First Look: 2011 Jeep Patriot

It's no secret that the Jeep Patriot -- along with the Compass, its comrade on the bottom rung of the Jeep lineup -- was something of a disappointment when it was launched for the 2007 model year. The cabin was full of sharp, ugly plastics; the ride was jittery and loud; and the powertrain was far from class-leading. At least, though, it looked better than the Compass and managed to earn Jeep's Trail Rated badge, at least when equipped with the so-called Freedom Drive II system.

As we reported last week, the 2011 Patriot receives some much-needed updates in the form of an exterior face-lift and some polishing to its underpinnings. These updates go above and beyond the revisions that the Patriot received for the 2009 model year, which, you may recall, saw significant improvements to the cabin, the suspension, and sound-deadening materials.

The most visible change to the 2011 Patriot is its new face, which drops the available faux chrome bumper or body-color trim for black lower cladding that surrounds the more centrally located foglamps and is designed to visibly extend the underbody skid plate. The black cladding also runs along the sides of the Patriot, in an effort to make the little Jeep fit in better with the rest of the brand's products. In back, new Patriots sport a taller lower rear fascia, and top-spec Latitude models have a chrome strip along the top edge of the bumper. Chrysler designers also worked to camouflage the muffler and painted the end of the tailpipe a silvery chrome hue.

Inside, the Patriot mostly retains the improvements seen for 2009 but adds softer padding where front passengers' elbows rest (door armrests and center console). The "corporate" Jeep steering wheel is now standard on Patriots, as is cruise control. Cloth fabrics were updated, too, and engineers installed some additional sound-deadening materials that are used in European-market diesel Patriots.

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