It’s certainly a tempting sticker price. Car shoppers can drive a new 2015 Jeep Patriot off the dealer lot for just under $17,000. That’s quite a bargain for a compact sport utility vehicle.

The Patriot price is roughly $7,000 less than the base model of the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape or the Honda CR-V, arguably the three most well regarded vehicles in the compact SUV class. So what’s the deal behind this bargain price?

Stripped down to the basics, the five-passenger Jeep Patriot doesn’t compare favorably in performance, safety or refinement to the RAV4, Escape or CR-V. And note that the Patriot base model doesn’t include certain basics like air conditioning, adjustable driver’s-seat height, power windows or power door locks.

Some industry experts were a little surprised the Patriot even came back for 2015. The emergence of the Jeep Cherokee could have conceivably ended production of the Patriot. Is this its final hurrah! The 2016 Cherokee has already been released, while next year’s Patriot has not.

2015 Jeep Patriot

* Performance: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 158 horsepower; 2.4-liter, four-cylinder rated at 172 horsepower
* Mileage estimate: 22-28 mpg   
* Estimated price: $16,895 to $26,895
* Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/100,000 miles; roadside assistance: 5 years/100,000; corrosion: 5 years/100,000

Despite some inadequacies, there are still plenty of Patriots and other Jeep models on the road. There’s a simple reason for that: the off-road capability that Jeep vehicles have built their reputation on for decades.  A properly equipped Patriot that has four-wheel drive is a very capable off-road vehicle.

It should come as no surprise that the added versatility from the all-wheel drive (Freedom Drive I) or more serious four-wheel drive (Freedom Drive II) also means a much larger sticker price. In both configurations, the engine is a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder that produces 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. It goes an estimated 0-60 mph in 9.4 seconds.

The Patriot base engine is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder that generates 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque. The Jeep Patriot is available in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels and features a familiar exterior: boxy shape, roof rails and distinctive front grille with rounded headlights and seven vertical slots.

Car buyers will still enjoy a properly-equipped Patriot for its ability to navigate through the mud, a sizable amount of standing water, and also for its ability to plow through the snow. While these are all admirable qualities, on paved surfaces the Patriot’s ride quality is not so good. It’s ill-advised to take corners at fast speeds and the overall handling is below average. Wind and tire noise are a factor as well.

The Patriot interior could use some improvement. There is a lot of hard plastic throughout and the overall design is outdated and certainly won’t appeal to tech-savvy folks. But on a positive note, the front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the second row is fine for seating three people. The cargo area measures 23 cubic feet and folding down the rear seat expands the space to 53.5 cubic feet.

If cost is the primary concern or off-roading is a major factor, the Jeep Patriot is an alluring compact SUV. But it lacks sophistication and overall doesn’t stack up to its competitors in overall quality.

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