Powertrain performance remains a weak point for the Patriot and keeps it from being a well-rounded performance package. Otherwise, the Patriot handles quite well and can take on rugged trails when properly equipped.
The unhappy part about the Patriot's performance is how the four-cylinder engines work with the available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). On the highway especially, the CVT-equipped Patriot seems a bit sluggish and noisy compared to other vehicles in this class (Jeep claims again to have made more improvements to the CVT calibration for 2012). We still haven't put a 2012 CVT-equipped Patriot through the paces, but based on past drives we'd recommend going with the manual-transmission version, as well as opting for the stronger 172-hp, 2.4-liter engine, as there's not much of a real-world fuel-economy penalty.
Otherwise, there's a lot to love in the city and at low speeds, where the steering feels responsive and communicative, and the Patriot's compact-car size and well-defined corners make it one of the easiest vehicles to park and maneuver.
If you ever only plan to drive the Patriot in the city and suburbs, and you live in a warm climate, you'll probably be happy with the front-wheel drive version. But for the rest, there are two different four-wheel drive systems offered. Freedom Drive I is an active system much like those in other all-wheel-drive sedans and crossovers—although it does have a diff-lock mode. But the star of the lineup is Freedom Drive II, which brings a truly Jeep-caliber level of off-road prowess to this vehicle, surprisingly; it includes low-range gearing (through a special version of the CVT), hill descent control, and extra ground clearance—plus a tougher suspension, skid plates, heavy-duty cooling, and hill descent control.