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Matchbox Jeep

May 16, 2008
Being an only child has its benefits. I always remember Christmas being a particularly good time of year with lots of presents and no-one pestering me to play with them. Without doubt, the most coveted moment in my childhood was unwrapping a brand new, shiny toy car. Quite how pushing a lump of metal around the floor for hours on end kept me amused I'm unsure, but the road tax was a damn sight cheaper I know that much. Well I long for those heydays again and Jeep may have come up with the answer.

The Jeep Patriot is essentially a mini Jeep, a matchbox toy version of the Cherokee or Grand Cherokee. It's Jeep's aim to entice as many families into the Patriot as possible and are marketing it as a sensible, affordable alternative to the family saloon.

A few things are instantly obvious. Despite the 'mini' (and I mean mini compared to a Boeing 747) proportions, the baby Jeep is still most definitely from the same family as its bigger brothers. The seven slot front grill and round headlights are as synonymous with Jeep as the contoured nose on an Aston Martin. The styling combines on road aggression with off road tradition, although the front does sit quite low to the ground meaning any serious off road action could be a problem.

Switchable four wheel drive is included which is de rigueur for any wannabe off road contender. There's also room for all the family (handy as this is the target demographic) with plenty of boot space and a washable interior allowing for even the messiest weekend outings to be enjoyed without a large valeting bill upon your return.

A pretty economical 2 litre diesel engine is found under the bonnet of the 'diesel sport' derivative and makes a fair fist of things when out on the road. In fact an average run will return roughly 42mpg; a statistic you don't need Einstein to decipher, to know that for an off-road vehicle it's exceptional. Of course the flipside of this economy means the low rev range isn't the punchiest and you need to use the full rev range to make any sort of rapid progress, but you won't have the look of horror as your fuel gauge drops before your eyes. The six speed gearbox doesn't let the side down either and allows the Patriot to make the best use of those revs you'll be chasing.

The car's height is also more adolescent than adult and this stunted height allows the Patriot to tackle corners far more effectively than other 4 x 4 compatriots. The smaller proportions don't just help eliminate body roll though, the handling is responsive and has a nimble feel that has you forgetting what type of vehicle you're driving.

The interior is perhaps the one aspect that has had reviewers reaching for their red pens, but I don't agree. Admittedly the build quality isn't going to compete with the Germans, let alone the flair of the Italians but we're missing the point. As touched upon earlier, the Jeep can take anything a family can throw at it and stay pristine. Throw mud, Ribena and Ice-cream on the dashboard (disclaimer: no responsibility taken from this author should you do so) and it'll wipe clean in seconds.

This 4x 4 is the antithesis of Italian flair, the Bruce Willis of the metro sexual world we live in. The front is square, the back is square - even the wheel arches are somehow square. In fact with the exception of the wheels and the headlights that must've crept through the conveyor belt at the assembly plant, there isn't a curve on the car - and it's all the better for it.

The rugged intent is matched by its go anywhere, take on anything reality. The Jeep really is a serious alternative to the other family cars on the road. At 15,000 ($30,000) the price tag doesn't put you off either. Perhaps crucially though, it really is a small 4 x 4 and as a result, the usual off road vehicle haters let you slip by unnoticed.

In summary the Jeep Patriot makes you feel like the manliest man ever, whilst gently wrapping its protective arms around your family. It may have the 4 x 4 proportions of a matchbox toy, but this is one car that wants to be taken out of the box and pushed around the floor until the pile is worn out.
About the Author
Ieuan Knox is an automotive writer currently working to promote the range of Jeeps which are available from Cheap Chrysler Jeep.
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