The 2008 Jeep Patriot has very traditional Jeep looks, with the familiar six-bar grille and a very boxy, upright appearance, along with trapezoidal wheel wells and plenty of ground clearance, yet its carlike ride and handling--as it's closely related to the Dodge Caliber and Jeep Compass--help make it quite economical and city friendly.
The Patriot comes in either Sport or Limited trim, and each is available in front- or four-wheel drive. All models come with a 2.4L four-cylinder engine making 172 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque, but the most affordable front-wheel drive Sport model can be specified with a 158-horsepower, 2.0L four-cylinder engine for a $200 credit. The 2.0L comes only with the CVT automatic, while the 2.4L comes with either a five-speed manual or CVT. With either engine, the Patriot gets rather frugal estimated efficiency ratings of 26 miles per gallon city, 30 highway.
Depending on the desired use, the Patriot can come equipped with three different drive configurations. For those mainly interested in street driving, there's a standard FWD version; above that there's the Freedom Drive I 4WD system, a full-time active 4WD system good for on-road driving and snow, with a 4WD Lock mode that may help with some low-speed situations.
At the top, there's the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, which brings equipment for the trail, such as skid plates, tow hooks, larger all-terrain tires and wheels, and a special version of the CVT transmission with a 19:1 low range good for crawling. The Off-Road Package also adds better body sealing and improved water-fording ability, another inch of ground clearance, and improves approach, departure, and breakover angles for scrape-free off-roading.
There's a very long list of standard safety equipment, which might come as a bit of a surprise considering the especially low base price. Side curtain air bags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and a rough-road mode, electronic stability control, and electronic roll mitigation, which helps avoid a rollover situation, are included on all Patriots.
In all models, the rear seat is split 60/40 and folds forward to expand cargo space. Also, the Ultrafloor vinyl load floor is washable, and the seats have soil- and odor-resistant fabric.
The more economical Sport model is rather basic, but does have some surprising standard comfort and convenience items such as air conditioning, tilt steering, a rear defroster, and a CD sound system with auxiliary input. The upscale Limited adds a lot of popular equipment like leather-trimmed seats (heated in front), steering wheel audio controls, cruise control, power mirrors, locks, and windows, and 17-inch aluminum wheels. Top options include Bluetooth, a DVD-navigation system, and Boston Acoustics nine-speaker sound.