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A blend of rugged on- and off-road versatility, ample SUV-like cargo and passenger space, an affordable pricetag, and high fuel-economy ratings make the 2009 Patriot easy to transition from family car to weekend adventurer.The Bad
The '09 Patriot's underpowered four-cylinder feels sluggish and makes a lot of noise when pushed, especially when paired with the CVT automatic transmission.
The CarGurus View
Its nice retro styling recalls Jeeps of yesteryear, and the same solid build, cargo utility, and off-road ruggedness mean the 2009 Patriot actually lives up to its sporty utility designation. Decent fuel economy and a low price point keep it affordable, while its roomy cabin easily adapts to single outdoor types or families around town. But the interior fit and finish still need some work, and the powertrain should be optimized to suit the Patriot's off-road capabilities.
At a Glance
Addressing an area where it fell below many of its competitors, the 2009 Jeep Patriot gets an updated, more refined interior this year. The redecorating includes a padded door armrest, softer and higher-grade plastic materials, illuminated gauges and cupholders, and smoother seams overall. A new center console with a split lid offers more storage than last year's makeshift iPod holder. Chrome accents dress up the shifter, door trim, and vents.
Other additions include a removable and reversible cargo floor, washable on one side and carpeted on the other. An optional UConnect system bundles real-time traffic navigation with a wireless cellphone link and a 30-gigabyte hard drive that plays movies. On the performance side, extra insulation around the engine and improved exhaust resonators supposedly reduce the irritating engine noise produced by the struggling four-cylinder engines. A retuned suspension improves ride comfort and smooths handling.
The rugged, retro 2009 Patriot comes in Sport and Limited trims, both offered with either front-wheel drive or two different types of all-wheel-drive systems – one for soft surfaces and slippery driving conditions and one for trail-rated off-roading.
Powering both the Sport and Limited trims is a 16-valve, 2.4-liter DOHC inline-four engine, paired with a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional CVT (continuously variable transmission). The powertrain delivers a so-so 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 RPM and averages 23/28 mpg with the manual and 21/25 with the CVT. Owners report mileage ratings well into the 30s for city driving and overwhelmingly praise the car-like fuel efficiency of this midsize SUV. An optional 16-valve, 2.0-liter inline-four puts out 158 hp and 141 lb-ft, with similar fuel economy numbers of 23/28 mpg. It comes only with the CVT.
Drivers agree that the CVT has a definite learning curve. Its infinite set of gears is designed to smooth out gear transitions and improve the Patriot's power range on especially rugged roads. It comes standard with the trail-rated all-wheel-drive system. Critics, however, say the transmission can be noisy and sluggish, especially when trying to accelerate on the highway. Neither four-cylinder engine seems powerful enough for the '09 Patriot, particularly during off-the-line or merging acceleration, but around town it performs adequately.
Ride & Handling
The '09 Patriot seems to work best as an off-roader, although it performs adequately for city driving. It is more reminiscent of traditional Jeeps than the more car-based Compass. Owners report a generally smooth and stable ride, with good balance and control provided by the standard traction and stability control and independent Macpherson strut front and multilink rear suspension.
The SUV is available with front-wheel drive, but also can be outfitted with two different all-wheel-drive systems. The full-time Freedom-Drive I lacks low-range gearing and is intended for slippery conditions, bad weather, and soft surfaces such as sand and snow. The trail-rated Freedom-Drive II Offroad Group Package does include low-range gearing, as well as locking differentials, skid plates, and all-terrain tires to provide superior backroad capability. This package also boosts ground clearance from the standard 8 inches to 9. This Jeep can go anywhere, up uneven rocky climbs (thanks to a Continuously Variable Transaxle) or crossing streams (thanks to body sealing).
Critics find the Patriot's steering precise, accurate, and nicely weighted. Improvements to the engine mounts and exhaust resonators help reduce some of the annoying engine noise from last year, and the retuned suspension feels smoother over highway bumps. However, the noise factor increases with acceleration. Visibility remains good from all angles. Off-road performance leads the class, and indeed the '09 Patriot may be a better choice for those searching for backroad adventure than those making trips to Home Depot.
