On-road manners meet off-road prowess
Introduction2007 Jeep Patriot – First Drive: Like so many irrefutable facts we learn early in life – a glowing stove burner does bad things to skin, chunky milk doesn’t taste good – Jeeps are meant to go off road. Or so we thought. Last year, the brand unveiled the all-new Compass, a crossover that, no matter how it was equipped, wasn’t worthy of the brand’s off-road worthy Trail Rated badge. Then along came the Patriot, a boxier, more rugged looking crossover based on the same platform that, when equipped with a Freedom-Drive II off-road package, is worthy of that esteemed moniker, and thus, makes this little rig a legit Jeep. Finally, everything’s right with the world again.
According to Jeep’s estimates, the portion of the crossover market that the 2007 Patriot is entering saw sales of more than 500,000 units in 2006. Not bad, but the company expects that figure to jump to 800,000 vehicles in the coming years, and it wants a good percentage of those sales to be made at Jeep dealerships. The Patriot will share that burden with the Compass, a non-Trail Rated model that, like the Patriot, shares a platform with the Dodge Caliber. Dealers started receiving limited shipments of the 2007 Patriot in late 2006, with an increasing number hitting the lots daily.
The Basics: Model Mix – Sport Standard Features
Few people are surprised by inexpensive Kias or Chevrolet Aveos, but the idea of a sub-$15,000 Jeep may raise some eyebrows. The front-wheel-drive 2007 Patriot starts at $14,985, including a $560 destination charge, and thereby undercuts its stablemate, the non-Trail Rated Jeep Compass, which goes for $15,985 in base form. For its part, the Jeep Patriot Sport offers standard items such as 16-inch steel wheels, a CD player, a rear window wiper, and a tilt steering wheel. But more notable, especially given the price, are the standard four-wheel antilock disc brakes, the stability control system, and side-curtain airbags. Four-wheel-drive Sport models start at $16,735, though buyers will have to move up to the Limited for real off-road capability.
The Basics: Model Mix – Limited Standard Features
With a starting price of $19,985, including a $560 destination charge, the 2007 Patriot may represent the least expensive way to get a Limited badge on your Jeep. For less than $20,000 buyers get the Sport’s features as well as a 115-volt inverter in the center console, 17-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, a roof rack, chrome and body-color exterior trim, front fog lights, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat. Limited models also include a keyless entry system, leather on the seats and steering wheel, a reclining rear bench seat, and cruise and audio controls on the steering wheel. A four-wheel-drive Limited goes for $21,735 and can be equipped with an optional off-road package.
The Basics: Model Mix – Options
There’s a reason the Patriot Sport starts at less than $15,000: A lot of typically standard features are reserved for the options list. Package E adds essentials like air conditioning, power windows and door locks, and front map lights. Also available for an extra charge is a popular equipment group which includes a cargo cover and daytime running lights, and singular add-ons like front-side airbags, Sirius satellite radio, and Yes Essentials stain-resistant cloth seats. Limited models can be equipped with a navigation system, a sunroof, and Bluetooth connectivity. Four-wheel-drive Limiteds can be upgraded with the Freedom-Drive II off road group, which transforms the Patriot into an off-road capable Jeep. Every Patriot is available with a continuously-variable automatic transmission.
What’s New: Exterior Design
Traditional Jeep enthusiasts will look favorably upon the 2007 Patriot, given the square shape that resembles the late Cherokee and, to some degree, the current Commander. Of course, the unmistakable Jeep mug with its slotted grille and two round headlights, is present, and the flat hood disposes of the contours found on the Jeep Compass and Grand Cherokee models in favor of the more basic Wrangler look. Jeep designers suggest that the “beveled” shoulders give the Patriot a sense of protection and ruggedness. To us, it’s just old-school boxy Jeep, and is preferred over the rounded look of the Compass. The A-pillars have been pushed forward, which among other things, provides a longer roof for strapping on cargo.
What’s New: Interior Design
We blasted the Jeep Compass for an interior that was overrun with hard, shiny plastic. The same goes for the Patriot, but at least it offers superior styling, can be Trail Rated, and starts $1,000 less. Still, we’ve seen better materials in stripped Korean econoboxes. Get past that issue, and there’s little to dislike inside the Patriot. The vinyl cargo floor can hold up to 250 pounds and a fold-out iPod holder is borrowed from the Patriot’s platform mate, the Dodge Caliber. Rear visibility is quite good, but the vast expanse between the driver and the top of the windshield serves to limit the forward view, especially when stopped next to an overhead red light.
