What's New for 2010
The 2010 Jeep Patriot Sport 4x2's optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine can now be paired with a five-speed manual transmission, and active head restraints are standard across the lineup.
What makes a patriot a patriot? Loyalty. Passion. Conviction. Probably some other stuff we could think of if we had Mel Gibson's filmography on hand. But what makes the 2010 Jeep Patriot a patriot? Well, it looks a bit like the WWII-tested Jeep, we suppose, from the round headlights and vertical grille slats to the squared-off rear end. Jeep also gives the Patriot its "Trail Rated" certification when the Off-Road package is specified, so the Patriot can theoretically be a soldier off the beaten path. Truth be told, however, the Patriot is essentially a Dodge Caliber with a buffed-up body. And there's not much that's patriotic about that.
Yes, the Patriot is based on the unloved Caliber hatchback, just like its Jeep Compass sibling. We'll concede that the Patriot is probably the best vehicle of the three, primarily because of that available Off-Road package, which sets it apart from most other compact SUVs and their questionable rock-crawling talents. If you're serious, skip 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 actually do some justice to the "Jeep" name on the grille. It must be said, though, that if you actually did show up on a trail with the Patriot, there'd be quite a bit of snickering from other, "real" Jeep owners. They'll say you should've bought a Jeep Wrangler for the occasion, and we'd concur.
One nice feature for daily use is the optional hard-drive-based multimedia integration system, which allows everything from Bluetooth connectivity and MP3 ripping to movie viewing on the dash-mounted LCD screen. But that about does it as far as good news is concerned. In other respects, the Patriot is a cellar-dweller in this segment. Its engines are noisy and lack punch, its handling is poor and its cabin is awash in cheap materials -- and not very comfortable besides. You can't even haul that much stuff, as the Patriot's 53-cubic-foot maximum cargo capacity is humbled by other compact SUVs.
There are numerous competing models that are superior to the 2010 Jeep Patriot in virtually every road-going respect, including the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. Give the Off-Road package a look if you're into that sort of thing; otherwise, keep your patriotism from extending to the 2010 Jeep Patriot.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Jeep Patriot compact SUV is available in Sport and Limited trims. The price-leading Sport comes with 16-inch steel wheels, a tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback and a four-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. Moving up to the Limited nets 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, privacy glass, chrome exterior accents, keyless entry, a 115-volt power outlet, cruise control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining rear seatbacks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (includes audio controls), a trip computer and a six-CD/MP3 changer.
Options on the base Sport include 17-inch alloys and the six-CD changer. Both Sport and Limited are eligible for roof rails, a sunroof and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics audio system with flip-down tailgate speakers. A high-tech bundle for the Limited includes Bluetooth connectivity, an iPod interface, satellite radio and a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and digital music storage.
Additionally, 4WD models can be had with an Off-Road package that includes skid plates; a low-range ratio for models with the CVT; hill descent control; and an additional inch of ground clearance.
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 4WD configurations -- light-duty Freedom Drive I or off-road-ready Freedom Drive II, the latter of which boasts a low-range gear and is available only with the CVT. Front-wheel-drive Sport models can also be equipped with a 158-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and either transmission.
EPA fuel economy estimates range from 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined for the 2.0-liter FWD Patriot with the manual transmission, to 20/22/21 for 4WD Patriots with the Off-Road package.
Antilock brakes, traction control, whiplash-reducing front head restraints, stability control with rollover mitigation and side curtain airbags are all standard on the 2010 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 with the optional side airbags.
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, simple controls and a whole lot of cheap hard plastic. Build quality is likewise unimpressive. The front seats are nicely shaped, but the beltline is too high for an SUV wannabe, depriving drivers of that commanding view of the road, and the steering wheel lacks a telescoping function. On the bright side, the optional navigation system's touchscreen interface is mostly intuitive, and it offers high-tech features that aren't available on some competing models.
For camping trips and tailgate parties, the Boston Acoustics sound 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 a paltry 53 cubic feet.
The 2010 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 smaller 2.0-liter engine is even less gratifying.
However, the Patriot can impress when fitted with the Off-Road package, which provides 9.0 inches of ground clearance, skid plates and a low-range gear. Thus equipped, it's one of the most capable off-roaders in the compact crossover SUV class.