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2012 Jeep Liberty

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$23,395

starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown

SUV

Body style

18

Combined MPG

5

Seating capacity

176.1” x 71.3”

Dimensions

Rear-wheel drive

Drivetrain

Overview

The good:

  • Forward visibility
  • Familiar cabin controls
  • Acceleration at city speeds

The bad:

  • Highway passing power
  • Cabin quality
  • Cargo area liftover height
  • Cramped backseat
  • Crash-test ratings

3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 Jeep Liberty trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best SUVs for 2024

Notable features

  • Standard V-6 engine
  • Two available four-wheel-drive systems
  • True off-road capability
  • Optional retractable canvas roof
  • Optional Bluetooth streaming audio

2012 Jeep Liberty review: Our expert's take

By Mike Hanley

Here’s something that might surprise you: Jeep’s midsize SUV, the Liberty, is less refined than the Jeep Wrangler, America’s pre-eminent symbol of rugged, go-anywhere capability.

While the Wrangler has evolved along with other off-road-capable SUVs, the 2012 Jeep Liberty stirs memories of a bygone era when SUVs were brash, loud and thirsty — and that was just fine.

That may still be fine for Jeep enthusiasts, but the wider car-buying public is increasingly interested in car-based crossovers. The Jeep Liberty has little to offer these shoppers, and its throwback ways grated on a number of Cars.com editors.

The 2012 Jeep Liberty starts at $23,360 with rear-wheel drive. The model we drove, a Sport with part-time four-wheel drive and other options, had an as-tested price of $27,110. Jeep Liberty body-type competitors include the Nissan Xterra, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota FJ Cruiser; see them compared side-by-side.

Styling & Access
It’s pretty easy to pick out a Jeep from a crowd of cars, and the Liberty is no exception. Jeep adopted a boxier design for the 2008 model year that has carried through to the 2012 version. The flat, seven-slot grille is trademark Jeep (the design really has been trademarked), appearing on all current Jeep models. Flared fenders give the Liberty some definition, but the boxy look is typical SUV.

Jeep’s truck-based architecture — dubbed Uniframe — contributes to the Liberty’s appearance and stance, but it also affects ease of entry and cargo loading. You have to step up to get into the driver’s seat, and that applies to taller drivers, too (I’m 6-foot-1). More concerning, though, is the hip-high cargo area liftover height, which will make loading heavy or bulky items more difficult. There’s a standard shallow storage bin under the cargo floor, but it exacerbates the liftover issue by making the cargo floor higher than it would otherwise be.

Riding Tall
Once you’ve made the climb into the driver’s seat, you’re treated to one of the SUV’s most appealing qualities: great forward visibility. A tall ride height and seating position combine to make for unobstructed views, which is a big deal for some vehicle shoppers.

The standard cloth front bucket seats have long cushions that provide good thigh support, but the backrest cushioning is a little lumpy and doesn’t conform to your back.

The Liberty’s tight backseat is another reason why we’re seeing fewer truck-based SUVs on the road: They’re not that space-efficient. The Jeep Liberty isn’t a small SUV, but the backseat feels cramped; my knees were pressed against the back of the front seat. The 60/40-split backrest reclines, but small door openings make getting in and out of the split-recline backseat a demonstration of your flexibility — or lack thereof. The seats to fold flat forward for increased cargo space.

Disappointing Interior Quality
Chrysler has been busily improving the appearance of its vehicle interiors, and models like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 now have competitive cabin quality. The attention hasn’t been equally divided, though, and the Liberty carries on with a terribly subpar theft-deterrent interior.

At a time when automakers are improving the level of perceived quality in their cars and trucks, the Liberty’s interior lacks niceties like padded trim pieces and two-tone designs. The result is an industrial-looking space with lots of hard plastic where you might want to rest your arm. Overall, there’s very little regard for aesthetics.

While aesthetic level is low, functionality is high. Three large knobs provide all the climate controls. The stereo is refreshingly simple to use, with a handy knob for tuning radio stations — something all radios used to have but which has become rarer. The simple, familiar interfaces show there’s something to be said for sticking with a time-tested design.

Power & Gas Mileage
The Liberty delivers good off-the-line acceleration in city driving. This is accompanied by a growl that I found an endearing reminder of the big V-6 under the hood, but which another editor thought just made the SUV too loud.

The drivetrain loses its appeal on the highway, where it doesn’t have much power in reserve for high-speed passing. The standard four-speed automatic transmission — an increasingly rare design — is quick to kick down, but its limited number of gears means engine rpm can jump way up in the process, making for a lot of noise and minimal acceleration. The modest gear count also makes the V-6 lug a little when cruising at around 50 mph.

In terms of gas mileage, truck-based SUVs are at a disadvantage compared with similarly sized crossovers, as is the case here: The rear-wheel-drive Jeep Liberty gets an EPA-estimated 16/22 mpg city/highway, while four-wheel-drive versions are rated 15/21 mpg. All-wheel-drive crossovers like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano are rated 18/25 mpg and 18/23 mpg, respectively. Jeep has begun to incorporate five- and six-speed automatics into other models, and the change has improved their mileage and performance.