Cabin & Comfort
Roomier than it looks, the '09 Patriot comfortably seats four adults, averaging 40 inches of legroom in both front and back rows. The rear seats also recline for added comfort, but test drives find the flat benches lack cushioning and support, particularly on long rides or rougher roads. Headroom measures 41 inches up front and 39 in the back, easily accommodating 6-footers.
Drivers sit up high, with large and legible controls within easy reach. Gauges and cupholders are outlined in new LED lighting. The steering wheel tilts, but does not telescope. Power seats are not offered on any model, but the Limited does have manual adjustments for height and lumbar. An optional sliding front armrest moves forward for shorter drivers. Interior upgrades add more soft-touch padding on surfaces and higher-quality alloy trim for the door, dash, and new center console, but the general consensus seems to be that the Patriot still lacks the refinement of the CR-V or RAV4.
Rear seats split-fold flat 60/40, with the option to add a fold-flat front passenger seat, increasing the already spacious 23 cubic feet of cargo space to 54.2. The Patriot holds a lot, but its cargo capacity falls short of competitors such as the CR-V and RAV4. Standard roof rails add more storage space. Minimal interior storage can be found in the door pockets and a new center console that features a split lid for flexible loading and the SUV's only cupholders. In the Limited, a handy rechargeable lamp in the cargo area doubles as a flashlight in case of emergency.
The entry-level Sport comes with very basic features and few extras, but does offer air-conditioning, a tachometer and temperature display, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and MP3 input jack. More creature comforts and a dash of luxury come with the more upscale Limited, which adds power accessories, wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a trip computer. The sound system adds a 6-CD changer and satellite radio. Available options include a sunroof, a nine-speaker Bose audio system with folding speakers in the tailgate (great for roadside picnics or pre-game parties), and a voice-activated navigation system. This comes bundled with the new UConnect feature, which offers real-time traffic updates, a wireless phone connection, and a 30-gigabyte hard drive that lets you play videos on the navigation screen.
The 2009 Patriot does well in crash tests, earning five stars from the NHTSA in side impact tests and for driver's frontal impact. Passenger frontal impact and rollovers receive four stars. Both trims feature 4-wheel disc and ABS brakes, supplemented by electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist. Also standard are dual front and side curtain airbags for both rows, and traction and stability control. A tire monitor measures pressure in the Sport's 16-inch wheels and the Limited's 17-inch ones.
Foglights are optional on the Sport, standard on the Limited. The Freedom Drive II AWD package adds Brake Traction Control and Hill Descent Control for a more controlled ride and less wear and tear on the SUV's mechanics.
What Owners Think
Surprisingly, almost every review from owners of the 2009 Patriot praises its fuel economy as outstanding, reportedly hitting highway numbers well into the 30s. Owners also like the improved interior, which seems to be of higher quality and offers plenty of space for tall passengers and very comfortable seats even on long trips. They report good AWD traction in rough weather as well as a balanced and smooth ride overall, with a nice combination of on-road handling and off-road capability. The affordable price pleases those who feel like they're getting a lot for their money, both in terms of standard features and a rugged and utilitarian SUV. Specific favorites include the reclining rear seats and extendable front armrest.
The major complaint focuses on the need for more horsepower, to improve acceleration in highway passing. Drivers also find the CVT noisy and wish the base Sport trim came with power windows and locks.
No reviews yet from CarGurus owners, but comments on the similar 2008 Patriot (excluding those complaining about the old interior, which has been updated) give high marks once again to its fuel economy, confirming the 30 mpg highway numbers. They like the versatile and roomy cargo space, fold-flat seats, and ability to easily tackle off-road terrain. One driver claims that even the front-wheel-drive trims perform confidently in snow and ice. Owners like that you can get a reliable off-roading SUV that handles well and offers plenty of comfortable passenger space, all at an affordable price.
What's your take on the 2009 Jeep Patriot?
Cars compared to 2009 Jeep Patriot
Looking for a Used Patriot in your area?
CarGurus has 5,186 nationwide Patriot listings starting at $1,288.
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