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Heels on Wheels - 2012 Jeep Liberty Review

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2012 Jeep Liberty

SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyers Guide - 2012-1997 Specs, Comparisons And Prices

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The trail-designed 2012 Jeep Liberty is no off-road imposture. Often a novice quality for the compact SUV class, the five-passenger Liberty’s rugged character actually translates deeper than its signature seven-slot grille. I drove a 2012 Jeep Liberty with a standard 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine with Jeep’s Command Trac II Part-time 4WD System. Available in a Sport, Arctic, Limited Edition and Limited Jet Edition, my Limited trim came with the following standard features: leather-trimmed bucket seats; six-way power drivers’ seat; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; a eight-speaker premium Infinity audio system; MP3 and audio input jacks; XM Radio; Bluetooth; flipper liftgate glass; roof rails; an accident response system; and a theft deterrent system. Vehicle price came to $28,360. Think of the Liberty as existing between two markets – the compact SUV and a more capable four-wheeler. It only fairs well in one, and that’s the latter, because for a daily vehicle there are half a dozen of other choices that offer better fuel economy, more space, and a smoother and safer driving experience than the Jeep Liberty. Better to compare this vehicle to the Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: I find the utilitarian feel so cherished in Jeep styling doesn’t transfer well inside; at best, the Liberty’s interior is cramped and stiff with the dashboard design making poor use of space. Visibility is a plus. My Liberty Limited came with an organized arrangement of modern technology, but the materials used are glaringly subpar. The majority of options are clustered into complex packages or groups, setting the consumer up to pay for more than desired.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2012 Jeep Liberty as “Good” in frontal and roof strength tests, but just “Marginal” in side impact tests – even with standard side airbags. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle and overall rating of just 3-Stars, with the lowest scores in frontal crash. Standard safety equipment includes: advanced airbags; anti-lock brakes; Hill Start Assist; Hill Descent Control; LATCH-Ready Child Seta Anchor System; Electronic Roll Mitigation.

Cost Issues: A base Liberty Sport 4WD starts at $24,975, where a Liberty Limited Jet Edition 4WDstarts at $28,560. For the capability, the costs are justified; but for the small space, it’s not. There are numerous “groups” to upgrade the conveniences, safety, appearance and performance. With price tags ranging from $200-1,000 each, these Liberty prices can easily rise a few more thousand.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Liberty has the off-road technology needed to display perfect torque-to-wheel transfer over loose rock hills without a hiccup or loss of traction. Unlike larger Jeeps, a strong reason to opt for the Liberty would be to gain more confidence when navigating through narrower passages – no large, boxy frame here. Once on the highway, the Liberty cannot compete with the smoothness found in similar-sized SUVs – nor can it offer the fuel economy at a dismal 15 miles-per-gallon city and 21 highway.

The Green Concern: At 17 miles-per-gallon combined, the compact SUV Liberty gets the same gas mileage as some vehicles with a V8 engine.

If you’re looking for the real deal – a compact SUV that can handle trail life – the 2012 Jeep Liberty will live up to your off-road expectations. But as a daily commuter, dozens of competitors can deliver much better average fuel economy than the Liberty’s 17 miles-per-gallon as well as more passenger and cargo space.

2012 Katrina Ramser