Ride & Handling
The Liberty’s suspension yields a range of responses on dry roads. On broken pavement, the ride is rough and you’re jostled around. Over dips and rises, though, the Liberty seems to float comfortably. Corners induce body roll, and hitting the brakes makes the nose dip.

As the driver, you feel mostly removed from what’s happening where the tires meet the road. It feels like there’s play in the steering system, and feedback is nonexistent. It’s a not-so-subtle reminder that the Liberty is engineered to tackle challenging off-road terrain — even if most customers don’t explore that capability.

Safety
Liberty crash tests have produced some concerning results.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests, the Liberty received the best score, Good, in the frontal-offset and roof-strength tests, but got a Marginal rating in the side impact, which IIHS says translates to a likelihood of rib fractures or internal injuries for the driver.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the Liberty scored three stars out of five overall and two stars in the frontal crash. Though the Liberty earned four stars in the aggregate side-impact tests, it got a sobering one-star rating in the side pole test. That mark was accompanied by a Safety Concern because of significant intrusion into the passenger compartment, leading to a high acceleration reading on the crash-test dummy’s lower spine.

The Liberty’s rollover rating is three stars, a score more commonly associated with heavy-duty and/or off-road SUVs. Crossovers overwhelmingly score four stars, indicating a lower likelihood of rollover.

The Liberty has antilock brakes and an electronic stability system, which are required on new vehicles as of the 2012 model year. Side curtain airbags are also standard.

For a full list of safety features, check out the Features & Specs page.

Liberty in the Market
As one of the last traditional midsize SUVs, the Jeep Liberty is a member of a dwindling club. While some of its brethren have left the market altogether, others have been reborn as car-based crossovers.

It remains to be seen what direction Jeep takes the Liberty with its next redesign, which is due in the not-too-distant future, but the automaker’s own Grand Cherokee would be worth emulating. That SUV delivers credible off-road performance along with composed on-road driving manners. It’s a formula that would make the Liberty appealing to Jeep purists and regular vehicle shoppers alike.

Send Mike an email  

 

Photo of Mike Hanley
Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Cars.com Research section. Email Mike Hanley

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.4
  • Interior 4.3
  • Performance 4.3
  • Value 4.4
  • Exterior 4.6
  • Reliability 4.5
Write a review

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

Demobilized trottle

My jeep liberty 2012 is parked. It could only do 25km/hr on the road. Gas pedal not working anymore. Just 2616 miles. I need a help to cruise this car

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 4.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Exterior 5.0
  • Reliability 4.0
  • Purchased a New car
  • Used for Having fun
  • Does recommend this car
7 people out of 13 found this review helpful. Did you?
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5.0

Love the Liberty

I love my Liberty! I was inspired to buy mine (used) after temporarily inheriting my Dad’s 2008 Liberty. I’ll comment on the 2008, then the 2012. 2008: Bought brand new out of the showroom; it was an everyday driver and has been very reliable. No problems with the engine or transmission, 4-wheel drive works great. Some very minor issues with the power window switch, it stopped working, but easy fix. The AC takes a little while to cool the interior down, but it hasn’t been serviced or recharged. This Liberty just turned 300,000 and is still running well! 2012 bought used with 65,000. This Liberty is also a daily driver. The engine and Transmission are fine, no issues. The 4-wheel drive system has been good as well. Used it several times on snowy unplowed Wisconsin roads and it has been solid. Holds skis, snowboards really well. Biggest service item will be new tires. One minor issue with the AM/FM radio, the receiver chip in the radio went bad, so no AM/FM. But the CD and Jack work fine. This Liberty just crossed 125,000 and is running like a champ. Final note: I hated the look and everything about the Liberty when my Dad bought his. Then I drove it. Complete game changer; now I absolutely love it!

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.0
  • Interior 4.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Exterior 4.0
  • Reliability 5.0
  • Purchased a Used car
  • Used for Commuting
  • Does recommend this car
13 people out of 13 found this review helpful. Did you?
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4.0

Surprisingly great SUV

Bought this vehicle new for my daughter. Regular service and maintenance with no major issues. Vehicle currently has 167,000 and still going strong. Hope for least another 100,000.

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 3.0
  • Interior 3.0
  • Performance 4.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Exterior 3.0
  • Reliability 5.0
  • Purchased a New car
  • Used for Commuting
  • Does recommend this car
13 people out of 15 found this review helpful. Did you?
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See all 129 consumer reviews

Safety

Based on the 2012 Jeep Liberty base trim.
Combined side rating front seat
3
Combined side rating rear seat
5
Frontal barrier crash rating driver
3
Frontal barrier crash rating passenger
2
Overall frontal barrier crash rating
2
Overall rating
3
Overall side crash rating
4
Risk of rollover
25.6%
Rollover rating
3
Side barrier rating
5
Side barrier rating driver
5
Side barrier rating passenger rear seat
5
Side pole rating driver front seat
1

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Jeep
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
60 months/100,000 miles
Powertrain
60 months/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/less than 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
3 months/3,000 miles
Powertrain
7 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
125-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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