What’s New: Front Seat Comfort
It may be one of the smallest Jeeps available, but that doesn’t mean the Patriot skimps on space. Occupants are treated to tons of head, leg, and foot room, and when the ride in question is a Limited version, a height-adjustable driver’s seat provides an extra level of comfort. That’s in addition to the tilt steering wheel and spacious front buckets. Those seats lack worthwhile bolsters, but beefy bolsters aren’t really needed in a Jeep, and their absence is overlooked since they’re comfortable nonetheless. If only the hard door sills and armrests were as hospitable. At least the front center armrest slides, an adjustment that allows the driver to perfectly position a resting arm within reach of the shift knob.
What’s New: Rear Seat Comfort
If riding as a passenger in a 2007 Jeep Patriot is on the schedule, be sure to call shotgun. The rear bench splits, which is good, but the bottom cushion must have been shaped by a steamroller. To make things worse, the flat seat bottom is too short and offers little thigh support. The backrest is as curvy as a plank, and the fold-down center armrest – oops, there isn’t one. The rear doors fail to open wide enough. Plus, passengers need to step over the intruding wheel well when entering, and once they get inside, they’ve got to position their feet between ugly and intrusive front seat brackets. At least Limited models offer a nice reclining seat back.
What’s New: Cargo
The Patriot’s open tailgate doesn’t leave a lot of headroom; our five-foot-eight-inch tall editor had to take care not to damage his few remaining functioning follicles. A handle is featured on the inside of the tailgate, and when a Boston Acoustics sound system is ordered, a fold-down speaker box is added, as is a subwoofer on the right wall of the cargo area. The plastic floor features a diamond plate pattern and sits atop an optional full-size spare tire. With the split rear seat folded, the Patriot offers up to 54.2 cubic feet of cargo space, with handy tie-downs included for keeping items secure. A rear cargo light and flashlight are featured on the Patriot Limited.
What’s New: Primary Controls
Something looks awfully familiar here, and anyone who has seen or driven the Dodge Caliber or Jeep Compass will undoubtedly agree. It’s a case of “one for you, one for you, and one for me” where the aforementioned vehicles and the 2007 Jeep Patriot share the same instrument panel, not to mention the steering wheel and more. That fact does little in providing these vehicles with any sense of distinction, but at least the setup is straight-forward and useful: Three primary dials control the temperature and air flow, while an audio system with two dials and large buttons takes care of the tunes. Typical power features are operated with switches on the door.
What’s New: Hardware
Just one day before driving the 2007 Jeep Patriot, a vehicle that starts below $15,000, we had the opportunity to test drive the 2008 Dodge Avenger, which shares the distinction of “Product of DaimlerChrysler” with the Patriot. Curiously, the more expensive base Avenger came with rear drum brakes while every Patriot features discs all around. In addition, the little Jeep boasts ABS, rack-and-pinion steering, and an independent suspension with MacPherson struts up front, a multi-link assembly out back, and stabilizer bars on both ends. Four-wheel-drive variants of the Patriot include a part-time system with a transfer case and self-locking hubs for added traction.
What’s New: Under the Hood
Walk into a Jeep dealership, ask the salesperson for a 2007 Patriot with the standard engine, and you’ll end up with a 2.4-liter, 16-valve, dual overhead cam four-cylinder pumping out 172 horses at 6,000 rpm and 165 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. It’s mated to a five-speed manual or optional continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT). However, the front-wheel-drive Sport version can be fitted with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and 141 lb.-ft. of torque. This choice cuts $200 from the base price, but requires the $1,050 CVT. A CVT with a special low gear, called the CVTL2 by Jeep, is required on Limited models equipped with the Freedom-Drive II off-road package.
Driving: Test Day
Outside Scottsdale, Arizona there is, well, desert. Lots of desert. Which means it’s a great place to test the off-road abilities of the 2007 Jeep Patriot. Of course, we had to drive along highways – lots of highways – to get to a specific off-road course Jeep officials had mapped out. For the morning highway drive, we grabbed the keys to a four-wheel-drive Sport model with the five-speed manual tranny, and for the off-road excursion (and the return drive) we found ourselves in a Limited with the Freedom-Drive II off-road package. Just a few days prior to our arrival, Arizona had seen some snow in the higher elevations, so we did find a few isolated mud holes along the off-road course.
