2009 Jeep Patriot Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D Limited 2WD

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2009 Jeep Patriot
New Car Test Drive

The Jeep Patriot is unmistakably a Jeep. It looks like a cross between a Jeep Liberty and Jeep Compass; or maybe a three-quarter scale version of the big Jeep Commander.

The Patriot is one of two compact SUVs Jeep launched for the 2007 model year. Both the Patriot and the Compass are based on a car platform (also used for the Dodge Caliber hatchback).

The Patriot has plenty of room inside. There's 39.4 inches of legroom in the back seat, nearly an inch more than what's found in the Honda CR-V, even though the Honda is four inches longer than the Jeep. Patriot's 60/40 split rear seat folds flat, and a flat-folding front passenger seat is optional; with all the seats flat, you can slide an eight-foot kayak inside.

Powered by a modern and economical 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, the Jeep Patriot gets an EPA-rated 23/28 mpg City/Highway. The 2.4-liter engine makes 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque, and that's plenty. Put the pedal down while cruising uphill at 75 miles per hour and it will accelerate. It make a bit more noise than we'd like under heavy throttle, despite additional sound deadening material for 2009. The optional Continuously Variable Transaxle works well and we found the Auto Stick manual shift feature useful.

We found the Patriot light and nimble on twisty roads and when maneuvering around town. Turn-in is sharp. The body is well isolated from the wheels: You can hear the tires hitting the expansion strips on the freeway, but you can't feel it. The independent suspension works well. During a long day of driving on patchy two-lanes, hard-packed dirt roads, sandy off-road trails, shallow rivers and deep gullies, it delivered steadiness and comfort in every abusive situation.

The Patriot is available with front-wheel drive or a choice of two all-wheel-drive systems, one that Jeep qualifies as Trail Rated. Those who like to go off-road should choose the Trail Rated Freedom II AWD system. With the CVT in low range, Hill Descent Control is automatically engaged. This keeps the Patriot under 5 mph and under control, going down steep hills, even icy ones. You can take both feet off the pedals and it will do its thing, a feature associated with expensive Land Rovers.

For 2009, Jeep redesigned Patriot's interior, with a new dashboard and instrument panel, soft-touch surfaces on the door armrests and center console, and a carpeted load floor instead of vinyl. While the new design is a step up versus the cut-rate feel of the last version, it is still largely plastic and doesn't offer a rich or warm feel.

Also for 2009, the Patriot adds a new model called Rocky Mountain and that aforementioned sound insulation is added to the engine compartment and floor. The Sport model gets revised suspension tuning for a more comfortable ride, and Jeep's UConnect Tunes and UConnect GPS systems are offered for the first time. Model Lineup
The 2009 Jeep Patriot comes in three models, Sport, Rocky Mountain and Limited, with a choice of front-wheel drive (2WD) and two all-wheel drive (AWD) systems. All models come standard with a 172-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A continuously variable automatic transaxle (CVT) is optional. It can be ordered with the Auto Stick manual shiftgate ($1,100) or an off-road crawl axle ratio ($1,050). A 2.0-liter four-cylinder is available as a $200 credit option for the Sport. It makes 158 hp and 141 pound-feet of torque, but must be ordered with the CVT.

Patriot Sport 2WD ($17,540) and AWD ($19,290) have cloth upholstery, air conditioning, outside-temperature indicator, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack and four speakers, 60/40 split rear seat, tilt steering column, roof rails, and P205/70R16 all-season tires on steel wheels. AWD models also have a locking center differential and four-wheel antilock disc brakes.

Options include a Quick Order package ($2,175) with Yes Essentials cloth upholstery; cruise control and power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry; height-adjustable driver's seat; fold-flat front passenger seat; reclining rear seat; map lights; a removable/rechargeable rear flashlight; a 115-volt power outlet; rubber floormats; rear privacy glass; four-wheel disc brakes. The Freedom Drive II Off-Road group ($1,395) features a brake-lock differential, low-range gearing, Hill Descent Control, heavy-duty alternator and engine cooling, interior air filter, height-adjustable driver's seat, fog lights, skid plates, full-size spare tire and P215/65R17 all-terrain white-letter tires on alloy wheels. The Sun/Sound group ($1,295) includes a sunroof, two articulating liftgate speakers, six Boston Acoustics speakers, a subwoofer and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Standalone options include a 6CD changer ($350), front side airbags ($250), and P215/65R17 tires on alloy wheels ($590).

Patriot Rocky Mountain 2WD ($19,135) and AWD ($20,885) add Yes Essentials cloth upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, height-adjustable driver's seat, fold-flat front passenger seat, Boston Acoustics sound system, Sirius satellite radio, liftgate speakers, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, sunroof, 115-volt power outlet, removable/rechargeable light, rubber floormats, rear privacy glass, and P215/60R17 tires on alloy wheels.

