New Car Review: 2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Jeep Patriot

We've said it before (about a year and a half ago), we'll say it again. The Jeep Patriot doesn't get much respect. In fact, if it weren't for the not-really-a-Jeep Compass, the Patriot wouldn't get any at all. But at least it's more of a Jeep than something else in the lineup.

Or so goes the conventional wisdom. As we've suggested before, though, the Patriot is the closest thing you can get in 2013 to the fondly remembered 1984 Cherokee...the first of the small SUVs.

It helps to have a taste for the basics. You're not going to be overwhelmed by styling, space, or power. But as a reasonably-priced conveyance for five that can get you there and back, even when "there" isn't paved, the Patriot does just fine.

Ours was a 4X4 in Latitude trim, the mid-line. Base price of $22,880, you get premium cloth bucket seats, a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine and a Continuously Variable Transmission...which manages an EPA estimated 21 MPG city, 26 highway. Not too bad.

Interior view of 2013 Jeep Patriot

There's also the usual assortment of airbags, head restraints, stability control and roll mitigation (that's one I haven't seen before), ABS, hill start assist (but not with the CVT), brake assist, cruise control, a rechargable flashlight (Jeep is telling you to venture beyond suburban strip malls), keyless entry, air conditioning, heated front seats, a decent audio system with Uconnect, and....(drum roll)....illuminated cup holders! 'Murricah.

For $22,800, that's pretty solid value. The press fleet folks threw a few option packages on ours, adding the Security and Cargo Convenience Group, an upgraded Boston Acoustics audio system , 40GB hard drive, 6.5 inch color screen, Bluetooth, voice command, USB and SiriusXM satellite radio. Folded in with a $925 destination charge, the Latitude's as-tested price rang in at $26,320.

So...should you buy one?

That depends. There are certainly more modern small SUVs on the market. You'll also probably never find them this well equipped for the low 26s. On the other hand, they're a bunch more fun to drive. Best advice (as always): Go for a test drive. If you're a minimalist...if your idea of a great go-anywhere ride is an old steel-bodied Willys Jeep Wagon or a mid-80s Cherokee, you just might find a lot to like in the Patriot.