• (4.7) 83 reviews
  • Inventory Prices: $8,160–$18,944
  • Body Style: Sport Utility
  • Combined MPG: 18-19
  • Engine: 210-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain: 4x2
  • Seats: 5
2012 Jeep Liberty

Our Take on the Latest Model 2012 Jeep Liberty

What We Don't Like

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

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 Reviews

Cars.com Expert Reviews

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 Liberty has little to offer these shoppers, and its throwback ways grated on a number of Cars.com editors.

The 2012 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. Liberty 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 car 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 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 backseat a demonstration of your flexibility — or lack thereof.

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 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 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 car shoppers alike.

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Consumer Reviews

(4.7)

Average based on 83 reviews

Write a Review

Best car I've owned

by Jh1695 from Stratham nh on December 3, 2017

Great vehicle, runs superbly and does all normal jeep stuff fantastically. It is styled very nicely with the longer more squared off body compared to older shorter rounded libertys and the interior is... Read Full Review

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6 Trims Available

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Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2012 Jeep Liberty trim comparison will help you decide.
 

Jeep Liberty Articles

2012 Jeep Liberty Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $3,000 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Warranty Coverage

Bumper-to-Bumper

36mo/36,000mi

Powertrain

60mo/100,000mi

Roadside Assistance Coverage

36mo/36,000mi

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained

Bumper-to-Bumper

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

Powertrain

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

Roadside Assistance

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

Other Years