Ah, liberty. It's what makes this country great. Go anywhere you want, do anything you want and no one will bother you as long as you don't bother them. That's liberty, friends, and its appeal is such that a statue devoted to it greets visitors to New York. So it is a shame that its good name is besmirched by the 2010 Jeep Liberty, a small SUV that ranks as one of the least desirable vehicles in the small crossover segment.
To its credit, the Liberty is well-qualified for off-road activities, boasting a robust chassis, impressive ground clearance, steep approach angles and proficient four-wheel-drive systems. These attributes allow the Liberty to scamper over rugged terrain that would leave a Honda CR-V quaking in its boots. The brawny-looking Liberty can also tow up to 5,000 pounds, another feat that some urban-oriented competitors can't match.
That's the good news. The bad news is that unless you're off-roading or towing something, the Liberty just isn't up to par. This compact Jeep isn't nearly as comfortable or maneuverable as top-rated models like the CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. The V6-powered Liberty is also far thirstier than its rivals, achieving just 15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway in EPA testing with 4WD (the 4WD RAV4 V6, for example, is rated at 19/26), yet its acceleration is likewise well off the pace. The situation doesn't improve inside the cabin, where materials quality is poor.
The Liberty does offer a few intriguing features, notably digital music storage and an oversize "Sky Slider" sunroof. And if you need a compact SUV with serious off-road chops and/or useful towing ability, the Liberty may have some appeal. But at that point certified bushwhackers like the Nissan Xterra, Toyota FJ Cruiser and Jeep's own Wrangler would be better choices. Meanwhile, for the majority of consumers who value fuel economy, driving dynamics and interior comfort and quality, the 2010 Jeep Liberty is pretty much the opposite of statue-worthy.
The 2010 Jeep Liberty is a compact SUV available in Sport, Renegade and Limited trim levels. The Sport and Limited can be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive, but the Renegade is 4x4 only.
Standard equipment on the Sport includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, keyless entry, automatic headlamps, a tilt steering wheel, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The Popular Equipment Group is optional for the Sport, and it adds roof rails, cruise control, upgraded cloth upholstery, foglamps, rear privacy glass and a cargo cover.
The Renegade includes the above equipment plus all-terrain tires, different exterior bodywork, skid plates and steering-wheel audio controls. The skid plates are optional on the other trims. The Comfort Seating Group adds leather upholstery, heated power front seats (six-way driver, two-way passenger), driver memory functions and manual lumbar adjustment. The Premium Group adds rear parking sensors, remote ignition, an auto-dimming mirror, automatic climate control, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker Infinity stereo.
The Limited comes standard with the Comfort Seating Group, but has less rugged styling elements. Seventeen-inch wheels are standard, as are some features from the Premium Group. Options on the Renegade and Limited include a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic, digital music storage and a USB jack. Optional on the Sport and Renegade is a sunroof and, on all trims, a Towing package and the Sky Slider full-open cloth roof.
The Liberty's cabin has all the aesthetic flair of a storage shed -- it's angular and drab. The materials in the base Liberty are also on par with a storage shed, though the Limited gets some padded and leather-wrapped surfaces. In any case, most competitors feature more welcoming and higher-quality environments. At least the cabin controls are generally well-located and easy to use -- well, other than those included with the optional navigation system.
Rear legroom and shoulder room are adequate in the Liberty, but the seat is flat and not particularly comfortable. Luggage space with the rear seat in place is a healthy 31.5 cubic feet; fold the seatback and you're looking at 64 cubic feet, an average figure for this class.
The Jeep Liberty Sport and Limited can be equipped with rear-wheel drive or a choice of two 4WD systems -- part-time Command-Trac or full-time Selec-Trac. The Renegade has Selec-Trac only. All Liberty models are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is the lone transmission choice. Properly equipped, the Liberty can tow up to 5,000 pounds. In performance testing, the Liberty Limited went from zero to 60 mph in a sluggish 9.5 seconds.
Fuel economy numbers are below average for small SUVs. The 2WD Liberty returns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, while 4WD returns 15/21/17.
The 2010 Jeep Liberty rides comfortably enough, but its on-road handling abilities disappoint, with vague steering and pronounced body roll. 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.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, active front head restraints, electronic roll mitigation and side curtain airbags are all standard on the 2010 Jeep Liberty. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Liberty a perfect five-star rating in both front and side-impact crashworthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Liberty its highest rating of "Good" for frontal-offset impacts; however, the Liberty received the second-lowest "Marginal" rating for side crash protection.
The 2010 Jeep Liberty gets additional standard equipment and a new off-road-themed Renegade trim.