Believe it or not, the Patriot has been around since model-year 2007. For its fifth year on the market, it receives a refresh with minor styling changes and new features. Part of the goal is achieving philosophical realignment (fancy talk for a crossover, huh?) by updating the styling on the company's two crossovers. This makes the new Compass look more like the Grand Cherokee, and the Patriot similar to the Liberty and Wrangler.

To this end, the Patriot got a new front fascia with a new grille and foglamps, new rear end, and new side cladding, and the muffler is now painted black. In addition, ride height was increased by an inch on all-wheel-drive models without Freedom Drive II, increasing it to 9.5. But in all honesty, it would take a Patriot fanatic or someone with a great eye for detail to see the difference. Inside, styling changes are more noticeable. The Patriot receives the new Jeep steering wheel, with available steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. It also gets softer touch points on the door and center console, a feature that gives the interior a higher quality look and feel. Cruise control is now standard on all models, whether base Sport, midrange Latitude, or topline Latitude X, front- or all-wheel drive. Options include an iPod connection, Sirius Travel Link, exterior brightwork, and an all-weather group. Base prices range from $16,695 to $24,595.

We had the opportunity to drive the new Patriot, on and off-road, in the snow and cold of Wyoming. We were in a Natural Green Pearl Latitude 4x4 equipped with the 2.4-liter four, CVT2L (with low gear), 17-inch wheels, Freedom Drive II, and the media center with CD/DVD, MP3, HDD, and Sirius with UConnectwith as-tested price of $25,410.

On the two-lane roads near Jackson Hole, speeds were limited to 45 mph in some areas because of big-game migration. That and the snow and ice kept us from being able to drive at higher speeds. However, there were noticeable improvements on the highway. Through the long sweeping turns, the steering felt more responsive. In addition, the ride was comfortable, but some wind and road noise came through. But the power from the 2.4-liter four is certainly adequate for a vehicle this size, and the CVT did a decent job on-road. Its power and interior amenities are comparable with others in the Patriot's competitive set, such as the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, and Ford Escape. Refinement is much better now, but still not best in class.

Off-road is where the Patriot separates itself from the rest of the compact-crossover set. Its capability was a pleasant surprise. Through deep snow -- the hard-packed, icy, non-fluffy kind -- the Patriot slid a little, yet never got stuck. In more technical parts of the trails we drove, the small size of this Jeep made it easier to maneuver through and around the trees that lined the trail. And going through mud, over rutted-out sections, and over rocks, the Patriot got through obstacles -- on the first try -- that would've stopped other crossovers. The CVT isn't the most popular transmission out there, but its Low option gives the Patriot a 19.1:1 ratio. It still isn't as good off-road as the Liberty or Wrangler, but it does justify the company's Trail Rated designation.

For those who want a compact crossover that will spend most of its time on-road, but still like the idea of mild off-roading, the Patriot is a decent compromise. The real question is whether it's a compromise crossover buyers are looking for.


2011 Jeep Patriot
Base price $16,695
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engines 2.0L/158-hp/141 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.4L/172-hp/165 lb-ft/DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission Five-speed manual, continuously variable auto, continuously variable auto with low range
Curb weight 3100-3300 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 103.7 in
Length x width x height 173.8 x 69.2 x 65.5-66.8 in
0-60 mph 9.6 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 20-23/23-29 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.76-0.91 lb/mile
On sale in the U.S. Currently
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