“Jeep” has been one of the world’s most recognized names since its performance in World War II. Mention “Jeep” to many folks and they automatically think of the familiar Wrangler model, which resembles the World War II Jeep—or the decidedly upscale Grand Cherokee model. But the 2014 Jeep Patriot I tested is the lowest-cost Jeep.
The solid-feeling, four-door hatchback Patriot line starts with the base $15,995 front-wheel-drive (FWD) Sport model. Jeep says that price makes it “the best-priced SUV in America,”although the four-wheel-drive (4WD) Sport costs $18,195. And what’s a serious Jeep without 4WD?
The 2014 mid-range Jeep Latitude 4WD model I tested lists at $23,395, while the top-line 4WD Limited goes for $25,895. The Limited comes standard with a 2.4-liter, 172-horsepower four-cylinder engine with 165 pound-feet of torque, no matter if it has FWD or 4WD.
The 2.4 engine is superior to the noisier, weaker 2-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder, which has 141 pound-feet of torque and is standard for most Patriots.
2014 Jeep Patriot: New transmission
The big news for the 2014 Patriot is an available new “PowerTech” six-speed automatic transmission, with a manual-shift feature. It replaces a marginal CVT automatic transmission in the 2013 Patriot. A five-speed manual transmission is standard for most Patriots.
The Limited has leather seats, a power driver’s seat, electronic vehicle information center, automatic temperature control and an AM/FM/six-disc CD/DVD/MP3/HDD radio.
The 2.4-liter engine is standard in the mid-range Latitude—but only if that model has the 4WD setup. Otherwise you get the 2-liter engine. That engine situation shows that ordering a Patriot with the equipment you want can be a bit confusing.
Also consider that the optional “Freedom Drive I” is a full-time active 4WD system with a lock mode and is recommended for daily use. For serious off-road use, the optional “Freedom Drive II” 4WD Off-road Package includes a second-generation continuously-variable transaxle with low range. It’s recommended for off-road situations that include steep grades, occasional wheel lift and rock or log climbing.
All Patriots have a handy size for maneuvering and are functionally handsome with the traditional Jeep grille, wheel arches and uncluttered styling. However, thick rear roof pillars partially block visibility.
The Sport is moderately well-equipped, with a fold-flat 60/40 folding rear seat, rear window defroster and wiper, tilt wheel, cruise control and illuminated cupholders. But air conditioning is a $995 option.
Standard for the mid-range Latitude are air conditioning, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, heated front cloth seats, driver-seat height adjuster, 115-volt power inverter and a leather-wrapped wheel with audio and speed controls.
2014 Jeep Patriot: Lots of Options
Available for Patriot’s are a power sunroof, premium audio system and a “Uconnect Media Center” with iPod interface.
Standard safety items for Patriots are electronic stability and roll-mitigation controls, a variety of air bags and anti-lock brakes.
Despite the efficient new automatic transmission, those looking for the best fuel economy should opt for the manual transmission, 2-liter engine and FWD. The estimated fuel economy of that setup is 23 miles per gallon in the city and 30 on highways.
In contrast, fuel economy with the 2.4 engine, automatic transmission and 4WD is 21 city and 27 highway. That was the economy rating of my test Latitude. Weight affects economy. With the base FWD setup, the Patriot weighs 3,136 pounds, compared to 3,378 for the Limited with the 2.4, automatic transmission and 4WD.
The 2.4 engine provides decent 65-75 m.p.h. passing, but is noisy during hard acceleration. Steering of my test Latitude model was precise, but the easily gripped wheel was only adjustable up and down.
The ride was compliant, although a 4WD setup and rather short 103,7-inch wheelbase allowed bumps and raised road tar stripes to be felt. Handling was good—even when I drove the Patriot moderately hard—and the brakes had a progressive feel.
The Patriot interior feels rather cozy because the cabin is narrow and there is a wide center console. Front seat room is good, with supportive seats, but legroom in the moderately roomy backseat is marginal for those with long legs.
All doors handles can be quickly grasped, and it’s easy to slide in and out of the front seats. But narrow rear door openings make it a bit difficult to get in or out of the rear.
The interior plastic doesn’t look cheap. Climate controls are large, with easily worked knobs. Most other controls are small, but clearly marked. However, numbers on the speedometer and tachometer are very small.The turn-signal lever felt flimsy, and the ignition switch was hard to quickly reach behind the steering wheel.
There isn’t much cabin storage space, and rear cupholders are on the floor behind the front console.
The hatch raises on twin struts, and its opening is wide, but high. Cargo room is moderately good, and is impressive with the rear seatbacks folded flat.
The hood seems to weigh a ton and must be held up with a prop rod, but fluid-filler areas are easily reached.
For many on a budget, the Patriot may be the ideal Jeep.
Pros: New automatic transmission. Compliant ride. Handy size. Off-road ability.
Cons: Marginal base engine. Narrow cabin. High cargo liftover.
Bottom Line: Possess Jeep style and capability.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist more more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.