Monday, May 28, 2007

Jeep Patriot

One year ago exactly, Chrysler introduced us to the first of three all-new compact crossovers intended to help DCX get back into the compact-car game. First was Dodge’s chunky Caliber, mildly impressing us with its unique styling and clever interior packaging, but losing us completely with its ho-hum road manners and stunningly awful interior materials. Next came the miserable Jeep Compass, which took the worst of the Caliber’s traits and wrapped them in styling to match. Now we have the Jeep Patriot, which, at a base price of just $14,985, will be even cheaper than the Compass by $1000. Needless to say, our expectations were low.

Fortunately, the Patriot’s not that bad; its inoffensive styling, real utility, and cheap price easily making it rise above the Caliber and Compass.
The Best of the Three

Now, saying that the Patriot is better than Caliber and Compass certainly isn’t saying much. But honestly, there’s plenty to praise about the newest and cheapest of Jeeps, and thus we think there’s reason to give it a chance. For starters, the Patriot has brand-correct styling; both the Caliber and Compass seem to have missed the memos regarding their respective school uniforms.

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Furthermore, the Patriot backs up its trail-rated looks with at least some measure of trail-ratability in the form of an optional all-wheel drive/CVT combo that bestows more off-road capability than can be mustered by any Caliber or Compass. More on that later.

But alas, in spite of its clever features, the Patriot does share every bit of the interior shoddiness of the Compass and Caliber. Also like the others, it’s still more car than truck, which purists (and Jeep has nothing if not a purist following) correctly see as a dilution of the brand. But at least it looks like a Jeep.
Not Ugly

In contrast to the Compass, the Patriot isn’t ugly. Its T-square styling effectively recalls the old XJ Cherokee that Jeep sold for 18 of its 66 years in business. Its round lights, seven-slot grille, upright-ish windshield, and vertical windows are longstanding Jeep-isms, the latter two features also contributing to favorable outward vision and interior space.

The Patriot will be offered in two models. The Patriot Sport wears 16-inch wheels, body-color bumpers, black mirrors and door handles, and clear rear glass. Patriot Limited rides on 17-inch wheels and has body color accents while adding fog lamps and silver bumper appliqu├ęs.

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