The Patriot steers and handles relatively well, revealing its car-based underpinnings, but there's not much to like with respect to its powertrains, which are simply too loud and coarse—as well as sluggish in some cases.
Many of the Patriot variants come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that tends to bring out the noise and vibration in these engines, and there's too much of a lag when you need a quick burst of power (out of a corner, for instance). Manual-gearbox versions are much more enjoyable, and we recommend going with the stronger 172-hp, 2.4-liter engine, as there's not much of a real-world fuel-economy penalty.
For those in warm climates, a front-wheel-drive Patriot will be just fine; but if you have deep snow to get through part of the year, or if you head out to secluded camping spots sometimes, you'll want to consider one of the two four-wheel drive systems on offer. 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.
The Patriot is a joy to maneuver and handle around town, and parking is easy. Overall, the Patriot strikes us as being quite happy in two different sets of situations: Low-speed city driving—if you don't have to move too quickly—and snowy driveways and muddy trails. In the rat race, or out on the open road, the Patriot neither performs with enough satisfaction or sophistication.