Ride & Handling

Compact crossovers may be car-based, but they don't ride like cars. With this in mind, the Patriot's ride quality is decent — better than the firm-riding Honda CR-V, but not close to the Ford Escape, which I consider the high-water mark for ride comfort in this class.

Despite a tendency to wander a bit at highway speeds, steering is acceptable, and handling is pretty good — definitely more tidy than that of the Hyundai Tucson. Again, this isn't a car, and you feel the high center of gravity, even in the Limited trim level, which has 8.1 inches of ground clearance. When equipped with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Package, the Patriot's ground clearance is 9 inches.

Off-roading is the Patriot's biggest advantage. Without getting into heavy-duty truck-based models like the Jeep Liberty or Wrangler, the Patriot has few peers among car-based crossovers. The Land Rover LR2 is one, but it's a luxury model priced above $35,000. The Subaru Forester is capable of duty beyond the basic off-pavement trail, but it lacks the additional low gear that facilitates climbing steep inclines and scrambling over larger obstacles. Unlike our test car's Freedom Drive I, which is mainly a hands-off four-wheel-drive system with a manually lockable center coupling for tougher scenarios, Freedom Drive II lets you select a crawl gear. It's not technically a dual-range transfer case, because it uses the CVT's broad range to provide the 19:1 ratio, but the effect is the same. I drove the Patriot off road after its debut and was impressed.

    See also:

    Modes Of Operation
    Three selectable modes of operation are available in the Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC). Refer to “Electronic Vehicle Information Center (EVIC)/Personal Settings (Customer-Progra ...

    Radio Operation And Mobile Phones
    Under certain conditions, the mobile phone being on in your vehicle can cause erratic or noisy performance from your radio. This condition may be lessened or eliminated by relocating the mobile ph ...

    Flash-To-Pass
    You can signal another vehicle with your headlights by lightly pulling the multifunction lever toward you. This will turn on the high beam headlights until the lever is released. NOTE: If the m ...