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First drive: Patriot - Jeep's high-Caliber compact

Road-Jeep: Iconic US off-road brand's compact soft-roader opens under $30K.

It looks like a Jeep, but the ‘Cherokee Light’ Patriot is built mostly for bitumen

10 Aug 2007


THE Chrysler Group has lowered the entry point for its Jeep brand with another derivative of the Dodge Caliber – the Patriot, which was launched for the Australian market in New Zealand this week.

The Patriot is the third model to use the GS platform that has already spawned the Dodge Caliber and the Jeep Compass, and gives the American car-maker a $29,990 starter.

Jeep has positioned the Compass – which starts from $32,490 – as its more road-biased sporty model, while the Patriot has a more rugged bush-bashing style... ‘Cherokee Light’, if you like.

The Patriot sits just below the rugged Wrangler two-door that kicks off at $30,990.

It does not have low-range gearing, adequate underbody protection or the type of ground clearance needed for real bush-bashing – and unlike most other Jeeps, including the rock-crawling Wrangler, it is incapable of conquering the gruelling Rubicon Trail.

Still, the Patriot does have a constant 4WD system (with a lock mode) and its body sits high enough for light off-road duties.

Like both the Compass and Caliber, the Patriot is available with two engines – the Chrysler Group’s 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder and the Volkswagen-sourced 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.

The Patriot will roll into the super-competitive compact SUV segment, which includes the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail.

The base model is $2000 cheaper than all of these rivals except for the Ford Escape, which also starts off at $29,990.

The Patriot is 4408mm long, 1785mm wide and 1667mm tall, dimensions that put it right in the middle of that pack.

The baseline price refers to the manual petrol model, while an automatic is available for an extra $2000. The diesel is available only with a manual gearbox and starts from $33,990.

Jeep also offers Limited versions of all three models, with premium equipment for an extra $4000.

Chrysler Group Australia managing director Gerry Jenkins said the Patriot would appeal to traditional Jeep fans who have, up until now, been denied a small SUV in the line-up.

“Our Jeep customers don’t want to leave the brand when looking at other segments, they want a vehicle the whole family can drive with ease and still call it a Jeep,” Mr Jenkins said.

The Patriot’s 2.4-litre petrol engine uses variable valve timing to deliver 125kW and 220Nm of torque.

It is linked to a standard five-speed manual transmission, which enables the Patriot to record an average combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 8.9L/100km (ADR 81/01).

9 center imageThe Patriot is not available with a regular automatic transmission instead it uses a more fuel-efficient continuously variable automatic. It does still use more fuel than the manual, recording a combined fuel economy figure of 9.7L/100km.

For those who really want to save fuel, the diesel engine is the best choice.

Using the latest technology from the diesel experts at Volkswagen, the 2.0- litre direct injection common-rail turbo-diesel manages 103kW of power and an impressive 310Nm of torque.

It uses a six-speed manual transmission, which allows for a miserly fuel consumption figure of 6.7L/100km.

Performance figures are not as impressive, but that is no surprise given Jeep is not promoting this as a sporty model. The Patriot’s 0-100km/h times range from 10.7 seconds for the petrol manual to 11.3 seconds for the petrol automatic.

The new Jeep weighs between 1490kg and 1610kg, depending on the model and trim level chosen.

Both the petrol and diesel models use Jeep’s Freedom Drive I 4WD system.

It is a front-wheel drive-biased system in most conditions, and uses an electronically controlled centre coupling to send up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear wheels when required. When operating below 16km/h, the system sends 50 per cent of torque to the rear axle for optimum low-speed traction.

Unlike many compact SUV rivals, the Patriots 4WD system can be locked in 50/50 split for off-road work or other slippery conditions.

The Patriot also comes standard with electronic stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes.

Driver and passenger front and side airbags are standard, while supplementary side head and thorax airbags are available as an option on Limited models.

Unlike its Cherokee big brother, the Patriot has independent rear suspension for better on-road handling.

Just like the Compass and Caliber, the Patriot uses a traditional set-up of MacPherson struts for the front and a multi-link rear.

It runs rack-and-pinion steering which is power-assisted and which Jeep engineers set out to provide a firm feel.

Ground clearance comes in at 204mm and the (braked) towing capacity is a modest 1500kg.

Jeep has also resisted the temptation of fitting the Patriot with a space-saver spare wheel, instead including a full-size spare as standard equipment.

The Patriot is a five-seater with 60/40 split-fold rear seats that can also be reclined by 12 degrees for extra comfort. Interior space is maximised by the front passenger seatback, which is able to be folded forward until it sits flat.

There are also some handy small features such as the torchlight in the cargo area.

The Patriot comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a cargo cover, single-CD sound system, electric windows and a trip computer.

Stepping up to the Limited adds cruise control, foglamps, leather trim, heated front seats, exterior chrome accents, six-CD premium sound and dark window tint.

Options for the base model include premium CD sound from the Limited, dark window tint and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

Limited customers can also option a sunroof and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.

All Patriot models can be optioned with the potent 458-watt premium sound system including nine Boston acoustics speakers, amplifier and two speakers in the tailgate that can swing down to face outwards when the tailgate is open.

2007 Jeep Patriot pricing:
Sport 2.4 petrol $29,990
Sport 2.4 petrol (a) $31,990
Sport 2.0 diesel $33,990
Limited 2.4 petrol $33,990
Limited 2.4 petrol (a) $35,990
Limited 2.0 diesel $37,990

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