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2016 Jeep Patriot: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 Jeep Patriot compact crossover SUV does its best to wear its maker's renowned name with pride. It offers a Trail-Rated version with a 4x4 crawl mode, so it's more effective in the wild than light-duty rivals such as the Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage. But this pricey rock-crawling hardware takes a bite out of the Patriot's value proposition as one of the most affordable compact crossover SUVs on sale in the United States.

With styling that recalls Jeep products of the mid-1990s, the Patriot rocks a semi-retro vibe that may work for first-time Jeep buyers. Keep in mind, though, that this vehicle (which shares its powertrains and platform with the underwhelming Jeep Compass) is approaching the end of its production. The more modern Renegade is now available.

What's New for 2016?

The previously range-topping Limited trim didn't make it into 2016. The basic Sport trim now gets Bluetooth and satellite radio as standard. A rearview camera joins the options list.

What We Like

Low entry price; standard manual transmission; real off-road capability with Freedom Drive II

What We Don't

Crude engines; nasty continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT); poor acceleration with base engine; budget interior; elevated road noise; poor crash-test scores

How Much?

$18,590-$23,190

Fuel Economy

The base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder rated at 158 horsepower and 141 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is either a 5-speed manual or the automatic option, a CVT. Front-wheel drive is the sole setup with this engine.

With the manual transmission, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates fuel consumption at 23 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. When this engine is paired with the CVT, consumption is 22 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

The upgraded engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is again standard, but two different all-wheel-drive systems can be ordered, including the off-road-ready Freedom Drive II, which uses a CVT system that simulates low-range gearing.

All other 2.4-liter Patriot models have the 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy starts at 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined with the manual, dropping to 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with the 6-speed automatic (20 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined with all-wheel drive) and 20 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with the Freedom Drive II/CVT combination.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Jeep Patriot is available in Sport and Latitude trim levels. The High Altitude is a special-edition model based on the Latitude level.

The Sport trim ($18,590) starts with 16-inch steel wheels, fog lights, roof rails, cruise control, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, cloth upholstery and Bluetooth, plus a 4-speaker audio system with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio input. Remarkably, air conditioning is not standard, nor is power windows or locks -- but they are on the options list.

The Latitude ($23,190) comes with air conditioning, power accessories, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary controls, heated front seats (including driver's-side height adjustment), reclining rear seats and a 115-volt power outlet.

The High Altitude package adds a sunroof, 17-in alloy wheels, chrome exterior accents, a power adjustable driver's seat and leather upholstery.

Specifying the Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system inflates the bottom line considerably because it also requires the 2.4-liter engine. Freedom Drive II adds simulated low-range gearing, skid plates, oil cooler and other off-road-oriented aids.

A touchscreen infotainment interface with digital music storage, navigation, an engine heater, a rearview camera, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a USB port, Bluetooth, tow hooks and a premium Boston Acoustics 9-speaker audio system (with flip-down tailgate speakers) are also available.

Cargo space behind the rear seats is 23 cu ft., which expands to 53.5 cu ft. when the seats are folded down. Neither figure puts the Patriot in a particularly good light.

Safety

Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes with 4-wheel discs on all-wheel-drive models but inferior rear drums on front-wheel-drive models, stability control and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain).

In government crash tests, the Patriot received three stars for front impacts (there is no side-impact or overall rating). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Patriot its highest rating of Good in all categories except the small-overlap front test, where it scored Poor (the lowest rating of four).

Behind the Wheel

It looks like a cool SUV in photos, but the Patriot quickly reveals its mediocrity once you get inside. Cabin materials are about as cheap as you'll find these days. And it's almost unbelievable that the Sport comes with crank windows, manual locks and no air conditioning. Even with all those optional luxuries specified, the interior still has a low-budget air.

Both engines can be loud, and only the 2.4-liter unit accelerates with anything approaching verve. The 6-speed automatic is more satisfying than the CVT, but it can only do so much. The ride quality is so-so. The steering is vague and slow to respond, with too much play in the wheel.

Opt for Freedom Drive II, and the Patriot will do a decent impression of a real SUV in the bushes. But at just 23 mpg hwy, there will be pain at the gas pump. Worst of all, it means being stuck with the CVT, which is one of the least pleasant examples of its kind.

Still, the Patriot with Freedom Drive II is on a short list of compact crossovers with genuine off-road chops. Don't forget to check out the new Renegade, though. It's quite a capable machine and much more attractive in so many ways.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Ford Escape -- The sophisticated Escape handles like a raised Focus (which is essentially what it is), and its technology offerings are top-notch and all new for 2017.

2016 Mazda CX-5 -- The CX-5 is arguably the most rewarding compact crossover to drive on pavement, and its fuel economy puts the Patriot to shame.

2016 Subaru Forester -- Roomier and more refined than the Patriot, the Forester offers all-wheel drive as standard, plus an optional turbocharged engine.

Used Jeep Grand Cherokee -- Poke around at enough Jeep dealers, and you might find a lightly used Grand Cherokee V6 for the price of a well-equipped Patriot, and it's a far better vehicle.

Autotrader's Advice

If off-roading is a pastime or a necessity, the Freedom Drive II is the Patriot's clearest (perhaps only) advantage over the competition -- but it doesn't come cheap. Since the Patriot is reaching the end of its life, there might be some good deals around -- or you might prefer the Renegade.

Find a Jeep Patriot for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
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Used 2016 Jeep Patriot FWD Latitude
Used 2016 Jeep Patriot
$12,950
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Used 2016 Jeep Patriot 4WD Sport
Used 2016 Jeep Patriot
$16,000
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Jeep Patriot: New Car Review - Autotrader