2013 Jeep Patriot road test: Capable in some ways, flawed in others

2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4

2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4

The 2013 Jeep Patriot is something of a mixed bag, disappointing in some ways and worthy of respect in others.

The reason could simply be that the compact Patriot was born in 2007, a time when parent Chrysler was in a big financial hole and digging itself deeper all the time. Penny pinching was apparently the order of the day.

The bang-for-the-buck strategy can be seen in the two-for-one development of the Patriot and its fraternal twin, the Jeep Compass. The only real difference between the two is the exterior styling — enough of a separation, Chrysler obviously hoped, to expand the customer pool.

Jee4p Patriot controls

Jeep Patriot controls

Add to that the fact that both Jeeplets were derived from the same platform that underpins the mostly unloved Dodge Caliber, and it’s not hard to believe how overall costs were held in check.

Chrysler believes cost to the consumer is a big plus and bills the 2013 Jeep Patriot as the “best-priced 4X4 in America. “ But that isn’t necessarily the ringing endorsement it is intended to be.

For the record, I should note that the best-price claim of $15,995 is for the base front-wheel-drive Sport model. The vehicle I drove, a mid-level Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4, carried a suggested base price of $22,880 and a bottom-line of $26,320 once all the options were added in. Not bad, but not exactly peanuts, either.

Based on my week with the car, I’d say the two biggest disappointments were the powertrain and the interior.

The 2013 Patriot I drove teamed a continuously variable transmission with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque.

Jeep Patriot cargo space

Jeep Patriot cargo space

Step on the gas and there’s a lot of smoke (ok, no smoke, just noise) but no fire. The engine drones while the CVT is adjusting gear ratios to suit the level of acceleration. But, nothing much in the way of forward motion happens.

The run from a stop to 60 mph takes 10 seconds, more if there is any sort of incline to challenge the Patriot’s progress.  At least I was glad I wasn’t driving a model with the base engine, a 2-liter, four-cylinder model that puts out 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque.

Looking to the updated 2014 models already on dealer’s lots, engine choices won’t change but performance should improve, thanks to the availability of a traditional six-speed automatic transmission.

To be fair, the performance of the 2013 Patriot Latitude was generally adequate on the level roads in and around Scottsdale, AZ, where I drove the Jeep during a visit with my daughter and her family.

And, if I wanted to move out a bit more swiftly, I put the center console-mounted shifter into manual mode and the transmission became more responsive, acting somewhat like a traditional six-speed transmission.