On the two-lane roads near Jackson Hole, speeds were limited to 45 mph in some areas because of big-game migration. That and the snow and ice kept us from being able to drive at higher speeds. However, there were noticeable improvements on the highway. Through the long sweeping turns, the steering felt more responsive. In addition, the ride was comfortable, but some wind and road noise came through. 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. Its power and interior amenities are comparable with others in the Patriot's competitive set, such as the Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Rogue, and Ford Escape. Refinement is much better now, but still not best in class.

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. In more technical parts of the trails we drove, the small size of this Jeep made it easier to maneuver through and around the trees that lined the trail. And going through mud, over rutted-out sections, and over rocks, the Patriot got through obstacles -- on the first try -- that would've stopped other crossovers. The CVT isn't the most popular transmission out there, but its Low option gives the Patriot a 19.1:1 ratio. It still isn't as good off-road as the Liberty or Wrangler, but it does justify the company's Trail Rated designation.

For those who want a compact crossover that will spend most of its time on-road, but still like the idea of mild off-roading, the Patriot is a decent compromise. The real question is whether it's a compromise crossover buyers are looking for.

2011 Jeep Patriot
Base price $16,695
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engines 2.0L/158-hp/141 lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.4L/172-hp/165 lb-ft/DOHC 16-valve I-4
Transmission Five-speed manual, continuously variable auto, continuously variable auto with low range
Curb weight 3100-3300 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 103.7 in
Length x width x height 173.8 x 69.2 x 65.5-66.8 in
0-60 mph 9.6 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 20-23/23-29 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.76-0.91 lb/mile
On sale in the U.S. Currently