The 2014 Jeep Patriot is unmistakably from the Jeep garage, as demonstrated by its squared-off lines, seven-slot grille, and round headlights. Both the Patriot and its slightly more compact sibling, the Jeep Compass, are based on a car platform, but still provide at least moderate off-road ability. In fact, when suitably equipped, the all-wheel-drive Patriot earns Jeep Trail Rated 4×4 capability.
First launched for 2007, along with the Compass, the Jeep Patriot was significantly updated for the 2011 model year with fresh styling, upgraded suspension and steering, and new interior materials. Changes were few for 2012, while 2013 brought a special Freedom Edition to honor members of the military.
For 2014, a new 6-speed PowerTech automatic transmission, with Auto Stick, has replaced the previous continuously variable transmission (CVT) as an option. A special off-roading transmission (CVT2L) remains available. Newly standard are seat-mounted air bags for front occupants, which previously were an option.
The four-door Patriot has plenty of room inside. There’s adult-size headroom and legroom for rear-seat passengers. The 60/40-split rear seat folds flat, and a flat-folding front passenger seat is optional. With all the seats flat, you could slide an eight-foot kayak inside, for example.
Two four-cylinder engines are offered for the 2014 Patriot. Our preference is for the larger of the two, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 23/28 mpg City/Highway with the 5-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive, which are standard equipment. All-wheel drive and the 6-speed automatic transmission drop the estimate to 21/27 mpg. The 2.4-liter delivers good power; put the pedal down even while cruising uphill at 75 miles per hour, and it will accelerate with reasonable haste.
The smaller engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which makes 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque and is EPA-rated at 23/30 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and 2WD. With an automatic, the EPA estimate for the 2.0-liter drops to 21/28 mpg City/Highway, narrowing the gap further.
Incorporating a crawl ratio for heavier-duty off-roading, a special continuously variable transmission (CVT2L) is optional on all-wheel-drive 2014 Patriot models with the 2.4-liter engine and Freedom Drive II package. This package gets an EPA-rated 20/23 mpg.
In addition to its prowess for daily driving, a Patriot is light and nimble on twisty roads. When maneuvering around town, turn-in is sharp. The body is well isolated from the wheels: You can hear the tires hitting the expansion strips on the freeway, but you can’t really feel the impact. The independent suspension works well. We found the Patriot delivered steadiness and comfort during a long day of driving on patchy two-lanes, hard-packed dirt roads, sandy off-road trails, shallow rivers and deep gullies.
The Patriot is available with front-wheel drive or a choice of two all-wheel-drive systems (including the one that Jeep qualifies as Trail Rated). Those who like to go off the pavement (or tow more than 1000 pounds) should choose the Trail-Rated Freedom II AWD system. This uses gearing 20-percent lower than the other models for steeper climbs and descents. But be warned: if you mistake it for a 4WD with a low-range transfer case, like a traditional Wrangler or a big Grand Cherokee, you’ll soon find yourself well and truly stuck.