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2009 Jeep Patriot Road Test
The perfect entry-level Jeep
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
When Jeep first launched the Patriot, I was none too sure about it. After all, it's based on the Dodge Caliber, and although I love the value for money aspect of that vehicle, I couldn't quite fathom a Jeep version of it. Aren't Jeeps supposed to be rugged, go-anywhere types of vehicles? Would you call a Dodge Caliber with 4WD one of those?
Well, I'm ready to eat my words and take back everything that I have thought about the Patriot in the past, because after spending a week in the newest one, I totally get it. It's been significantly refreshed for 2009.
Yes, the Patriot might be the lightweight of the Jeep lineup, but it's no stick in the mud wuss. During a week of testing, I ventured out onto the odd cottage trail and was quite impressed with the way the vehicle handled these rough tracks. In fact, I even took a little tour off the trail once or twice, but don't mention that to the guys at Jeep!
Now while you might not wish to tackle the Rubicon Trail in one, the Jeep Patriot can certainly handle what most owners will want to throw at it. You don't exactly need a lifted Jeep Wrangler with swamp tires to get to most cottages. If you do, then let's not fool ourselves that it's a cottage retreat you own; it's probably what is known to the rest of us as a shack in the middle of hell or beyond.
Ground clearance and tires are really the only things that stop you from going deeper into the bush with the Patriot, but then again, how does the old saying go ... "all four-wheel-drive enables you to do is to get stuck even further in!"
Most buyers will be more than happy with the off-road prowess of the Patriot, and they'll be happy with its on-road qualities too, because it's a lovely little vehicle to drive. In fact, as an everyday runaround, I'd welcome one in my driveway.
The Patriot is a decent size without being a large SUV. It will carry five adult-sized people in comfort and appears to have been built fairly tough. In fact, the roof rack fitted to my tester was one of the most robust I've ever seen on a vehicle like this. You could almost swing from it.
A real fuel miser
Fuel costs have made us all sweat a little lately and although the price has gone back down just recently (July 2009), anyone who believes it will stay under a dollar a litre is probably delusional, to say the least. This, however, is not of major concern for the owners of Jeep's little 4x4 wonder, because the Patriot can travel around 40 miles on just a gallon of the liquid gold.
Powered by a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine, my tester came with a five-speed stick shift, which is the way I would equip it if I were purchasing one. The manual gearbox allows you to get the most out of the vehicle and makes the Patriot a lot of fun to drive. It also helps with acceleration situations, such as merging onto highways.
New and improved interior
One of the peeves that I had with the first version of the Patriot was the interior, as it looked very un-Jeep-like, and reminded me too much of the Dodge Caliber. Not that the Caliber dash layout was not pleasant enough, it's just wasn't suited to a Jeep. Well, the company has sorted that out now -- kind of. The new 2009 Patriot now sports a rather nice rounded-style fascia, to which it is much better suited. However, from what I understand, the new Dodge Caliber will carry a similar-style dash, so maybe I'll be thinking the same about it, just in reverse.
Comfort and ride quality is pretty good on the vehicle, and when you consider what you get for the money ($18,995 base, $25,040 as tested), I think that the vehicle is extremely well priced. It looks great from the outside, comes with lots of nice features as standard, and for the money is a real pleasure to drive.
In my mind, it's an almost perfect vehicle for drivers who want the added security of a 4x4, but don't want to be forever paying for it at the pumps!
I heard once that the reason the company produced the Jeep Patriot was because its stand-alone Jeep dealers (mostly south of the border) were impressed with the Dodge Caliber and wanted a similar model to offer their customers. At first I didn't quite understand the logic behind putting a soft-roader on the lot, but now I do, because this is the perfect entry-level Jeep.
Green Light: A good size, capable, and is thrifty on fuel.
Yellow Light: It's an entry-level Jeep, don't push it too hard!
Red Light: Other Jeep owners might make fun of you, but you'll laugh back as you pass them at the pumps.
Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan, a member of AJAC, is a regular contributor to CarTest.ca.
Posted July 19, 2009