The Jeep Patriot receives a brand new automatic transmission for 2014. With six forward gears, the new transmission promises to improve both fuel economy and performance, making the Patriot both peppier around town and more relaxed on the highway. New seat mounted side airbags are standard and round out the important changes for 2014.
The Patriot shares much of its mechanical components with both the Jeep Compass and the Dodge Caliber, including a layout that's much more car-like than any of Jeep's larger models. With a MacPherson strut front suspension and rear multi-link setup, quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering and a very manageable 174 inches of total length, the Patriot is very maneuverable.
With either of the Patriot's two 4-cylinder engine offerings under the hood, the Patriot is reasonably energetic on the road while also returning decent fuel economy. The base front-wheel-drive models can be equipped with a 158-horsepower, 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, but also available, as well as standard on the rest of the lineup, is a 172-hp, 2.4L 4-cylinder.
Although the Patriot is the most car-like Jeep, it doesn't forget about its off-road roots. Three different drivetrain configurations are offered: front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II. Freedom Drive I is an active all-wheel drive system that sends more power to the rear wheels when it's needed for traction; it also has a Lock mode for deep snow or mud. For those who plan to do occasional off-roading, there's the Freedom II Off-Road Package, which brings a 19:1 low range gearing for the transaxle, plus skid plates, a full-size spare, all-terrain tires, tow hooks, fog lamps and an engine oil cooler. With the package, the Patriot sits an inch higher than the other models, for a full nine inches of ground clearance, plus 19-inch water fording capability and better approach/departure angles than many more truck-like SUVs.
Brake Traction Control and Hill Descent Control assist with steep, slippery slopes off-road, while all Patriots come with electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, including a rough-road mode for the anti-lock brakes.
The Patriot's very boxy exterior helps provide an extremely roomy, useful interior. The front seats have a more car-like position than Jeep's other models, but they command a good view of the road. Seating is also comfortable in back, with adequate legroom and plenty of headroom, though there's barely enough width to fit three adults across; up-level models get a reclining seatback. For cargo versatility, the back seats fold forward flat and increase the dimensions of the remarkably convenient, box-shaped cargo area. The front passenger seat can also fold all the way forward to act as a table or to make room for especially long cargo.
All three trims are offered with either front- or 4-wheel drive. The base model includes all the safety equipment but is otherwise very basic--manual wind-up windows are standard--as are a rear defroster and a 4-speaker CD sound system. Latitude models make a huge jump and pile on the comforts such as heated leather seats, cruise control, keyless entry, an auxiliary power outlet and an upgraded sound system--in addition to 4-wheel disc brakes and alloy wheels.
The Limited is more luxury oriented--its got bright exhaust and roof rails, upgraded body trim, an upgraded stereo with a 6-disc CD changer, an auxiliary audio jack and SIRIUS satellite radio, automatic climate control, leather seats, a power driver seat and silver interior accents.
The Patriot has a wider range of options than is expected from a vehicle that starts at well under $20,000. An especially noteworthy option is the UConnect tunes system, which includes a 30-gigabyte hard drive for storage of music and pictures; the system can read CDs, DVDs or USB memory sticks. Another option, UConnect GPS, includes a hands-free phone interface and voice-activated commands, plus real-time traffic information for the navigation system.