Both cars we drove had the 2.4-liter engine and we found it to be competent. Acceleration didn’t snap our necks, but there was enough for routine driving and safe highway passing. Refinement was short of whisper quiet, though at the same time it wasn’t overly thrashy. The five-speed manual transmission was a joy, with a quirky, bent shift lever that rested perfectly in relation to the center armrest, offering tight shifts matched by a light-effort clutch. The optional CVT, which we experienced off road and for the 50-mile drive home, was marked by smooth action at all speeds, yet caused the engine to rev constantly. That constant redline treatment was loud, annoying, and reduced what refinement the Patriot offered.
Driving: Ride and Handling
One of the more common advantages of crossovers versus traditional SUVs is a more comfortable and controlled ride, a trait evidenced by the 2007 Jeep Patriot. The newest Jeep handled washboard dirt roads and rough pavement without bucking the steering wheel or disrupting the handling. The rack-and-pinion steering setup put some road feel into the driver’s hands, and the level of responsiveness was better than what is often exhibited by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Trail Rated Limited models get some suspension changes that lead to a one-inch increase in ground clearance, an alteration that allows for more lean and body roll in corners. Finally, we never had a worry about the effectiveness of the four-wheel antilock disc brakes.
Driving: Off Road
To get a Trail Rated Jeep Patriot, buyers need to select a four-wheel-drive Limited model and then outfit it with the Freedom-Drive II off-road package and a specific CVT featuring a low off-road gear. While tackling some terrain that was beyond the capability of any front-wheel-drive crossover, the Patriot proved quite capable. As this picture shows, suspension travel wasn’t all that impressive, but that’s a result of this rig being built for highway duty first, off-road play second. By holding the ESP button five to six seconds to deactivate, we were able to fling the Patriot through some desert washouts without worry – in low gear with 4WD Lock engaged, ESP automatically kicks back in at 35 mph to control a skid.
Advice: Selling Points
It’s not the Compass. Seriously, that’s one of the best reasons to consider the 2007 Jeep Patriot. They share the same platform (with the Dodge Caliber), but unlike the Compass, the Patriot offers buyers the boxy, rugged look expected from a Jeep, and more importantly, it can be equipped for off roading. There are other reasons to look at the Patriot, including its low base price, front seat comfort, overall utility, standard antilock disc brakes and stability control system, and compliant ride. We’re also fans of the reasonably-priced navigation system ($1,395) and Boston Acoustics stereo ($495).
Advice: Deal Breakers
At $14,985, the base Patriot is well-priced, but in an effort to keep that introductory price low basic items such as air conditioning had to be moved to the options list. While at the drive event, we joined editors from other publications in wishing for a Trail Rated Patriot with a manual transmission rather than the required CVT. We’re also not big fans of the standard eather upholstery on the Limited model; we’d opt instead for the odor- and stain-resistant Yes Essentials cloth fabric at the first opportunity if it were available.
As an increasing number of automakers enter the market (Korean and soon Chinese companies), and existing players shoot to expand portfolios (Honda, Toyota, Saturn), competition is guaranteed to increase. But what’s especially interesting is how many nearly duplicate products are coming out of the same companies. In this case, the vehicles include the Jeep Compass and the Jeep Patriot. They’re essentially the same crossover, yet the Patriot can be equipped with that all-important Trail Rated badge, something unavailable with the Compass. Of course, competition extends past the Jeep brand to include the Dodge Caliber, Honda Element, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Saturn VUE, Subaru Impreza Wagon and Outback Sport, and Suzuki Grand Vitara.
Specifications: Test Vehicle – Sport 4WD
Test Vehicle: 2007 Jeep Patriot Sport 4X4
As-tested Price: $21,310 (including a $560 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Engine Horsepower: 172 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 165 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
EPA Fuel Economy: 25/29 mpg
Specifications: Test Vehicle – Limited 4WD
Test Vehicle: 2007 Jeep Patriot Limited 4X4
As-tested Price: $23,170 (including a $560 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Engine Horsepower: 172 at 6,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 165 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Continuously-variable automatic (CVT)
EPA Fuel Economy: 23/26 mpg
Curb Weight, lbs.: 3,108 (Sport 2WD); 3,168 (LTD 2WD); 3,251 (Sport 4WD); 3,326 (LTD 4WD)
Length, inches: 173.6
Width, inches: 69.1
Wheelbase, inches: 103.7
Height, inches: 64.4
Legroom, inches (front/rear): 40.6/39.4
Headroom, inches (front/rear): 41.0/39.3
Max. Seating Capacity: Five
Max. Cargo Volume, cu.ft.: 54.2
Photos courtesy of Thom Blackett, Ron Perry, and Jeep