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First look: Patriot to be cheapest Jeep

Tough compact: Jeep says Patriot will be the most capable small SUV.

Jeep sets its sights on X-Trail with Patriot - a small but serious new off-roader

10 Apr 2006

JEEP has come clean with the second part of its plan to produce two small new off-roaders by revealing the production version of its Patriot SUV over the weekend.

Though not officially confirmed for Australia but likely to join the Chrysler-Jeep range by mid-2007 after it becomes available to global right-hand drive markets from early next year, Patriot will be the hardcore US off-road brand’s second compact five-door SUV.

The first will be Compass, which was revealed in production guise at January’s Detroit motor show, goes on sale in the US as a 2007 model late this year, and has been confirmed to go on sale in Australia in early 2007.

While Compass will be Jeep’s first legitimate rival for compact SUVs like Toyota’s top-selling RAV4, the production Patriot could follow it here soon after as a less expensive, more serious off-road alternative for the likes of Nissan’s slightly larger X-Trail.

9 center imageBoth Compass and Patriot first appeared in concept guise at last September’s Frankfurt motor show, and are based on the Caliber small hatch – which will relaunch the Chrysler Group’s Dodge brand in Australia in July and is itself available in the US with all-wheel drive.

Featuring Jeep’s trademark squared-off body with seven-slot grille, it lacks only the show car’s bumper-mounted driving lights and chunky roofrails - and even shares its khaki paint colour and alloy wheel design.

Patriot is about the same size as the Compass, slightly larger than Jeep’s utilitarian Wranger but but smaller than the Cherokee-sized Nitro SUV, which has been confirmed as the second Dodge model to be made available here, also in early 2007.

Sharing the Chrysler Group’s 2.4-litre "World Engine" with both Caliber and Compass, Patriot is claimed to go one better than Compass (which itself offers more than 200mm of ground clearance and a locking centre differential) by featuring "best-in-class Jeep 4x4 capability".

Crucially, however, Jeep says Patriot will also establish "a new entry-level price point for the Jeep brand" in the US.

According to Jeep, Patriot (like Compass) combines the interior flexibility of an SUV with the performance, handling, fuel economy and price of a compact car.

Side curtain airbags and three-mode ESP stability control will be standard, while three drive configurations for the US and Canada are claimed to give Patriot the widest capability of any compact SUV available.

These are front-wheel drive, Freedom Drive I (a full-time, active four-wheel-drive system with Lock mode) and Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package (as above but with low-range), which is claimed to provide "Jeep 4x4 Trail Rated capability".

The latter comprises a second-generation continuously variable transaxle with a low range (dubbed CVT2L and boasting a low 19:1 final drive ratio) that engages when the off-road mode is activated.

Freedom Drive II models also gain Hill Descent Control, off-road ABS, 17-inch all-terrain tyres, a full-size spare wheel, air-filtration system, skid plates, tow hooks, foglights and a seat-height adjuster.

Entry-level variants will come standard with a five-speed manual transmission, while a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with six-speed manual transaxle will become available in "key diesel markets outside North America".

Two grades will be offered in the US (Patriot and Patriot Limited) and options will include satellite-navigation, a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics premium sound system, a dual-purpose/self-charging removable cargo lamp mounted in the cargo area roof, and Ultra Floor, a washable and removable vinyl load floor.

Before Compass and Patriot go on sale here, Jeep’s range will swell beyond its three core models within months with the arrival of the seven-seat Grand Cherokee-based long-wheelbase Commander in mid-2007.

A piping-hot 6.1-litre V8-powered SRT-8 version of the Grand Cherokee will follow late this year, while an all-new Wrangler hard-core off-roader is due to appear globally by 2008.

What’s coming from Jeep:

Commander large SUV – mid 2006
Grand Cherokee SRT-8 – late 2006
Compass compact SUV – early 2007
Patriot compact SUV – mid-2007
Wrangler off-roader redesign – 2008

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