We were frankly a bit surprised to learn Jeep penned in the aged 2015 Patriot for production. After all, the new Cherokee has supplanted the Patriot as the brand’s prime-time compact crossover, and the pint-sized Renegade is waiting in the wings as a spunky, lower-priced alternative. But a glance at the sales numbers tells the story. The Patriot has been surprisingly resilient in the twilight of its career, finding plenty of new customers over the past few years despite its age and stage. So it’s back this year for what could be its final hurrah, floating a familiar promise of Jeep attitude and style in a tidy crossover wrapper.
Does it deliver? Compared to its many formidable competitors (not to mention its fresh-faced siblings), no, it does not. Although the Patriot trades on Jeep’s "Trail Rated" toughness, it’s only a legitimate off-roader with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group, which yields dismal fuel economy and requires the speed-sapping continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) besides. Otherwise, you choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, as with any other crossover. Stripped of its prowess off the beaten path, the Patriot trails the pack in virtually every way, lacking the performance, refinement, versatility and even safety scores to impress in this ultra-competitive segment.
Only if you’re searching for a new crossover that will fit a very tight budget will the Patriot make sense. Otherwise, the urbane 2015 Ford Escape, the sporty 2015 Mazda CX-5 and the popular 2015 Toyota RAV4 are all vastly superior choices. We’re pretty fond of Jeep’s new Cherokee, too. The Patriot isn’t all bad, but by today’s standards, its retirement is overdue.
The 2015 Jeep Patriot is certifiably slow with the 2.0-liter engine, and even the 2.4-liter models move like molasses when equipped with Freedom Drive II and the soul-sucking CVT. This would be somewhat forgivable if the Patriot were great on gas. It is not. Nor is either engine refined, with the smaller one particularly troubled by the dreaded NVH trio (noise, vibration and harshness). The 6-speed automatic, introduced last year, is the Patriot’s saving grace in the powertrain department, lifting the 2.4-liter engine’s performance to class-competitive levels despite frequent and sometimes slow shifts. The 2.0-liter/CVT tandem in the Altitude and High Altitude is the antithesis of a saving grace.
On paved surfaces, the Patriot allows an abundance of wind and tire noise into the cabin. The trend these days is toward quietness at speed, even among value-priced vehicles, but this Jeep is a throwback. Ride quality is similarly unimpressive, as the Patriot’s suspension struggles with broken pavement, making for a jittery drive over urban streets. Handling is adequate under normal circumstances, aided by the Patriot’s compact footprint, but you’ll notice plenty of excessive body roll if you enter a corner with any kind of speed. As for the off-road experience, the Freedom Drive II setup does move the Patriot significantly beyond Freedom Drive I’s conventional all-wheel drive — but as noted, it’s also slow and thirsty.
The 2015 Jeep Patriot is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV. It is available in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels. There are two notable sub-trims — Altitude Edition and High Altitude Edition — that add features to the Sport and Latitude, respectively, but come only with front-wheel drive, the base 2.0-liter engine and the CVT.
The Sport has an equipment roster that matches its modest price, comprising 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, foglights, manual exterior mirrors, crank windows, manual locks, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary sound jack.
The Altitude Edition adds 17-inch black alloy wheels, a body-color rear bumper and gloss black exterior accents.
The optional Power Value Group adds power heated mirrors, keyless entry and power windows and locks. Note that this package requires air-conditioning, which is a separate option on both Sport and Altitude.
The Latitude gets the above features as standard (minus the Altitude Edition’s extras), plus 17-inch silver alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining rear seatbacks and steering-wheel sound controls.
The High Altitude Edition tacks on gray 17-inch alloys, a sunroof, a six-way power driver seat (plus manual lumbar adjustment) and leather upholstery.
The Limited starts with the Latitude’s equipment and adds a larger engine, four-wheel disc brakes (the other front-wheel-drive Patriots have rear drum brakes), upgraded exterior trim, automatic climate control, a trip computer, a six-CD changer and satellite radio, plus the power driver seat and leather upholstery.
The Latitude and Limited are eligible for a couple desirable packages. The Sun and Sound Group adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system with a subwoofer, two drop-down liftgate speakers and satellite radio. The Security and Cargo Convenience Group adds adjustable roof-rail crossbars, remote ignition, a tire pressure monitor display, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage door opener, Bluetooth and a USB port. Offered separately on the Latitude and Limited is a 6.5-inch touchscreen that includes digital music storage. A navigation system by Garmin can be added to the touchscreen for a fee.
All Patriots can be equipped with Bluetooth as a stand-alone option, while Wi-Fi hotspot capability (subscription required) is a dealer-installed extra.
