in 2012 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $16,508 - $20,515
Original MSRP: $23,395 - $28,995
MPG: 16 City / 22 Hwy
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2012 Jeep Liberty Performance

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

When it comes to daily driving capabilities, the 2012 Jeep Liberty is mediocre at best. It has adequate power and steering, but other compact SUVs, like the GMC Terrain, offer a car-like driving experience and better fuel economy ratings. But if you need an off-road vehicle, test drivers say the Liberty should suffice, but overall, they prefer the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota FJ Cruiser.  

  • "The problems begin under the hood where the Liberty's 210-horsepower V6 has barely enough guts to get out of its own way." -- Edmunds
  • "Although many cars and trucks in the Chrysler lineup benefited from an all-new 3.6 liter V6, the Liberty isn't among them. Instead, it's saddled with a 3.7 liter V6 that - despite the benefits of an extra six cubic inches - develops just over 200 horsepower, while the 3.6 is delivering just over 300." -- Kelley Blue Book

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Jeep Liberty has a 3.7-liter V6 engine that makes 210 horsepower and produces 235 pound-feet of torque, which is paired with a standard four-speed automatic transmission. Power from the V6 engine is adequate, but unimpressive, reviewers say, and the automatic transmission doesn’t shift smoothly.

While few affordable compact SUVs are powerful, test drivers are most disappointed with the Liberty’s fuel economy ratings, which are poor for a compact SUV, but decent for an off-road SUV. According to the EPA, the 2WD model nets 16/22 mpg city/highway, while the 4WD model nets 15/21 mpg. Jeep’s standard fuel shut-off system may help fuel economy somewhat because it saves gas when the vehicle is decelerating, but test drivers haven’t said if it makes a difference.

  • "Liberty is no ball of fire but it moves along well enough. Acceleration in 4WD versions is OK from a stop, but passing and merging require planning. The automatic transmission works smoothly enough, but often requires a deep stab of the throttle in order to coax a downshift for more power." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Acceleration from the 3.7-liter V6 is anemic, which isn't surprising -- it's down about 50-60 hp relative to other V6-powered compact SUVs. Like most other Jeeps, though, the Liberty receives high marks for its off-road prowess." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

The 2012 Liberty’s handling and braking are not impressive. Because it is designed for off-roading, it lags far behind competitors in on-road handling. There is obvious body roll, steering is simply okay, and the brakes are dull. If you don't need an off-roader, reviewers suggest the Chevrolet Equinox because it has a smoother ride that is less truck-like.

  • "Liberty's truck-type underpinnings compromise its handling abilities. Body lean is prevalent, and the tires squeal even in modest cornering. Steering feel is mediocre. The brakes on one test model had dull, wooden pedal action, and simulated panic stops caused moderate nosedive." -- Consumer Guide


The Jeep Liberty’s off-road abilities are its redeeming feature. It has two four-wheel drive systems called Command-Trac II and Selec-Trac II that help the Liberty tackle rugged terrain with ease. While the Liberty is certainly capable off-road, test drivers say its abilities pale in comparison with the Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser.

  • "If you enjoy the Jeep brand and its outdoorsy image, and appreciate a footprint easy to handle both at the mall and on the trail, the Liberty constitutes one of the better on-road/off-road compromises. And with two trail rated 4WD systems - Command-Trac II and Selec-Trac II - you can climb any mountain, ford any stream." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "If there is one saving grace for the Liberty, it's that it's quite proficient off road, especially in Renegade form with its skid plates, tow hooks and full-time four-wheel drive. Having said that, however, a Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser will go everywhere a Liberty can while being more powerful, better made and more pleasant to drive on pavement." -- Edmunds

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