The Patriot has Jeep's favorite styling cues, namely round headlights and seven vertical openings for a grille, in a boxy shape with fairly upright windshield and hatch. Unlike jelly bean-shaped competitors, Patriot's box shape translates to a more spacious feeling inside because the roof doesn't curl in on you, and the vertical rear end allows more cargo inside and better sheds snow and ice in the winter.
For 2011, the front end styling has been cleaned up, a little neater and tidier than before. On Patriot Latitude X models much trim is done in bright surfaces but we find the body-color trim of the other models more appealing, and more befitting a Jeep. Tow hooks and roof-rail crossbars are optional, and we'd prefer the fog lamps were further apart.
Eschewing trends to make everything lower and more car-like, the 2011 Patriot rides a little bit higher than the 2010 version and it has half-an-inch more ground clearance. You won't find that a benefit until it's the half-inch that makes a difference but it doesn't hurt in Patriot's quest to make a cute-ute look more macho.
For 2011, the rear end gets an update to match the front and it's the biggest improvement. Although it's acceptable for trucks and genuine four-wheel drives to have lots of mechanical bits visible underneath it's less desirable in a compact crossover. To that end the rear bumper on the 2011 Patriot is deeper and almost totally hides the muffler that looked like a large industrial afterthought on earlier versions.
The Jeep Patriot is considered a compact, although it looks larger. With a lot of space between front and rear wheels and overall length less than 15 feet, the lack of bodywork beyond the wheels adds dimension and improves backcountry accessibility. It's only a couple of inches from identical height and width and the ground clearance matches many heavy-duty pickup trucks.
The standard wheels are 16-inch steel. Attractive 17-inch aluminum wheels are standard on Latitude and X models, and optional for the Sport. The Patriot looks much better with the aluminum wheels, or get your own when the tires wear out and use the original steel wheels with dedicated winter tires.
A high seating position gives the Jeep Patriot driver a commanding view of the trail. The Patriot Sport's front seats have manual adjustment and come with cloth upholstery; the Latitude has heated cloth seats which we prefer for four seasons. The Latitude X gets leather upholstery which previously seemed to overdress the Patriot; it fits better in the revised 2011 interior but we're still adapting to Jeep and leather in the same sentence.
Interior materials have been revamped for 2011. Soft-touch panels line the top of the doors, the pockets have cleaner edges, the three-spoke steering wheel shared with the Wrangler has cruise and audio controls on it and the console is improved.
The cabin layout is functional and roomy. The dark dashboard and instrument layout is simple, and the gauges are a tidy white on black with glowing orange needles. The climate and sound system controls are easy to understand and operate. Jeep says the available UConnect Tunes system can hold up to 6700 songs, which can be ripped from a CD or USB memory stick. We thought the doors sounded kind of tinny when they were closed.
The space between the seats includes a nook for change or cell phones, two fixed cupholders, and the parking brake lever. The center console is split for two levels of storage and is now padded.
The door pockets are on the small side, but they can hold six CD cases; much of the space is taken up by the 6x9-inch speakers. The door handles are easy to use. There's a nice tray over the good-sized glove compartment that's big enough for books.
The standard rear seat is a 60/40 split. It folds flat easily. Simply flip up the seat cushion and flop down the seatback. Reclining rear seats are optional, as is a flat-folding front passenger seat. With the rear seats folded flat, there's a spacious 54.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Fold down the passenger seat, and the Patriot has room for something eight feet long. With all the seats in use there's 23 cubic feet in the back, comparable with any compact SUV.
The hatch glass does not open separately but the hatch itself isn't that heavy. A removable carpeted floor lines the cargo area and hides a real full-size spare tire underneath on most models. That cargo deck is a relatively high 31 inches off the floor so the maximum cargo height opening is 27.4 inches, and taller people should watch their head beneath the open hatch.