Is the new Jeep the best value compact SUV on the market?
Jeep's new 'soft' compromise SUV may not be the most refined of the type on the market but, says Daniel Cobb, it is by far the best value
Just after Christmas, I remember my grandmother returning from the January sales laden with bags of cut-price bargains. Much the same as any other woman I've known, she loved shopping and nothing would give her greater pleasure than finding the "metziah of all metziahs", or bargain of all bargains, in the process.
We're all the same. We see something that looks like value for money, slap down the credit card and worry about the cost when the bill comes in. The same goes for buying a new car. The new vehicle you're about to purchase is – always – the greatest deal since Noah funded the Ark on an interest-free assurance of rain.
You can usually prove this, with hard figures, to anyone daft enough to challenge your reasoning. If it's not the trade-in allowance, it's the discount off the recommended retail price. Or the full tank of petrol. Or the salesman's promise of a phone number for his sister, who's a certified sex-addict with time on her hands and a liking for men with new-car-keys in their pockets. Hard to refuse, isn't it?
Sadly, reality eventually kicks in. Your part-exchange is underwritten by a local trader and the recommended retail price is revealed to be just a guide, there to be discounted. A five-figure sum has to be worth fifty quid's worth of something for nothing, and as to the salesman's sister? Oh yes, he probably forgot to mention that she's 54 and has no front teeth.
The lesson learnt here is that there are very few true bargains in the marble-floored showrooms. What there is, is value.
Once, that value was tagged with a "made in the Far East" label. With improved interiors and sleeker designers, it has been the Koreans who have come to the fore recently by offering cars that seem to be exceptional value for money.
The one manufacturer you wouldn't expect to hear about at this point is Jeep. Yes, you read correctly. The American brand, with all its traditional 4x4 heritage, is about to launch the Patriot, the best-value compact SUV I've seen in a long time. Let me spell it out for you. This is an SUV with almost the same dimensions as a Ford C-Max, more off-road ability than all the Far Eastern SUVs put together and an entry-level price-tag of less than £16,000.
What's more, Jeep have smuggled a rather impressive piece of German engineering under the bonnet of the latest addition to their range. The Volkswagen-sourced two-litre CRD (common rail diesel) engine – for which, admittedly, you have to pay a thousand pounds more than for the 2.4-litre petrol version – returns an average of 42.5mpg over the combined test cycle. Did that get your attention? Good.
Don't worry about the 2.4-litre petrol engine, and dismiss the idea of a CVT automatic box mated to it, as well. The 2.0 CRD Patriot, with its six-speed manual box, is a Jeep that knows how to go yomping past a garage with all the head-down determination of a paratrooper. OK, so it may not trek the Brecon Beacons with quite the same agility as its off-road siblings such as the Wrangler or the Grand Cherokee. But it doesn't need to.
This is a soft-roader with the advantage of off-roading heritage in its DNA. Jeep's new four-wheel-drive (4WD) system, Freedom Drive I, works by employing torque on demand: for the majority of the time it works as a traditional front-wheel-drive system. Only when it discovers a traction problem is 60 per cent of the available torque then shifted from the front to the rear axle. Operated by a chrome, centre-console-mounted, T-bar switch, the system will also lock 4WD into a state of full alert if necessary. Adapted ABS seals the deal in terms of off-road capability, so the Patriot stops as well as it goes on rough terrain.
But there's a small drawback. The Patriot is inexpensive. It's a bargain. So you'll be disappointed if you're expecting an interior jammed to the rafters with burred walnut veneer and the finest cowhide applied to the seats. Expect a cabin that's practical, roomy and trimmed to a finish that's more than acceptable for a car of this price, however, and you won't be disappointed. Like for like, it costs 20 per cent less than a comparable RAV4, and by pushing the budget boundaries a little you could opt for the Limited trim, which would add cruise-control, leather throughout and fog-lights to a standard specification that includes 17-inch alloy wheels, roof-rails and side airbags. My guess is that this will be the popular choice, at only £18,795 for the whole package.
Unlike Dodge and Chrysler, Jeep's sister companies, who believe they can command a premium for their product, Jeep is being realistic in setting out its stall and pricing it accordingly. The Patriot gives us the freedom to do our bit for the planet, but still leaves a few pennies in our pocket when we get to the pumps.
It's a nod to the needs of soft-roaders while offering the credibility of half a century's off-road expertise. It's a reasonably priced all-round package that should redefine the pricing benchmark for rivals in its class. It stacks up. It ticks all the right boxes, and as my dear departed grandmother would say, that's the biggest metziah you'll ever find.
Engine: 1,998cc, DOHC, common rail diesel engine
Transmission: five-speed manual
Drive: front-wheel drive with on-demand four-wheel drive
Maximum power: 138bhp @ 4,000rpm
Maximum torque: 229lb ft @ 2,500rpm
Top speed: 117mph; 0-60mph: 11.0 seconds
Fuel consumption: 42.2mpg (combined)
Price: from €25,230