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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
Roomy passenger and cargo space, available trail-eating four-wheel drive, a wallet-friendly price, and decent gas mileage all keep the 2011 Jeep Patriot standing tall.The Bad
Poor acceleration, especially from the 2.0-liter inline four-banger, an uncomfortable rear seat, and an overload of low-rent cabin trim materials tend to take the 2011 Patriot down a peg or two.
The CarGurus View
The 2011 Jeep Patriot, if nothing else, lives up to Jeep’s reputation of rugged off-road prowess, especially with its new beefed-up suspension. On the road, its surprising agility and pleasantly firm ride contribute to loads of driver confidence. Typically anemic four-cylinder acceleration, compounded by a somewhat inept CVT (continuously variable transmission) will not, however, endear the Patriot to those who have a need for speed.
At a Glance
With a few tweaks here and a couple of bends there, Chrysler/Jeep manages to improve the performance as well as the look of its 2011 Patriot compact SUV. This five-passenger, four-door ute, though labeled a crossover in some circles, has the traditional boxy look and off-road prowess common to the traditional Sport Utility Vehicle. After all, the quintessential Jeep was one of the very first SUVs, and the latest Patriot incarnation, of course, still looks like a Jeep, though a few minor though shapelier and smoother add-ons to the sheet metal and various other appendages are alleged to soften its profile just a bit. A beefier suspension, however, is the major upgrade for 2011, with heftier springs and shocks and thicker front and rear anti-roll bars complemented by an extra inch of ground clearance in the available four-wheel-drive (4WD) trims. The result is a rugged rock-crawler that looks and performs like, well, a Jeep, on road and off.
Also new for 2011 is a new trim level, the high-end Latitude X, which replaces the Limited line. Thus the Patriot is now available in either the Base, also known as the Sport, or the Latitude X, each with its accompanying fewer or greater standard amenities. Both trim levels, however, are available with a standard front-wheel drive (FWD) or available on-demand 4WD configuration, and both can be purchased with the standard five-speed stick shift or a shiftable continuously variable transmission (CVT). Additionally, both FWD versions pack a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder powerplant (I4), while 4WD trims are equipped with a more-potent 2.4-liter I4. Cargo space is a rather average 54.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, though this is bolstered in all trims by a standard roof rack with side rails.
Major competition for the 2011 Patriot consists of the Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, and Suzuki Grand Vitara. Though Jeep’s small ute offers classic styling and a good base price, many of its rivals are noted to be nearly as off-road capable with a tad more refinement and significantly more high-quality amenities.
The 2011 Patriot Base is equipped with a standard 2.0-liter I4 engine and five-speed manual transmission with brake hill holder. This combination puts out 158 hp at 6,400 rpm and 141 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. Additionally, the CVT, featuring Chrysler’s AutoStick auto-manual operation, is available for an extra thousand dollars. Towing capacity with the 2.0-liter I4 is maxed out at 1,000 pounds when the optional tow package is installed, while mileage, with the I4’s variable valve timing, is estimated at 23/29 mpg with the five-speed stick shift and 23/27 using the CVT.
The 4WD version of the Base, as well as both the FWD and 4WD configurations of the Latitude X, boast a standard 2.4-liter I4 powerplant. Using either the standard five-speed manual transmission or the available CVT, this variable-valve-timed four-banger throws down 172 hp at 6,000 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Towing capacity, meanwhile, increases to 2,000 pounds, while mileage drops to 23/28 with the FWD stick shift trims and 20/23 in 4WD trims equipped with the CVT.
The Patriot can be delivered with two types of available 4WD, Freedom-Drive I and Freedom-Drive II. Both 4WD systems are on-demand and feature electronic hi-lo gear selection, auto-locking hubs, and a center-mounted mechanical differential. The Freedom-Drive I system is available with both the five-speed manual transmission and the CVT and is suitable for lighter off-road travel. The Freedom-Drive II system, on the other hand, features an extra low gear for more serious off-road prowess and is available only with the CVT.
Reviewers claim those Patriot trims equipped with the 2.4-liter I4 are at least adequate in most driving situations. The five-speed manual transmission is described by most reviewers as far more equal to the task of downshifting for added power than is the CVT, which most reviews claim lacks the proper alacrity to merge and pass comfortably on the highway. The 2.0-liter powerplant is described by nearly all reviewers as barely up to the task of highway driving, though adequate around town. Again, the five-speed stick is the reviewer-preferred transmission with the smaller I4. Reviewers are also unanimous in their opinion that both engines are overly raucous on heavy acceleration, with neither seeming to relent adequately even at cruising speeds.
