2010 Jeep Patriot First Drive Review
ALMOST TORRENTIAL RAIN, something some parts of the country can barely remember, is pounding the windscreen of the Jeep Patriot as we head off the bitumen road and onto the rain-sodden gravel track.
Despite the rain, the Patriot feels surprisingly sure-footed as we hit the dirt. So, ignoring the lever for the full-time 50:50 torque split four-wheel-drive and sticking with the default part-time AWD-setting, we pressed on.
The part-time system detects slip in the front wheels and proportions drive to the rear when necessity demands. On the slippery road, it performed well.
Chrysler Australia has had a tough time of it this year. Its US parent?s struggles with a short-lived bankruptcy before ending up in partnership with Italian carmaker Fiat, disrupted supplies as well as leaving a dent in consumer confidence in the products.
With production in the US halted for months, the Australian arm of the company has seen its stocks of vehicles slowly dwindle. Now, with winds of change blowing through Chrysler US, things are slowly getting back to full swing for the Australian operation.
One result is an updated and refreshed Patriot range.
The new model Patriot sees some mild changes to the exterior and a much-revised interior. Inside, there is now a much stronger European look than the somewhat challenging over-complicated interior design of the previous model.
Open the door and you will see a simpler and more modern interior - though hardly a style leader. Now in a monotone ?Dark Slate Grey?, there is an all-new dashboard, centre stack and instrument panel, new door trim-panels and a centre console with split lid for added storage space.
The new interior is pleasing enough to the eye and practical for family buyers (and the ravages of children). Thanks to standard ?Stain Repel? technology, the Patriot?s interior will maintain its appearance through all life?s little mishaps ? or so it is claimed.
The dashboard features a smoother matte look while the new centre stack features chrome accents to brighten the new round air-vents, shift bezel, door spears and cluster rings.
The centre console is all-new and door trim panels are redesigned and with additional padding for improved comfort.
Chrysler Australia Managing Director Gerry Jenkins told The Motor Report that, as supplies of the Patriot had dwindled, sales had dropped to less than 30 a month and recently there were virtually none for sale.
With the revised 2009 model, and supplies back on stream, he said that the company aimed to push sales up to about 150 month.
Patriot is an important vehicle for Jeep, which needs to compete in the booming compact soft-roader SUV market.
Engine compartment and interior floor insulation have both been improved to reduce road and engine-noise intrusion, and Jeep claims a five percent reduction in decibel levels inside the cabin.
Patriot's mechanicals remain untouched. Marketing and Sales General Manager Brad Fitzsimmons told TMR that while the diesel Patriot was no longer available, he expected it to come back on-stream from the early part of 2010, when a new diesel engine was expected.
More recent news from Chrysler US about the long-term future of the Patriot nameplate may of course modify plans for which variants join the range here.
For now, Patriot comes with a 2.4 litre petrol engine producing 125kW and 220Nm. It?s coupled to either a five-speed manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has a ?virtual? six-speed manual-changer for those who prefer to swap their own gears.
Fuel economy for the manual is 8.4 l/100km, and 9.1 l/100km from the CVT. Emissions for the manual are 200g/km and 216g/km from the CVT.
Our initial drive was in a five-speed manual. It was soon obvious that the Patriot?s 125kW and 220Nm - the latter in particular - just weren?t up to the job and there was a lot of cog-swapping required to keep things moving.
Even the slightest incline had us dropping back to fourth gear. When we later changed over to a CVT-equipped car it became obvious that this was the better option with the petrol engine. The torque-matching characteristics of the CVT sees better performance and pulling power.
The downside of both is a struggle to match the manufacturer?s claimed fuel consumption figures.
The ideal solution would be a diesel engine. Our guess is that quite a few customers will wait to see if that turns up as promised next year.
That said, the Patriot was more than up to the greasy conditions we encountered on our drive. Over those slippery tracks, the Jeep Freedom-Drive 4WD system managed some fairly treacherous conditions.
We also had the chance to test the ramp-over and approach angles over some steep and tricky territory. Again this essentially ?soft-roader? handled things with reasonable aplomb ? at one stage sitting on the edge of a descent with one rear wheel cocked into the air and not a sign of worry on the face of the driver.
The only real issue here was the lack of a hill-descent control, something we would suggest Jeep consider as the Patriot had virtually no engine braking.
The revised Patriot is a definite improvement on the previous model, especially in the appearance and layout of the interior.
While the petrol models struggles a little, with the prospect of a diesel re-joining the range the new Patriot could become a strong addition to this area of the marketplace.
2010 Jeep Patriot pricing
- $29,990: 2.4 litre five-speed manual
- $32,990: 2.4 litre CVT automatic with AutoStick six-speed manual shift mode
- Premium Paint: $450
- Front Seat Side-airbags: $600
Comfort and Convenience Group package: $1500 (Includes deep-tint sunscreen glass, cruise control and leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Standard when automatic transmission ordered.)
- $35,990: 2.4 litre CVT six-speed automatic
- Premium Paint: $450
- Front Seat Side-airbags: $600
- Power Sunroof: $2000
Technology Group package: $3500 (Includes ?Uconnect Navigation? and nine-speaker Boston Acoustics MusicGate sound system.)