Jeep: Homeland security

By Phil Hanson

Patriot SUV. Photo / Supplied
Patriot SUV. Photo / Supplied

Five years ago, Jeep introduced its Patriot light SUV, a vehicle that appealed to some because its pseudo-rugged, all-American looks stood out in a carpark.

But could it be that it didn't appeal to a wide enough audience, especially in overseas markets? It was one thing having Jeeps swarming around battlefields helping win World War II, quite another when you actually had to sell them, rather than just have them wade ashore.

For the past couple of years, the Patriot has been receiving liberal applications of moisturiser and conditioner to smooth it for the suburbs. This year, it receives softer front and rear styling and a body-coloured grille on the outside, and much more inside.

The interior makeover is part of an ongoing effort to address criticism that, not really being a military vehicle, it contained too many hard plastics and rough edges.

It now looks quite good, thanks in part to soft-to-the-touch front-door trim and a nicer centre armrest.

It also receives a new steering wheel with integrated controls - the same as the 2011 Wrangler. The leather seats, standard on the $43,990 Limited model Driven drove, are first-rate.

But let's not dwell on appearance, whose excesses tend to draw the eye away from the roomy and load-ready nature of this almost medium-sized wagon that's roughly the size of rivals such as Toyota's RAV4 and the Nissan X-Trail. Boxy styling allows it to take on board all sorts of stuff from the DIY outlet or whiteware shop.

Unfortunately, Patriot is rated to tow only 1500kg, braked.

It moves along reasonably well on the 125kW of power and 220Nm of torque from its 2.4-litre World Engine. Fuel consumption is rated at a combined 8.7 litres per 100km, a figure partly attributable to its continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that's more fuel-friendly than a conventional automatic.

Ride and handling are reasonable and the Patriot's able to tackle mild off-roading duties without difficulty. Oddly, for a brand with Jeep's dauntless off-road history, a switch to lock Patriot into 50-50 front-rear drive distribution is hidden down by some cupholders, suggesting it was all but an afterthought.

Bottom line:

Polarising style distracts from Patriot's core value as a competent load carrier.

Patriot's base

Patriot is based on the GS platform developed by DaimlerChrysler and Mitsubishi and has been used to underpin several vehicles including, in Chrysler's world, the Jeep Compass, Dodge Caliber, Journey and Avenger. It's also the base for Mitsubishi's Challenger and Lancer and the Peugeot 4007.

When introduced, Patriot had the distinction of being the cheapest crossover-type SUV in North America, although many options were available for buyers who wanted to avoid the stigma of a low price tag.

Alternatives

Hyundai ix35 2.4 litre, from $45,490
Nissan X-Trail ST, from $42,990
Mitsubishi Outlander XLS, from $45,990
Toyota RAV4 2.4 litre, from $42,790

- NZ Herald

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