in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $13,925 - $20,179
Original MSRP: $15,995 - $25,330
MPG: 23 City / 29 Hwy
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2012 Jeep Patriot Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2012 Jeep Patriot occupies an interesting place in the SUV market because it competes with crossover and off-road SUVs. However, the Patriot is not a leader in either class. It’s not as capable as the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota FJ Cruiser, but it is a more affordable off-road option that can tackle more rugged terrain than crossover SUVs. On pavement, reviewers say the Patriot can’t compare with the Honda CR-V or Chevrolet Equinox because its performance isn’t as refined.

  • "Thanks to its new suspension and steering calibrations, the rugged Patriot delivers a very car like ride." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Similarly, buyers simply looking for some added peace of mind when road conditions turn ugly will find AWD versions of small crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4 to be more refined alternatives." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Most test drivers say the 2012 Jeep Patriot’s 172-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is loud and struggles at highway speeds. This engine is optional, and while reviewers haven’t had the opportunity to test the standard 2.0-liter inline-four engine that makes 158 horsepower, they predict that acceleration will be poor. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with both engines, but a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), a type of automatic, is optional. No test driver loves the CVT. They either say it’s decent or sucks away the Patriot’s potential. According to the EPA, fuel economy is lower with the CVT, so if you don’t mind using a manual transmission, it’s a good option for saving money at the pump.

Two-wheel drive Patriots with the 2.0-liter engine average 23/29 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission, and 23/27 mpg with the CVT. Ratings drop with the 2.4-liter engine to 23/28 mpg with the manual and 21/27 mpg with the automatic. Four-wheel drive is only available with the 2.4-liter engine. With a manual transmission, drivers will average about 22/28 mpg, and a lower 21/26 mpg with the automatic. With the automatic transmission and the optional off-road package, fuel economy is 20/23 mpg.

  • "But the power from the 2.4-liter four is certainly adequate for a vehicle this size, and the CVT did a decent job on-road." -- Motor Trend
  • "For passing and merging, Patriots with the CVT are comparable to rival small SUVs with a 4-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. They're slow to get going from a stop." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The CVT doesn't help any, as it's slow to respond to throttle inputs and tends to allow the engine to rev noisily at the redline when it finally figures out you want full power." -- Edmunds
  • "The cabin is somewhat noisy, but not annoyingly so, with most of the noise provided by the rowdy and rude 2.4-liter engine, especially when the throttle is wide open." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

The Patriot has a smooth ride, responsive steering and good brakes. There is some noticeable body lean, but reviewers say the 2012 Jeep Patriot handles well despite its off-road roots.

  • "Comfortable and stable. Some float over larger dips and jiggling over highway expansion joints is noticeable. … Accurate, natural-feeling steering. Composure is good at highway speed with moderate body lean in corners. Brakes have a reassuring pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide
  • "However, there were noticeable improvements on the highway. Through the long sweeping turns, the steering felt more responsive." -- Motor Trend 
  • "Thanks to its new suspension and steering calibrations, the rugged Patriot delivers a very car like ride. Although rapid maneuvers and sharp corners still produce a noticeable amount of body roll, in tight curves the Patriot never feels top heavy or tipsy." -- Kelley Blue Book


The Jeep Patriot comes standard with front-wheel drive, but has two four-wheel drive options: Freedom Drive I and Freedom Drive II. Freedom Drive II has an off-road mode, hill descent control and grade sensing. With the reviewer-recommended Freedom Drive II, test drivers say the Patriot has surprising off-road abilities, though it is no match for the Wrangler, Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser.

  • Off-road is where the Patriot separates itself from the rest of the compact-crossover set. Its capability was a pleasant surprise. Through deep snow -- the hard-packed, icy, non-fluffy kind -- the Patriot slid a little, yet never got stuck." -- Motor Trend
  • "Where the Patriot truly shines is off-road. Equipped with the Freedom Drive II four-wheel drive system, the Patriot was able to traverse small boulders and deep ruts with ease." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Despite its distinctive Jeep styling, the Patriot's off-pavement capabilities are relatively modest by true four-wheeling standards, even if you opt for the available Off-Road package with its increased ride height, skid plates and 4WD system with low-range transfer case." -- Edmunds

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