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The 2012 Jeep Patriot is an affordable crossover SUV for the sport-minded driver.

Photo by Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service

What makes the Jeep Patriot stand out in its segment is one word: Ruggedness.

That’s what the Jeep emblem is all about, after all. It has become synonymous with off-roading for decades and it is what Jeep does best.

If there is a weakness with all of this it could be from its platform derived from sibling Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber models. They brought along a smaller four-cylinder engine that provides better fuel economy, which is welcome news.

It also tends to underpower the SUV.

Performance on the 0-60 acceleration test turned in a disappointing 10.5 seconds.

Back in the ruggedness department, Jeep does offer two four-wheel-drive options. Standard fare is mostly for pavement dwellers. A smaller 2-liter, four cylinder engine with two-wheel drive can be ordered and will deliver highway mileage of around 29 miles per gallon.

If you do opt for Jeep’s Trail Rated designation package, everything you need for off-roading is onboard. The Freedom Drive II includes hill descent and brake traction control, extra ground clearance, skid plate and the continuously variable transmission with low ratio gearing.

The CVT for both models was tweaked this year to eliminate earlier acceleration problems and noise levels. From my experience test driving the Patriot for a week, it seems the acceleration changes took, but the noise factor remained an issue in aggressive acceleration.

The Limited 4x4 test car delivers a little of each driving segment. It handles moderate off-road challenges while dressed up with a sporty interior that competes with Honda CRV, Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape and Kia Sportage.

Consumers will have to decide whether the off-roading ruggedness of the Patriot crossover is worth the tradeoff against the more refined cabin look and feel of the competition.

To dress up the Jeep, an available Security and Convenience option package includes remote start, UConnect voice command with bluetooth technology and additional front seat mounted side airbags.

A Boston Acoustics sound package with 9-speakers and subwoofer might also tempt consumers toward the Chrysler product. The liftgate-mounted speakers fold down for more delivery during tailgating parties.

Add the sound package to a media center with 40 GB hard drive and Sirius XM radio and the balance moves closer.

The competition wins out for rear cabin cargo space however the Jeep has a standard folding front passenger seat that accommodates those longer items that would not fit with the tailgate closed in the others.

Driver information gauges inside the Patriot are large and easy to read, the kind of utility an off-roader might want. Interior trim material is nice enough and easy to maintain.

On the road, the Jeep delivers rugged performance with tight suspension, just what you might want in an SUV.

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Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at editor@ptd.net.