Patriot Limited 2WD ($22,230) and AWD ($23,980) add cruise control; leather upholstery; heated front seats; height-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar adjustment; fold-flat front passenger seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; a 6-disc CD changer; Sirius satellite radio; power windows, mirrors and locks; remote keyless entry; rear privacy glass; fog lamps; four-wheel disc brakes; and P215/60R17 tires on alloy wheels. The AWD model also gets a locking center differential.

Options for the Limited offers a Security and Cargo Convenience group ($995) with front side airbags, daytime running lights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, alarm, roof rack, cargo tonneau cover and Jeep's UConnect wireless cell phone link. Other options include Jeep's UConnect Tunes hard-drive radio ($650) and the UConnect Multimedia Suite ($1,295) with Sirius satellite radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless cell phone link and Jeep's UConnect GPS with hard-drive-based radio and navigation system with real-time traffic information. The Freedom Drive II package costs $875 for the AWD Limited.

Safety features on all Patriot models include dual front airbags, head-protecting curtain side airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation. Torso-protecting front side impact airbags are an option we recommend. Walkaround
The Patriot is unmistakably a Jeep. It looks more like a Jeep than the stylish Grand Cherokee or the Compass do. The windshield and backlight are relatively vertical. The tailgate does not have separate opening glass.

Up front, the iconic seven-slot grille is flanked by round headlights. The bumpers are defined and not molded into the fascia. They're silver on the Limited and body color on the Sport; we think the Sport is cleaner looking.

The Jeep Patriot is considered a compact. It is built on the platform of the Dodge Caliber, but you'd never know it, because it doesn't look that small. It's almost exactly the same size as the new Jeep Compass but it looks more rugged, lacking the rounded edges of the gentrified Compass. It looks more like a Liberty, or maybe like a baby Commander. It's classic, the way a Jeep should be.

The standard wheels are steel. Attractive aluminum wheels are standard on the Rocky Mountain and Limited models and optional for the Sport. The vehicle looks much better with the aluminum wheels. Interior
The seating position is high in the Patriot, two inches higher than in the Dodge Caliber; with the upright windshield, the forward visibility inspires confidence. The Jeep Patriot Sport's standard front seats have manual adjustment and come with cloth upholstery. They're OK, but the optional material called YES Essentials, which is stain, odor and static resistant, fits this Jeep's character better. The leather upholstery in the Limited is great, but it seems to overdress the Patriot.

Due to complaints that the original interior was too plasticky and cheap, Jeep has revamped the interior for 2009, giving it a new dash, a reworked instrument cluster and padding on the center console and door armrests. The new dash is black instead of tan or gray and it has nicer graining and a more attractive shape, but it is still hard plastic. The center stack trades a cheap-looking silver plastic face for matching black and adds some nice chrome trim.

The cabin layout is functional and roomy. Despite the addition of some new sound insulation, the doors sound tinny when you close them. The new dashboard and instrument layout is simple, and the gauges are a tidy white on black with glowing orange needles. The climate and sound system controls are easy to understand and operate. Jeep says the available UConnect Tunes system can hold up to 6700 songs, which can be ripped from a CD or USB memory stick.

The space between the seats includes a nook for change or cell phones, two fixed cupholders, and the parking brake lever. The center console is split for two levels of storage and is now padded.

The door pockets are on the small side, but they can hold six CD cases; much of the space is taken up by the six- by nine-inch speakers. The door handles are easy to use. There's a nice tray over the good-sized glove compartment that's big enough for books.

The Patriot is more than four inches shorter than the Honda CR-V. It has a healthy 39.4 inches of rear leg room, nearly an inch more than the Honda. The Patriot's sister, the Compass, is just as roomy.

The standard rear seat is a 60/40 split. It folds flat easily. Simply flip up the seat cushion and flop down the seatback. Reclining rear seats are optional, as is a flat-folding front seat. With the rear seats folded flat, there's a spacious 54.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Fold down the passenger seat, and the Patriot has room for an eight-foot kayak. With all the seats in use there's 23 cubic feet in the back, comparable with any compact SUV. For 2009, the rear cargo area gets a removable carpeted floor instead of a washable, removable vinyl floor. Driving Impressions
The Jeep Patriot's 2.4-liter engine works well. It has good power, as it produces 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. It's responsive where it needs to be. You can be going uphill at 75 miles per hour, and it will still accelerate for you. Our only criticism is that it sounds gruff under heavy throttle, despite additional sound deadening material for 2009.

Also available is a 2.0-liter engine. We haven't tried it, but for the minimal price difference, we recommend the 2.4-liter.

The five-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use, even with its long throws. The lever comes out of the center stack above the driver's right knee, an improvement over being on the floor near the right thigh. The five-speed makes the Patriot feel like a Jeep. Properly used, it brings out the potential of the engine.

