Full 2011 Jeep Patriot Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Jeep Patriot gets updated exterior styling and a few better-quality interior trim pieces, plus standard cruise control. All models also get reworked steering and suspension hardware, while four-wheel-drive versions benefit from increased ride height. New options include 17-inch alloy wheels and a voice-control system for audio functions.
Everyone's seen the classic comedy setup where the indecisive hero has one foot on the dock and one on the boat as the gap between the two grows wider by the second. Well, in an odd way, that turns out to be a fairly apt analogy for the 2011 Jeep Patriot.
You see, this compact SUV's problem is that it doesn't seem able to make up its mind what it wants to be. So in the process of trying to split the difference between traditional Jeep ruggedness and mild-mannered suburban-friendly runabout, it ends up not filling either role particularly well.
Despite its distinctive Jeep styling, the Patriot's off-pavement capabilities are relatively modest by true four-wheeling standards, even if you opt for the available Off-Road package with its increased ride height, skid plates and 4WD system with low-range transfer case. The same can be said for this Dodge Caliber-based compact SUV's on-pavement performance, which is hamstrung by lackluster powertrains and disappointing handling.
For 2011, Jeep engineers have at least tried to address this last issue with revised suspension and steering hardware. The automaker's design team has also taken a stab at patching over the Patriot's other glaring weakness -- a cabin filled with cheap-feeling hard plastics -- by adding some softer-touch materials to the door panels and center armrest.
The Patriot's real problem, however, is that it's up against a number of more appealing compact crossovers. While it's true that a properly equipped 2011 Jeep Patriot is more capable on a rugged trail than other comparably priced small SUVs, it pales in comparison to fully committed off-roaders like the Nissan Xterra, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Jeep's own Wrangler.
As for more direct competitors, the Subaru Forester also offers a robust all-wheel-drive system and respectable ground clearance, making it capable of satisfying occasional off-road needs while providing a superior everyday driving experience. Similarly, buyers simply looking for some added peace of mind when road conditions turn ugly will find AWD versions of small crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4 to be more refined alternatives.
In other words, unless you have the rather specific need for an inexpensive SUV with a true 4WD system that includes a low-range transfer case, we'd suggest you give this Patriot a crisp salute and look at competitors that concentrate on doing one thing very well.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Jeep Patriot is a compact SUV that's offered in three trim levels. The entry-level base model comes with 16-inch steel wheels, foglamps, rear privacy glass, roof rails, cruise control, outside temperature display, a tilt-only steering wheel with audio controls, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio input jack. The Power Value Group adds keyless entry, full power accessories and heated fold-away mirrors.
The midrange Latitude model includes the Power Value Group and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning (available on base), heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seats with recline, keyless entry, remote ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a 115-volt AC power outlet, a trip computer and an upgraded sound system with a six-CD changer and satellite radio (available on base). The Latitude X adds the bigger engine standard, plus chrome-like exterior trim, automatic climate control, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, manual driver lumbar adjustment and a six-CD changer (optional on base).
The Latitude trims are available with a number of option packages. The Security and Cargo Convenience Group adds front side airbags, adjustable roof crossbars, remote ignition, daytime running lamps, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth (available separately) and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Sun and Sound Group adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system with satellite radio (base), subwoofer and two fold-down speakers in the tailgate. This sound system is available separately. There is also an upgraded stereo head unit that includes a touchscreen interface and 30GB of digital music storage.
Available on all 4x4 models is the Freedom-Drive Off-Road Group, which includes a more advanced four-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing, skid plates, hill descent control, hill start assist, all-terrain tires and tow hooks. On the base model, this Group includes 17-inch alloy wheels and a height-adjustable driver seat.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Jeep Patriot is offered with one of two four-cylinder engines. The 2.0-liter version, which is standard on two-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude models, puts out 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. The 2.4-liter engine, which comes under the hoods of Sport and Latitude models equipped with four-wheel drive and all Latitude X models, ups that output to 172 hp and 165 lb-ft.
Both engines come fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox; a continuously variable automatic (CVT) is available as an option. Front-wheel drive is standard, but there are two different four-wheel-drive systems offered. The Freedom Drive I system is intended for light-duty conditions like snowy roads, whereas the Freedom Drive II is a more traditional 4WD system with a low-range transfer case that makes it much more capable off-road.
In Edmunds testing, a 4x4 Patriot with the 2.4-liter and a CVT went from zero to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds, a slow time for this vehicle type. Patriots with the smaller 2.0-liter will be slower still.
EPA fuel economy estimates are 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined for the 2.0-liter FWD Patriot with the manual transmission and 23/27/24 with the CVT. The 2.4-liter engine gets almost the same fuel economy with front drive and CVT (21/27/24), and 21/26/23 with all-wheel drive. Those with the Off-Road package return a relatively poor 20/23/21.
All 2011 Jeep Patriots comes standard with stability control with rollover mitigation, traction control, whiplash-reducing active front head restraints, and side curtain airbags. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard on all 4WD models and the Latitude X, while others have antilock front discs and rear drums. Front-seat side impact airbags are optional on all models. In Edmunds brake testing, a 4x4 Patriot came to a stop from 60 mph in a poor 143 feet, which is about 20 feet worse than average.
While it hasn't been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedure, the Patriot's 2010 frontal crash test scores (which aren't comparable to the new tests) were four stars out of five for driver protection and a perfect five stars for passenger protection in frontal impacts, and five stars for both front and rear passengers in side impacts with the optional front-seat side-impact 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 gets upgraded materials on the door panels and center console this year, but that does little to offset the rest of the hard plastics and poor fit and finish that give the interior a distinctly cut-rate feel. About the best we can say about this design is that the gauges and controls are straightforward and the front seats are reasonably comfortable.
There are a few bright spots, however, including a cargo area lamp that doubles as a removable LED flashlight and available premium audio systems with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and 30-gigabyte hard drive that can hold thousands of your favorite songs. Another clever idea is the optional Boston Acoustics speakers mounted in the liftgate that can be flipped down to provide a soundtrack to your next picnic.
Loading up the grub and other supplies for that alfresco dining adventure will be a bit of a challenge, though, due to the fact that the Patriot's cargo hold offers just 54 cubic feet of room. That's on par with smaller crossovers like the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage, but far less than a GMC Terrain or Subaru Forester. An available fold-flat front passenger seat at least allows you to carry long items, while the removable easy-clean cargo floor should make life a little easier.
Even when fitted with the 172-hp 2.4-liter engine, the 2011 Jeep Patriot feels sluggish under hard acceleration. The CVT doesn't help any, as it's slow to respond to throttle inputs and tends to allow the engine to rev noisily at the redline when it finally figures out you want full power. Fitted with the available Off-Road package, which provides a healthy 9.0 inches of ground clearance, skid plates and a low-range transfer case, the Patriot is certainly better in the dirt than most compact crossovers. That said, the vehicle's less robust unibody construction and pavement-oriented tires means you'll want to think twice before taking it on any particularly gnarly trails.