The 2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude starts at $23,395 (not including a $995 destination charge) in AWD guise.

2014 Jeep Patriot Latitude

Class: Compact Crossover

Miles Driven: 159

Real-world fuel economy: 25.8

Driving mix: 65% city, 35% highway

Base price: $23,395 (not including $995 destination fee)

Price as tested: $26,055

Options on test car: Security and Cargo Group ($495), Uconnect ($595), Voice command and Bluetooth ($475)


Quick Hits

 The great: Surprisingly affordable

The good: New automatic transmission cures many ills

The not so good: Fuel economy trails class leaders

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John Biel

Ask yourself this question, SUV shoppers: Would you still buy one if what you truly need is a useful little wagon with at least a little more bad-weather and off-road capability than the average car? Maybe what you really want is a Jeep Patriot.

The 2014 Patriot offers nice passenger room for four and good cargo space, even with the rear seats up. Meanwhile, it presents buyers with a choice of two four-wheel-drive systems (front-wheel-drive Patriots are also available), two engines, and three transmissions—all in three quite affordable trim levels.

With a redesigned Patriot on the horizon, the “big change” for ’14 is the addition of a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift capability. It comes standard in all top-line Limiteds and the midlevel four-wheel-drive Latitude that served as our test vehicle, and is optional in base Sports and the front-drive Latitude. In all-wheelers, the 6-speed is paired with the basic Freedom Drive I 4X4 system. What had previously been the Patriot’s sole clutchless drive, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), is still around for use with the Freedom Drive II group that’s designed to serve those who need more off-road capability. While the CVT’s crawl ratio may be more favorable to drivers picking their way over rough terrain, the conventional automatic is a lot more pleasing in day-to-day street and expressway driving. It worked smoothly in our 159.3-mile test, with only a brief pause to downshift when we needed to dig in the spurs.

Tailgaters will likely find use for Patriot’s available liftgate speakers.

Drivers who like to take matters in their own hands still can. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard in Sports and the front-wheel Latitude, and optional for all other models.

The front-drive Sport and Latitude start with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, but can be ordered with the 2.4-liter dohc 4 that’s standard elsewhere in the Patriot lineup. The 172-horsepower powerplant gets the Patriot away decently from a standstill and provides enough passing and merging oomph to keep highway driving comfortably below the white-knuckle level. In our trial, the 2.4/automatic Latitude averaged 21.89 mpg, with 66 percent of driving under city conditions.

Firm, supportive seats and a commanding view through large windows make the Patriot a relatively stressless driver. Engine and road noise, while not completely quelled, are still well subdued. In our test, steering came across as a little vague and short on feel, but ride was disturbed by only the worst stuff Chicago streets could throw at it and braking was prompt and sure.

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