The suspension works well in all conditions. We gave it a good test over a 20-mile stretch of dirt road: hard-packed, potholed, a layer of loose dust, lots of uphill and downhill curves. The Patriot was stable and confident. We drove fast, and used the brakes hard; the ABS frequently activated on the slippery dust, with the all-season (not all-terrain) tires. We aimed for some of the potholes, including a 50-foot-long row of little ones. The independent suspension eagerly ate them up. Along came a washboard surface, and the Patriot stayed true. We hit an elevated cattle crossing at 30 miles per hour and tensed for an impact that never came. The Dodge Nitro, a Patriot cousin and competitor, would have been hammered. The Patriot did a great job in these conditions.

On paved country roads the Patriot feels light and nimble. The turn-in is sharp. The ride is steady over rough asphalt patches. The body is well isolated from the wheels. You can hit a bump with one wheel without your head being tossed. You can hear the tires hitting the expansion strips on the freeway, but you can't feel it.

We finally found the limit of the suspension, when we hit a big dip in the middle of a curve at a high rate of speed for the corner. The Patriot struggled to remain stable, but succeeded. Anything less than a sports car would struggle in that situation, let alone an SUV.

We also drove a Patriot with the trail-rated Freedom Drive II off-road package. It adds one inch to the ground clearance for a total of 9 inches, allowing a 29-degree approach angle, a 33-degree departure angle, a 23-degree breakover angle, and enabling the Patriot to ford 19 inches of water, that last part thanks to more body sealing and higher drivetrain vents. Both AWD systems have a locking center differential that sends half the power to the rear wheels. They also have a brake lock differential that can shift the power from side to side on each axle, important in slippery terrain. The Freedom II package also gives the CVT a low range with a ratio of 19:1, good for crawling over obstacles.

We tested the Freedom Drive II combination on an off-road trail in the Arizona desert, led by a member of the local Jeep club. We crossed some ridges and ditches that raised one front or one rear wheel two feet in the air. It felt effortless, as the Patriot just slowly and securely picked its way over. We made a sharp U-turn that showed off the tight turning radius. In a sand pit, the off-road brake traction control dabbed the brakes of the slipping wheel or wheels, and pulled the Jeep through.

The Freedom II package includes Hill Descent Control that is automatically engaged when in Low range on steep downhill grades. It keeps the Jeep under 5 mph and under control, going down steep hills, even icy ones. You can take both feet off the pedals and it will do its thing. It's a great setup.

We hit a sandy gulley and floored it, racing up to 45 mph, engine screaming at nearly redline with our foot on the floor, and the CVT stayed in low range because it's usable up to about 45 mph. The main thing is, driving flat-out in a straight line over the washboard surface, with the wheels bouncing every which direction, the Patriot remained controllable, responsive and tracked true. We hit a couple of washboard curves, trusting in the stability control to keep the Jeep from bashing into the rocks, and it did. Below 35 mph, the ESP only uses the brakes to keep the Jeep on the line; above 35 it also cuts the throttle, if necessary. Summary
The Jeep Patriot offers off-road capability in a compact SUV with a capable four-cylinder engine that gets an EPA-rated 22/27 mpg. The suspension is stable and comfortable, and cargo capacity is useful because all the passenger seats can easily fold flat. Those positives are offset by lower build quality and an improved but still plasticky interior.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Scottsdale, Arizona, with correspondent Kirk Bell reporting from Chicago.

Model as tested
Jeep Patriot Sport AWD ($19,290)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Belvidere, Illinois
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
CVT2 with low-range gearing ($1,050); Freedom Drive II off-road package ($1,395) with brake-lock differential, low-range gearing, Hill Descent Control, heavy-duty alternator and engine cooling, interior air filter, height-adjustable driver's seat, fog lights, skid plates, full-size spare tire, P215/65R17 all-terrain white-letter tires on alloy wheels

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Jeep Patriot Sport 2WD ($17,540); Sport AWD (19,290); Rocky Mountain 2WD ($20,885); Rocky Mountain AWD ($19,290); Limited 2WD ($22,230); Limited AWD ($23,980)
Safety equipment (standard)
dual front airbags, curtain side airbags, tire-pressure monitor; ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution; traction control, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation
Safety equipment (optional)
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve I4

Specifications as Tested
cloth upholstery, air conditioning, outside-temperature indicator, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary audio jack and four speakers, 60/40 split rear seat, tilt steering column, roof rails, P205/70R16 all-season tires on steel wheels, locking center differential, four-wheel antilock disc brakes

Engine & Transmission
2.4-liter dohc 16-valve I4
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
172 @ 6000
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS, EBD
Suspension, front
independent MacPherson strut, coil springs over shocks and stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear
independent multilink with coil springs, shocks and stabilizer bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

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