I get why people love their Jeeps: They're rough and tumble and go anywhere from a weekend at the beach to an extreme off-roading adventure. However, the 2010 Jeep Patriot feels cheap, sluggish and plastic-y, making it seem more like a toy Jeep than a real one (and not even a cute one like the miniature electric pink Barbie Jeep the neighbor girls have).
Upon starting the Patriot for the first time, I realized pretty quickly that this wasn't a toy electric Jeep. The rumbling engine actually made me wonder for a moment if my test Patriot had a diesel engine. Nope, no diesel, just a really loud cabin.
I was not only underwhelmed with the Patriot but actually annoyed by the continuously variable automatic transmission in it, which was part of the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package. It felt slow to get up and running from a stop, and if I tried to coax it to go any faster it would rev loudly as if to say, "The kids'll get to school when I'm damn well ready to get them there." Sheesh! On top of stressing about getting the kids out the door on time, I hated having my car bark at me every morning.
The 2010 Patriot looks exactly like a Jeep and can't possibly be mistaken for anything else. It has the bold, square lines that are associated with this brand. A vertically striped grille with the unmistakable Jeep lettering above it grabs your attention as does the big, bug-eyed headlights. It reminded me a bit of the old Jeep Cherokee that my dad drove when I was little, only without the retro wood paneling.
What did seem kind of retro about the Patriot was the Sunburst Orange paint my test car came dressed up in. I can't say I'm a fan of orange cars, but apparently plenty of people are.
One feature that certainly didn't exist back when my dad was driving his Jeep was a remote start function. This would be an absolute dream in extreme weather, allowing you to stay inside the comfort of the coffee shop while you start up your Jeep and warm it (or cool it) to the optimal temperature before even stepping one foot outside the door. That might even be worth paying the extra $1,235 to get the feature as part of the Security and Cargo Convenience Package.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): None
My kids complained all week about the Patriot's lack of legroom in the backseat. The rear seats seem stuck in the olden days since they don't slide back and forth like many crossovers do these days. I ended up pulling the front passenger seat all the way forward to make room for the girls' backpacks in the second row.
On top of that, the rear seats' backrest sat nearly upright. Although they reclined slightly, it wasn't enough to make my daughters' booster seats rest comfortably against the seatback. This caused their heads to flop forward when they napped in the car (see picture in photo gallery). Anyone know a good pediatric chiropractor?
As if trying to make up for the lack of thought elsewhere, there are a few gadgety features thrown into the Patriot such as a rear overhead light that pops out for use as a flashlight (wait till the kids lose it) and rear speakers that flip down from the open liftgate to blast music outward for tailgating (part of the optional $1,295 Sun and Sound Package). These features are clever-ish, but not enough to make up for all of the plastic trim in the interior, which is kind of surprising for a $30,000 car. What did make me smile a bit was the optional stain- and odor-resistant seat upholstery and carpeting in the Patriot. Now we're getting somewhere for those of us with kids.
I also liked the leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls included in the Sun and Sound package. I've come to believe that steering-wheel-mounted controls are a safety feature and should be standard on every vehicle.
The Patriot has several standard storage options including a sliding armrest on the center console with a shallow tray on top, two cupholders in the front and two for the kids at the bottom rear of the center console (although they were tricky to reach while the kids were buckled in), and 60/40-split folding rear seats for an expandable cargo area.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Patriot's Latch connectors were wedged between the seat cushions and a little tough to access, but with some elbow grease they were doable. The seat belt buckle receptors were on stable bases, making it easy for kids using booster seats to buckle on their own. The lack of legroom in the second row would make it difficult to fit a rear-facing child-safety seat in the backseat; however, a forward-facing convertible car seat should fit easily.
The Patriot has all of the standard safety features you'd expect to find, including antilock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control. It also has front-impact airbags for the front row and side curtain airbags for both rows. However, the Patriot doesn't have standard side-impact airbags for the front row. They're available as part of the $1,235 Security and Cargo Convenience Package. Without the side-impact airbags, the Patriot received a score of Marginal in side-impact crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. With the side-impact airbags, the Patriot scored the top score of Good.
My test car also came equipped with the $825 Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, which includes four-wheel-drive off-road mode, an extra inch of ground clearance and hill descent control. I tried the hill descent control with a friend of mine who's a professional driver, and ... it works! Although, she commented about the "strange, chunky, hollow sound" it makes, much like the noise you'd hear when ABS kicks in.
In Diapers: Rear seats are behind the times and don't slide front and back to make room for a rear-facing infant-safety seat.
In School: Tight legroom is tricky for little ones with backpacks to maneuver.
Teens: Make sure to opt for the optional side-impact airbags if you're going to put a teen driver behind the wheel.