Let’s get right down to it shall we? With the 2012 Jeep Patriot, Chrysler continues the brand’s off-road legacy by offering up a trail-rated performer that, despite its best efforts, has a tendency to struggling with its own identity. On the one hand the Patriot wants ever so badly to attain levels of greatness past models like the Cherokee enjoyed. But on the other hand, it wants to please the masses by deftly showcasing heightened levels of urban mobility and respectable fuel economy. All while providing a real sense of off-road utility that made the Jeep brand famous. Rarely does it manage to achieve both, and what we’re left with is a frustrating compromise that never truly hits its stride.
Brave old Patriot
Unfortunately, those looking for an overhaul of the 2012 Patriot will be left somewhat disappointed considering very little has changed from last year’s model. So if you’re looking for a laundry list of new features and improvements that will wow you then you’re out of luck.
Buyers seriously considering the Patriot can choose from three different trim levels: Sport, Latitude, and Limited. The Base model starts at $15,995, which feature a standard 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine churning out 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque. Our Latitude review unit further ups the ante — and price ($25,235) — with additional improvements including a more powerful 2.4-liter engine and a Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) for added performance for when you find yourself bereft of asphalt-paved roads.
Noteworthy standard features in the Latitude trim include remote keyless entry, heated front seats, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and rear 60/40 reclining and folding seat backs.
Like its predecessor, the 2012 Jeep Patriot is based on a front-wheel drive platform, which is rather sacrilege as far as off-road vehicles go. Jeep does offer the Patriot in an available all-wheel-drive mode and has gone the extra mile by awarding the Patriot with the automaker’s coveted Trail Rated badge. Given Jeep’s well-deserved off-road pedigree, purists will have cause to rejoice over the Patriots vetted trailblazing capabilities.
Traditionally Jeep designs have never really offered much in the way of aerodynamics. They’re bread to be boxy, brutish-looking piles of sheetmetal that are designed with one main purpose: off road performance. They never veer too far off that track. For that, we can’t fault the 2012 Patriot’s hum-drum styling. So if you long for that traditional Jeep “look” you’ll be more than content with the 2012 Patriot’s somewhat clunky proportions.
We’ll call it a testament to Jeep’s rugged, yet timeless aesthetic, but you can’t really argue with the iconic Jeep design. It won’t please everyone, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, while the 2012 Patriot won’t win any admirers based off looks alone, it’s not a bad looking car by any means, just rather boring.
Taking the fun out of functional
Truth be told it’s more of the same on the inside. In keeping with the Patriots rather utilitarian design, the cabin is proverbial wonderland of hard plastic and unapologetic banality. Although the 2012 Jeep Patriot does offer an ever so slight glimpse of style with its illuminated cup holders. Apart from that though, the pickings are slim. Most won’t mind, while others (ourselves included) hope Jeep will inject a little more personality to next year’s model.
Of course depending where you stand simple could be a positive. Climbing into any new car these days can be an intimidating endeavor. With all the tech gadgetry and gizmos occupying more landscape than ever before, it can quickly become overwhelming. Those that long for simpler times will appreciate the 2012 Patriot’s seemingly sterile interior. Everything is intelligently situated with all that you need no more than an arm’s reach away. Our leather wrapped steering wheel was flanked by all the buttons you would expect from a modern car without feeling excessive. Gauges are large and vivid — requiring very little effort to manage while driving, which make driving the Patriot as user-friendly as it gets.
The interior design will neither dazzle nor impress you, but it does prove rather functional with enough space up front for both a pilot and co-pilot, and those sitting in the back will also find themselves enjoying a comfortable cruise even if leg space is limited. In fact, offering up ample cargo space is easily one of the Patriots best qualities and where the boxy design happens to lend itself well.
As we mentioned before, the 2012 Patriot suffers most when it’s forced to walk the line between an SUV segment that is much more demanding, and a refined crossover segment that seeks to marry the two driving experiences together. As an off-road vehicle, the Patriot performs solidly. Our review model featured the heftier 2.4-liter poweplant mated to the CVT; with optional low-gear, off-road crawl ratio providing added hill control on steeper inclines and rockier terrains.
It isn’t until the 2012 Patriot is asked to tackle the not-so-rugged-streets of suburbia that it begins to reveal its ineptitude. Engine noise runs noticeably loud — so loud that we initially though there might be something wrong with our review unit’s transmission. And while fuel economy gives us good reason to salute this Patriot, it isn’t medal worthy, especially when some of its competitors have crossed the 30 mpg threshold. EPA rates the Patriot at 20 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg combined. Though, our road tests typically saw returns of 17 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway.
Overall the 2012 Jeep Patriot offers an adequate if not schizophrenic ride. Pick-up is alarmingly slow on the highway and prevents the drive experience from becoming truly enjoyable. While adventuring down dirt-filled roads will add some joy and excitement it was never enough to propel our driving experience out of its doldrums. This is especially important to bear in mind given the wealth of choices consumers have in the increasingly competitive crossover segment.
And although the Patriot exhibits a fine level of agility – showcasing excellent maneuverability during our outings in and around the city, despite its boxy frame – it is ultimately let down by poor powertrain performance, which sadly just wasn’t up to snuff during our more mundane day-to-day drives. Like a caged Lion, the Patriot thrives in the wild and finds itself rather lost when forced to live within the confines of an urban jungle.
At the risk of oversimplifying matters, in the end, whether the 2012 Jeep Patriot is the right car to consider will largely depend on two things: Where you’ll be driving it, and whether or not you value style over substance. If function over form happens to be your M.O. then the 2012 Jeep Patriot might be right for you. However, if you are content with a pinch of panache or a smidgen of style in your automobile offerings, then you may want to seek greener LED-lit pastures elsewhere. For those with one foot already out the door take heed: What the 2012 Jeep Patriot lacks in style it goes through great lengths to make up for with its adept handling and competent off-road capabilities — providing an able, if not somewhat uninspiring, driving experience. It doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but if you can look past its sluggish powertrain and sterile styling, you’ll find a moderately priced wilderness warrior.
- Low price point
- Competent off-road characteristics
- Handles well for its size
- Spacious cabin and trunk space
- Uninspiring/Cheap looking interior
- Underwhelming powetrain performance on the highway
- Fuel economy could be better
- Exterior lacks personality
- Absence of high-tech creature comforts we’ve grown accustomed to