range, however, those who find these attributes negotiable may want to check out the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage twins, which trade some off-road functionality for larger interiors and more extensive basic warranty coverage. Likewise, if you don't travel off pavement and are looking to spend a few thousand more on a Patriot Limited, there are more polished rivals from Honda, Toyota and Subaru to consider with greater overall refinement, on-road performance and cargo capacity. On the domestic side, Ford's Escape has tough new exterior styling and a revamped interior worth checking out. In other words, if "Trail Rated" isn't a quality that's high on your list, you can do yourself a favor by skipping over the Patriot.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Jeep Patriot compact SUV is available in base Sport and upmarket Limited trims. The Sport is pretty basic with 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack. Moving up to the more luxurious Limited gets you 17-inch aluminum wheels, foglights, privacy glass, chrome exterior accents, leather trim, heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining 60/40-split rear seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. A 115-volt outlet, full power accessories, cruise control and remote keyless entry also come standard. Many of the Limited's features are available on the Sport as individual or packaged options.
Both trims can be equipped with a sunroof, a six-disc CD changer and a Boston Acoustics premium audio system with satellite radio and flip-down speakers in the liftgate. On four-wheel-drive models, an off-road package with skid plates, a low-range ratio for CVT-equipped vehicles, hill descent control and an additional inch of ground clearance is available. The Limited model also qualifies for a navigation system and hands-free phone connectivity.
Powertrains and Performance
Most Jeep Patriots are powered by a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a CVT is optional. Buyers can choose either front- or all-wheel-drive configurations. Front-wheel-drive Sport models with the optional CVT can also be equipped with a smaller and less expensive 158-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
When equipped with the CVT, the Patriot accelerates sluggishly compared with other compact SUVs, and the lack of fixed ratios keeps the revs on a noisy boil. The power delivery feels more energetic and linear with the manual gearbox, which would be our choice. Fuel economy for an AWD model with the CVT checks in for 2008 at 21 mpg city/24 mpg highway.
Antilock brakes, traction control, stability control with roll-over mitigation and head curtain airbags are all standard Patriot features. Front-seat side-impact airbags are optional on both trims. The 2008 Jeep Patriot earns four stars out of five for driver protection and a perfect five stars for the front passenger in government frontal crash testing. In side-impact tests, it receives a five-star protection rating for both front and rear passengers.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Patriot's cabin features large gauges and simple controls but is ultimately defined by a sea of hard, low-quality plastic and inconsistent fit and finish. The front seats are well cushioned, but an overly high beltline and dash, combined with the lack of a telescoping steering wheel, makes for an awkward driving position, especially for shorter adults. Those of taller stature will appreciate this SUV's voluminous headroom, however.
For camping trips and tailgate parties, the optional premium sound system features unique liftgate-mounted speakers that rotate and direct the sound toward the great outdoors. The Jeep's removable and easy-to-clean cargo floor is another nice touch, but the Patriot's maximum cargo capacity is disappointing at just over 54 cubic feet.
Although 172 hp is adequate output for a four-cylinder engine, the Patriot feels sluggish during merging and passing maneuvers, especially when equipped with 4WD and the CVT. In addition, full-throttle acceleration results in the CVT holding the engine's rpm at redline, at which point both four-cylinders make an irritating racket.
Once underway, the 2008 Jeep Patriot shows some body roll, but overall the Patriot takes corners confidently with a firm and controlled ride. With the off-road package, the Patriot lives up to its "Trail Rated" moniker thanks to generous (9.0-inch) ground clearance and a low-range gear that allows it to tame trails and hills that would be off-limits to most competitors in its class. If you're that serious about off-roading, however, you'd probably be better off with Jeep's own Liberty, or upping the ante for a more purpose-built and proven machine like the Wrangler, Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser.