Patrick Henry once famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death.” We’re really glad he wasn’t talking about the 2012 Jeep Liberty, because it’s definitely not worth ditching your mortal coil for. Frankly, it’s barely worth considering since just about every rival SUV — be it a commuter-friendly crossover or a dedicated off-roader — is a better, more well-rounded vehicle.
The problems start with the Liberty’s underpowered 210-horsepower V6. While sluggish acceleration is commonplace among compact SUVs, the four-cylinder engines found in models like the GMC Terrain at least boast good fuel economy as a trade-off. It gets even worse with the four-wheel-drive Liberty, which returns 17 mpg combined — the same as a V8-powered Chevy Tahoe.
One could argue that Chrysler’s new V6 found in the Wrangler could help things, but the Liberty’s issues don’t end there. To call its interior “not up to par” would imply it’s playing on the same metaphorical golf course as those it competes against. On the contrary, materials are hard and cheap, the look is drab, the seats are flat and the wheel doesn’t telescope, just to name a few offenses. An upgrade to the sort of interior quality seen in the impressive new Jeep Grand Cherokee can’t come soon enough.
Now, it’s true that the Liberty is a rugged compact SUV with the four-wheel-drive chops to get you way off the beaten path. In this way, the Liberty will look pretty good. Properly equipped, the Liberty has significantly more off-road capability than models like the Terrain or Honda CR-V and probably more than most buyers are ever likely to need.
But if it’s off-road potential you want, you’re probably going to be better off with the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser. They’re typically a little more expensive, but they offer superior off-road capabilities, better on-pavement performance and nicer interiors. Plus, if you’re looking for serious off-road potential, Jeep’s own Wrangler is the more obvious choice.
Ultimately, as much as we respect the 2012 Jeep Liberty for its off-road capability, we continue to have a hard time recommending it until it undergoes a redesign. In the meantime, we suggest looking at the Subaru Forester or all-wheel-drive versions of the GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.