By Tom Crosby
Jeeps are vehicles that seep into the soul of some owners, who love their rugged good looks and on-off road versatility.
The 2014 Patriot adds some spice to its attraction with a new six-speed Power-Tech automatic transmission to go with either the 2.0- or 2.4-liter engines used in the three Jeep Patriot models - Sport, Latitude and Limited - all available in either front-wheel drive or two all-wheel versions, one specifically suited for off-road activity known as Freedom II.
Our test drive was the Latitude known as Freedom I with full-time all-wheel drive. The Patriot used a continuously variable transmission in the past that needed more gearing range to be quicker off the line.
With the six-speed automatic, the Latitude steps spritely off the line and gas mileage improves significantly. Patriot says the transmission is fill-for-life and will not require any fluids in a lifetime of normal driving. Price also plays a part in sales and the base Jeep Patriot is the lowest-priced four-wheel drive on the U.S. market, according to Chrysler. Also attractive to small budget buyers is that the Patriot holds value, winning two years in a row (2013 and 2014) the 5-year cost-to-own award given in the compact SUV/crossover category by Kelly Blue Book KKB.com.
However, Jeeps require options and ours had a $595 customer preferred package that included the six-speed transmission, tire pressure monitor, roof rail crossbars and a dashboard vehicle information center. Another $1,170 in options bundled two U-Connect packages used by Chrysler that included a 6.5-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, remote USB port and a one-year Sirius XM radio subscription.
The four-wheel drive worked well in recent snowstorms and also on dry pavement around curves where road adherence was excellent. The cloth five-seat Patriot is more narrow than even the iconic Jeep Wrangler but comfortable enough in the front two seats.
Cargo space increases with fold-flat rear seats and fold flat passenger seat. Knick-knack spaces are ample with a side tray in the trunk, door handles and generous map pockets, and an open tray above the glove box. Road and wind noise justify keeping the radio loudly tuned. The inside was upgraded in 2011 with large, easily read gauges and easily reached controls. Shiny chrome provides accent touches that contrast the fairly basic interior theme. Outside, the shape is boxy, black cladding wraps the bottom of the car, there is a large iconic 7-slot vertical chrome grill with black webbing and five-spoke aluminum wheels for the traditional Patriot look.
LIKES: Road grip, price, fuel economy, knick-knack space
FACT FILE: Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4
Base price w/destination fee: $24,790
Vehicle weight: 3,359 lbs.
Wheelbase: 103.7 inches
Length: 173.8 inches
Wide: 69.2 inches
Engine specs: 2.4-liter, inline-4 cylinders, DOHC
Horsepower: 172 hp at 6,000 rpm
Torque: 165 ft-lbs. at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/manual slip stick
EPA Rating: 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway
Range: 13.5-gallon tank, regular fuel
Performance: 0-60 in about 8 seconds
Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.