In our continuing series, we turn our attention to a pair of $29K compact crossovers that both excel at what they do best. The only question is, which better fits your needs?
RAV 4 XLE AWD vs. Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 – Overview
The Toyota RAV 4 is an institution at Toyota. Each month, the RAV 4 outsells the Cadillac and Buick Brands. Its 27,000 monthly unit sales match up nicely with the total sales of Mazda – all of Mazda – in the U.S. market. The RAV 4 is now a very refined, spacious, and safe crossover with few flaws having been completely reworded a few years back. The RAV 4 is an excellent commuter vehicle, family vehicle, and all-weather vehicle for those that need to carry up to five passengers. Its cargo area is large for the class. The RAV 4 XLE is considered the “Value” trim by many and at $29K only has a few things missing one would expect in a well-optioned vehicle.
The Jeep Patriot is the intended successor to the vintage Jeep Cherokee. Not the excellent new Cherokee, the old boxy one. The Patriot has the classic Jeep looks, and in the trim we tested comes ready to tackle off-road trails or logging roads. It has a long list of added equipment that make it a go-anywhere off-roader. Our $29K test vehicle had navigation and a great audio system.
RAV 4 XLE AWD vs. Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 – Drivetrains
Like most of the compact crossovers in the U.S. market, the RAV 4 uses an in-line four cylinder engine. It produces 176 hp. This is coupled to a six-speed transmission with manual mode. The all-wheel drive is really more of an all-weather drive system. However, there is an AWD lock feature that lets drivers lock the vehicle into 4wd below 25 MPH. Great for short stretches of muddy dirt roads, tackling an unplowed hilly driveway, or similar real-life driving challenges. The RAV 4 has good around town power and returns 25 MPG combined making it competitive with the top vehicles in its segment for fuel economy.
The Jeep Patriot uses a 2.4-liter engine with 172 hp and CVT transmission. Like the RAV 4 it is plenty for most driving situations. The Patriot Latitude 4X4 has enhanced off-road capabilities such as a crawl mode and hill descent control. Its fuel tank, transmission and engine are protected by skid-plates making it resistant to rock and stump damage when off-road. Although the clear winner in true trail driving situations, one has to need this capability to appreciate it. The penalty for this capability is a 21 MPG combined fuel economy rating. We can’t think of a lower rating in this class.
RAV 4 XLE AWD vs. Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 – Interiors
The Jeep Patriot’s interior is old-school. When sitting in the driver’s seat the roof extends forward of one’s field of view and the upright A-pillars and windshield make the car feel a little confined. The dash is contemporary, and the cloth seats with manual adjustment seem a little less than thrilling for the class (the RAV 4 has the same issue). However, the seats were heated, which is a nice feature in the winter months. The infotainment system is very simple and basic, but Navigation by Garmin gets the job done. The audio quality was very good. In back, seating space is generous, and the cube design makes the cargo area large and useful. Under the cargo floor is a full-sized spare!
Most of what we just said about the Jeep applies to the RAV 4. Its manual seats seem a little out of place for a vehicle costing $29K. The RAV 4’s dash design elevates the entire structure, so the driver has unlimited knee room. Here the RAV 4 bests the Jeep. The RAV 4 is just more contemporary. Rear seat room is excellent and the cargo area also large and useful.
RAV 4 XLE AWD vs. Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 – Exterior Design
If you like boxy Jeep SUVs, this Patriot will bring a smile to your face. The bold grill encloses round headlights and driving lights that look retro-cool. The front and rear extraction hooks look great and would be very useful off-roading.
The RAV 4 features a very contemporary modern style that has aged well over its few years in production. The RAV 4 looks great from all angles, and its rear view may be its best.
RAV 4 XLE AWD vs. Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 – Safety
Being in the family-vehicle price and size category, safety should be paramount. Here we find opposites. The 2015 RAV 4 has aced every crash test including the small-frontal-overlap test conducted by IIHS. The RAV 4’s optional forward collision prevention system (one of the most affordable on the market) helps it earn the top rating possible, the Top Safety Pick Plus.
The 2015 Jeep Patriot by contrast scored a “poor” rating on the small frontal overlap test. It does not have any forward crash prevention available, and our tester did not have a back-up camera.
Though they are both very similar at a glance, the $29K Jeep Patriot and RAV 4 have totally opposite strengths. If you plan to drive off-road or love the idea of being able to, the choice of the Jeep is obvious. If you don’t, the choice is equally easy for the RAV 4.