Full 2009 Jeep Patriot Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Jeep Patriot receives an available uconnect multimedia integration system, additional sound insulation, a spruced-up dash layout and a new center console and door panel design with padded armrests.
It's probably not a good idea to base a compact crossover SUV on the underachieving Dodge Caliber wagon, but Jeep didn't ask us for our opinion -- it just went ahead and gave the world the 2009 Jeep Patriot. In fairness, the Patriot's plebeian roots are well disguised. It certainly looks like a Jeep, from the Wrangler-esque round headlights and vertical grille slats to the squared-off rear end. Heck, it's even Trail Rated when the off-road package is specified, so this is one cute ute that can actually walk the walk when the going gets rocky. At the end of the day, though, the Patriot is a pumped-up rendering of a subpar econobox, and that hurts its chances in this highly competitive segment.
The 2009 Jeep Patriot enters its third year of production with a smattering of updates designed to blunt criticism of its el-cheapo interior. The armrests on the doors and the center console are now padded (they used to be hard plastic), the dashboard's appearance has been tarted up a bit and the Patriot can now be had with Chrysler's hard-drive-based uconnect multimedia integration system, which enables everything from Bluetooth connectivity and MP3 ripping to movie viewing on the dash-mounted LCD screen. We like the uconnect system, but Patriots so equipped can get pricey, and this Jeep's low entry price is one of its only claims to fame. Moreover, while the padded armrests are pleasant, they should have been there in the first place -- and the Patriot's ostensibly improved dash layout is still one of the chintziest in the business.
Perhaps the only compelling reason to buy a Patriot is its respectable off-road ability with the optional off-road package. If you venture off the beaten path with regularity, the Patriot will get the job done like few others in its class. Forget the Freedom Drive I four-wheel-drive setup with its lockable active full-time system for winter-weather use -- it's little different from what you'll find in off-road pretenders like the Nissan Rogue. Step up to the Freedom Drive II off-road package, however, and you'll get an elevated ride height and low-range gearing, which give the Patriot some decent trail-busting chops.
Unless you really dig that boxy styling, though, we wouldn't recommend the tarmac-biased versions of the Patriot. There are numerous competing models that are superior to the 2009 Jeep Patriot in virtually every roadgoing respect, such as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. If what you're looking for is a practical urban or suburban runabout, there's not much to be said in this Jeep's favor.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Jeep Patriot compact SUV is available in base Sport and upmarket Limited trims. The price-leading Sport comes with wimpy-looking 16-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack. Moving up to the more luxurious Limited nets 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, privacy glass, chrome exterior accents, leather trim, heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining 60/40-split rear seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and optional uconnect GPS, a high-tech bundle that includes Bluetooth connectivity, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and 30 gigabytes of music storage, DVD playback on the LCD screen (when the vehicle is in Park) and voice-recognition capability. 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-CD changer and a Boston Acoustics premium audio system with satellite radio and flip-down speakers in the liftgate. 4WD models can be had with an off-road package that includes skid plates; a low-range ratio for models with a continuously variable transmission (CVT); hill descent control; and an additional inch of ground clearance. 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 from either front-wheel drive or one of two four-wheel-drive configurations -- light-duty Freedom Drive I or off-road-ready Freedom Drive II, the latter of which is available only with the CVT. Front-wheel-drive Sport models with the CVT can also be equipped with a 158-hp 2.0-liter four-banger.
EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 21 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for Patriots equipped with the CVT and Freedom Drive I. Opting for Freedom Drive II drops those numbers to 20/22/21 mpg. Front-drive Patriots with the CVT and 2.4-liter engine are rated at 21/25/23 mpg, while the 2.0-liter engine improves fuel economy to 23/27/24.
Antilock brakes, traction control, stability control with roll-over mitigation and side curtain airbags are all standard on the 2009 Jeep Patriot. Front-seat side impact airbags are optional on both trims. In government crash tests, the Patriot earned four stars out of five for driver protection and a perfect five stars for passenger protection in frontal impacts, while side impact testing yielded a five-star rating for both front and rear passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Patriot its top "Good" rating in its frontal offset crash test. The Patriot was deemed "Good" in side impact testing when equipped with the optional side impact airbags, but without those bags, it was rated a second-to-worst "Marginal."
Interior Design and Special Features
The Patriot's cabin features large gauges and simple controls, but it remains awash in cheap hard plastic, despite Jeep's attempts to improve things for 2009. Fit and finish is another trouble spot: When we cranked up the optional Boston Acoustics stereo on a Patriot we drove recently, panels started rattling from every corner of the cabin. The front seats are nicely shaped, but the beltline is too high for an SUV wannabe, and the steering wheel lacks a telescope function. On the bright side, the uconnect multimedia integration system is pretty cool. Its touchscreen interface is mostly intuitive, and it offers high-tech features that aren't available on many competing models.
For camping trips and tailgate parties, the Boston Acoustics system features unique liftgate-mounted speakers that flip down so the sound projects outward. The Jeep's removable and easy-to-clean cargo floor is another nice touch. Unfortunately, maximum cargo capacity is barely more than 54 cubic feet -- that's a few cubes less than you'll find in the diminutive Honda Fit. An unusually high load floor is partly to blame here, and it also makes loading a chore.
The 2009 Jeep Patriot's 2.4-liter engine boasts a respectable 172 hp, but it still feels rather lethargic when you put your foot in it. Much of the blame here goes to the CVT, which takes its sweet time responding to significant throttle inputs. Moreover, once it figures out that you want maximum power, it holds the engine speed at redline, which sounds unpleasant enough that you'll think twice about flooring it in the future. Not surprisingly, the 2.0-liter engine is even less gratifying.
To its credit, the Patriot remains composed over bumpy roads, and though this Jeep's steering is lifeless and vague, its handling is within the limits of acceptability for this class. The Patriot really impresses when fitted with the off-road package, which provides 9.0 inches of ground clearance and a low-range gear. Thus equipped, it's one of the most capable off-roaders in the compact SUV class -- if you care about that sort of thing.