Average. Jeep's most impressive model for a while, although it's not without flaws. Genuine off-road ability, adequate on-road finesse and rugged looks will appeal - but not as much as the Patriot's budget price tag.
The chunky Patriot is the cheapest car Jeep sells, and also the most accomplished. It's a smaller, more frugal 4x4 than we've come to expect from the all-American brand, meaning it's better suited to British buyers than its heavyweight siblings.
The charming mini-military looks impress from the off and (although it's based on the same mechanicals as the dynamically flawed Dodge Caliber and Chrysler Sebring saloons) the Patriot drives surprisingly well for an SUV. The steering is over-assisted and too light, but body roll is kept in check at higher speeds and the sure-footed Patriot rides competently over twisty, bumpy back roads.
It's not as car-like to drive as a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, but that's because it's got proper 4x4 credentials rather than the 'soft-road' bias of these rivals. Jeep is, after all, the oldest off-road specialist, with a history that pre-dates even Land Rover's, so just as a Ferrari must be fast, a Jeep must be able to find its way across a muddy field.
And this one can, as we proved by driving it up a sodden north Wales hill. It's got hill decent control as standard plus special ABS braking and traction systems that allow for slides. Venture onto more extreme terrain, though, and the lack of low-ratio gears and poor ground clearance could cause problems.
Power's provided by a somewhat unrefined 168bhp 2.3 litre petrol engine or a stronger VW-sourced 2.0 litre CRD diesel with 138bhp and 162lb ft torque. The only viable choice is the diesel unit, even if it's noisy, because it returns a 40mpg combined fuel consumption and lowly 180g/km CO2 emissions. It's also pretty smooth and has more mid-range shove than its petrol counterpart, but its clattery rumble can become intrusive on a motorway journey. The Patriot also can't match the levels of refinement and comfort offered by the more expensive Land Rover Freelander 2 on longer journeys.
Nor does it come close to matching the Landie's premium-feel cabin, although the Chrysler Group's typical cheap-looking but hard-wearing, scratchy interior plastics and wipe-clean rubber inserts are more acceptable in a rugged 4x4 like this. These flaws are even forgivable when you consider the Patriot's price - it undercuts its rivals by a substantial margin and boasts generous equipment levels to boot. So, for a cosseting urban SUV look elsewhere, but if a cheap, compact, mudslugger's required then the Patriot has its merits.
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