Also available across the board are the Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system and the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group. The latter requires the CVT and adds low-range gearing, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, haul hooks, all-terrain tires, a full-size spare tire, skid plates and, on the Sport, 17-inch alloy wheels and a height-adjustable driver seat.
The Patriot’s interior has been tweaked over the years, but it’s still one of the most basic you’ll find, with cheap, hard plastics covering most surfaces and a tilt-only steering wheel that can compromise driver comfort. The Sport model is the worst offender because of its lack of standard power accessories and air-conditioning, but even the Limited’s layout looks and feels more like that of an economy auto than a competitive crossover. On the bright side, the front seats are pretty comfortable, providing satisfactory support for long stints in the saddle. Rear passengers won’t be as pleased, however, as legroom is tight and the bottom cushion sits low, largely negating the benefits of the reclining rear seatbacks (Latitude and Limited only).
The Patriot’s primary gauges make a good first impression with their large, easy-to-read font, and the straightforward, generally ergonomic controls are consistent with Jeep’s no-nonsense heritage. The optional 6.5-inch touchscreen is outdated, though; the 8.4-inch system used in the Cherokee is vastly superior. As ever, the Patriot provides optional flip-down liftgate speakers that’ll help get the party started, but the cool combination cargo light/ flashlight has been replaced for 2015 by a simple dome light. If you’re looking for steps forward, the Patriot hasn’t really taken any since its debut many years ago.
Cargo capacity is another weak spot. Although the 23 cubic feet of space behind the rear seatbacks isn’t totally shameful, folding down the rear seatbacks opens up just 53.5 cubic feet of maximum stowage. For context, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf — a compact hatchback — provides 22.8 cubes out back and a maximum of 52.7. The CR-V’s splits, meanwhile, are a whopping 37.2 and 70.9.
The front-wheel-drive Sport and Latitude trims (including the Altitude and High Altitude variants) come standard with antilock brakes that include front discs and rear drums. The front-wheel-drive Limited and all Patriots with Freedom Drive I or Freedom Drive II get disc brakes front and rear. Traction and stability control are standard regardless, as are front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In SUVS brake testing, the Patriot came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 121 feet, an average distance for this class.
In government crash testing, the Patriot earned an overall rating of four out of five stars, with a five-star rating for side impacts offset by a rather alarming three-star rating for frontal impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Patriot its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests, but it downgraded the Jeep to "Poor" in the small-overlap frontal-offset test. The Patriot’s seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
The 2015 Patriot offers a variety of powertrain configurations. The base engine is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder producing 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque; it’s only featured in Sport and Latitude trims with front-wheel drive. A 5-speed manual is the default transmission, with a 6-speed automatic available. There’s also a CVT that comes only with the Altitude or High Altitude package.
According to EPA estimates, the 2.0-liter Patriot returns 24 miles per gallon combined (22 city/27 highway) with the 6-speed automatic, a disappointing result given the engine’s modest output. The Patriot with the CVT also gets 24 miles per gallon combined (22/27). If you don’t mind shifting your own gears, the manual version does slightly better at 26 miles per gallon combined (23/30).
The uplevel engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder rated at 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. It’s optional on front-drive Sport and Latitude trims and standard on front-drive Limited. Also, all Patriots with all-wheel drive (Freedom Drive I) or more serious four-wheel drive (Freedom Drive II) come with the 2.4-liter engine. With Freedom Drive II, the CVT is the only transmission in town, whereas the other 2.4-liter Patriots offer either the 5-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic.
With front-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter Patriot yields an EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon combined (21 city/28 highway) when paired with the 6-speed automatic. The 5-speed manual improves to 25 miles per gallon combined (23/28). Adding Freedom Drive I results in 23 miles per gallon combined (21/27) with the 6-speed automatic and 24 miles per gallon combined (22/27) with the manual. As for Freedom Drive II, it gives you a quite poor 21 miles per gallon combined (20/23).
In SUVS performance testing, a Patriot with Freedom Drive I and the 6-speed automatic went from zero to 60 miles per hour in 9.4 seconds, which is comparable to a Honda CR-V (9.5 seconds) and Toyota RAV4 (9.2 seconds) tested separately. However, a Patriot with Freedom Drive II chugged to 60 miles per hour in 10.3 seconds, a leisurely time for a small crossover SUV. Properly equipped, the Patriot can haul up to 2,000 pounds.
Comfortable front seats; optional flip-down tailgate speakers; above-average off-road capability with Freedom Drive II; attractively priced.
Aside from its low price tag, there’s little reason to consider the 2015 Jeep Patriot given the excellence of its competitors.