The Jeep Patriot debuted in the 2007 model year, showing off boxy styling that recalled the long-gone Cherokee model. Unfortunately for Jeep enthusiasts, the Patriot has never been a genuinely competent off-roader. That changes for the 2011 model year with the Patriot's better all-wheel-drive system. Other changes will improve the driving experience for all 2011 Patriot drivers, making the Jeep more competitive in the wildly popular compact crossover class.
For the 2011 model year, the Patriot is the least expensive model Jeep offers -- by many thousands of dollars. The revamped Compass compact SUV shares most of its mechanical bits with the Patriot but has an MSRP of about $20,000. The 2011 Patriot, in contrast, can be had for less than $17,000. Of course, that's largely because the base Patriot -- called the Sport -- comes with 16-inch steel wheels and lacks air conditioning, speed-sensitive power door locks, remote keyless entry, and power windows. Once consumers upgrade to the better equipped Latitude or Latitude X models, the 2011 Patriot is best considered by those who might prize rugged looks in a compact crossover above dynamic excellence.
That's not to say the refreshed 2011 Jeep Patriot is bad, but the 2.0- and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines are not known for class-leading refinement or fuel efficiency. The front-wheel-drive models come only with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 141 pound-feet of torque at 5000 rpm. EPA-rated fuel economy on these models is 23/27 mpg city/highway with the CVT and 23/29 mpg with the five-speed manual transmission. Both transmissions can be mated to the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which is good for 172 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 165 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. Fuel economy is as high as 23/28 mpg with this engine and a five-speed manual transmission in front-wheel-drive form and as low as 20/23 mpg with the new Off-Road package.
About that new-for-2011 Off-Road package, it is also offered on the revised Compass. On the Patriot, the package uses a CVT with low range and all-terrain tires as well as skid plates, tow hooks, fog lamps, and a manual seat height adjuster. When Motor Trend first tested the 2011 Patriot with the Off-Road package, editors found that the Jeep distinguished itself from the rest of the many compact crossovers now available.
"In more technical parts of the trails we drove, the small size of this Jeep made it easier to maneuver through and around the trees that lined the trail," Motor Trend wrote in a First Test article. "And going through mud, over rutted-out sections, and over rocks, the Patriot got through obstacles -- on the first try -- that would've stopped other crossovers."
Whether or not Patriot owners take their Jeeps off-roading, they will likely appreciate the higher quality interior. For the 2011 model year, the Patriot finally has an interior that doesn't immediately place it at the very bottom of its class. Jeep says the ride and handling have been enhanced this year. In addition, there are a few subtle exterior tweaks including a revised front and rear fascia, new side cladding, and a black-painted muffler.
Cargo capacity is usually a major reason why people buy compact crossovers. The 2011 Patriot can hold 23.0 cubic feet of stuff behind the rear seats and up to 54.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. If you're traveling alone, fold down the front passenger seat for a total of 62.7 cubic feet of space.
Although side airbags are a $250 option on base 2011 Patriots, the Jeep's safety record is good. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the Patriot a Top Safety Pick for 2011, along with the Subaru Forester, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Kia Sportage. In tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Patriot received four-star scores (out of a possible five) for the front driver and rollover categories, and a five-star score in the front passenger, side driver, and side passenger categories.
The Patriot always had the right styling to be a Jeep. Now, with the refreshed 2011 model year, the Patriot offers some off-roading capability to accompany that exterior style.