Ride & Handling
Both Patriot trims receive a significant retooling of the suspension system for 2011. Larger anti-sway bars in the front and rear as well as heavier shocks and struts complement the traditional four-wheel independent suspension and multi-link rear end. All this results in a firm yet comfortable ride, according to most reviewers, though some wallow and wiggle is noted over rough surfaces. Steering, meanwhile, is described by the majority of reviews as stable and accurate, adding a significant measure of confidence to highway driving. Some body lean is noted in hard cornering by a few reviewers, but overall, handling is noticeably improved with the reworked suspension. Reviewers additionally note that braking remains strong and true, with no adrenaline-charged glitches in pedal feel.
The Patriot Base trim sports standard 16-inch steel wheels, while the Latitude X boasts 17-inch aluminum wheels. Standard rubber remains all-season radials, with all-terrain tires available on trims equipped for heavy off-road duties, for which this rugged compact SUV gains well-deserved high marks.
Overall, reviewers claim at least a decent driving experience with Jeep’s smallest ute on the road, though exciting and sporty it’s not. Wind and road noise levels, however, though allegedly improved, still prove to be more than mildly intrusive, according to a majority of professional reviews.
Cabin & Comfort
Though not overly endowed with standard creature comforts, the 2011 Patriot Base trim level at least provides such basics as cloth seating, cruise control, tilt-wheel steering and a single-CD player with four speakers. The Latitude X trim level, meanwhile, adds such standard comfort and convenience amenities as heated front seats, reclining rear seats, power windows and heated mirrors, remote power door locks, a fold-flat passenger seat, air conditioning, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Options for the Base trim include several standard features delivered with the Latitude X trim level, including air conditioning and power accessories as part of the Power Value Group. Additional available amenities for the Sport trim include a 6-CD changer with satellite radio, a USB connection, Sirius satellite radio, and UConnect hands-free capability, and upgraded 17-inch alloy wheels.
Optional for the top-shelf 2011 Patriot Latitude X are leather-trimmed upholstery, a Bose premium speaker system, remote engine start, universal garage door opener, power sunroof, and touch-screen and voice-activated Garmin GPS navigation. Additionally, both trims can be delivered with an available Class II trailer towing package when equipped with the 2.4-liter I4, as well as skid plates, descent control, hill-start assist and additional engine cooling with the Freedom-Drive II Off-Road Group.
Professional reviewers have, since the Patriot’s inception for the 2007 model year, bemoaned its tacky, hard-plastic-laden, and generally low-rent interior. The 2011 edition, though marginally improved, is little different, according to reviews, though some added padding to the console and door armrests mitigates this otherwise lackluster ambiance a bit. Gauges and instruments are, however, conceded to be easy to read and well placed, if a tad complicated when the available navigation system is added. Cabin room is generally lauded by reviewers, though cabin storage leaves a bit to be desired, and more than a few reviewers also note that rear-seat comfort could be better.
Though garnering better-than-average safety scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including honors as a Top Safety Pick, the 2011 Patriot offers dual front side-mounted airbags only as an option. Additionally, FWD Patriot trims are equipped with front disc and rear drum brakes, though four-wheel ABS, with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency braking assist, is standard across the lineup, as are traction and stability control. This compact ute also sports front and rear head curtain airbags, front head restraint whiplash protection, and front fog/driving lights standard. Finally, front side-mounted airbags and daytime running lights are further safety options available to both trims.
As mentioned the IIHS rates the 2011 Patriot as Good, their highest score, in front and side impact protection with the optional front side-mounted airbags installed. Roof strength wasn’t tested by the IIHS, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2010 Patriot trims a decent four-star rating for rollover protection. The NHTSA has no data on 2011 Patriot trims.
What Owners Think
Tepid acceleration from both powerplants, especially the 2.0-liter I4, seems the most adamant owner complaint with the 2011 Patriot. Owners also mention the comfort-challenged rear seats and lackluster plastic components as problematic, while Chrysler’s warranty coverage, once world-class, is now noted by several owners as a shadow of its former self. Finally, a number of owners mention the lack of expected standard features in their complaints about this rugged sport ute.
Owner kudos, on the other hand, go out to the Patriot’s rugged looks, stellar gas mileage, improved suspension, and surprisingly compliant ride, as well as its class-leading off-road handling characteristics. Of course, this capable SUV’s base MSRP of just over $15,800 adds immeasurably to its value in the minds of virtually all owners.
by Eric Tallberg
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