The 2012 Jeep Liberty offers a lot of what you expect from the brand. The sheet metal is quintessential Jeep, and the Liberty features all-wheel-drive capability. But in the cabin and on the street, it’s more civilized than the company’s off-road icon, the Jeep Wrangler. That said, the Liberty still provides a more rough-and-ready ownership experience than many mainstream rivals.

A compact SUV, the 2012 Jeep Liberty seats five. Sport, Limited and Limited Jet trims are offered. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard throughout the lineup. Unlike most of its competitors, the Liberty comes with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is available.

This year’s updates include more content for the base model and the debut of a winter-themed Arctic special edition.

Exterior

The 2012 Jeep Liberty shares a definite family resemblance to the Wrangler. That begins with the Liberty’s seven-slot grille, which is set off by round headlights, prominent bumpers and bold fender flares. The Liberty has a similar boxy silhouette, too. Yet it also has more sophisticated details, such as futuristic headlights and stacked wraparound taillights. To help with cargo, the Liberty’s rear window flips up and opens separately, without needing to open the whole tailgate.

The Liberty builds on that style with some uplevel standard content. This includes heated exterior mirrors and 16-inch alloy wheels. Halogen headlights also are standard. Meanwhile, 17-, 18- and 20-inch alloy wheels are available. So are fog lights and two different open-air roof options. The first is a traditional power sunroof. The other relies on a power-retractable canvas panel for an even larger opening.

Interior

The 2012 Jeep Liberty matches its boxy exterior with simple straight lines in the cabin. The dashboard offers a prime example. It’s divided both horizontally, by dash trim and a passenger-side grab bar, and vertically, by the large center stack. The Liberty also features a standard 60/40-split folding rear seat. You’ll find 26.1 cubic feet of storage behind those seats. Folding them expands cargo capacity to 62.4 cubic feet.

Standard content is fairly basic. The Sport model brings manually adjustable cloth seats, air conditioning, power locks, power windows and a steering wheel with integrated audio controls and a tilt column. The Liberty’s options are somewhat limited as well. Among them are leather seats, a six-way power-adjustable driver’s chair, a heated front row and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Performance

A major difference between the Liberty and its mainstream rivals has to do with their standard powertrains. The 2011 Jeep Liberty relies on a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque with rear-wheel drive. Most of the competition starts with a four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. Also standard for the Liberty is a four-speed automatic transmission. To handle more challenging conditions, part- and full-time all-wheel-drive systems are available.

That engine is powerful enough to tow 5,000 pounds. In comparison, the towing limit for the 2012 Honda CR-V is 1,500 pounds.

The Liberty isn’t especially efficient, however, with standard EPA ratings of 16/22 mpg city/highway.

Technology

The 2012 Jeep Liberty doesn’t offer a rearview camera, but many of its competitors do. Standard for the Liberty is a six-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input jack and satellite radio.

Optional technology for the Liberty includes rear parking sensors and a navigation-based infotainment system. That setup adds a 6.5-inch touch screen, Bluetooth, voice recognition, a USB port and 28 gigabytes of hard-drive storage. To enhance audio performance, the Liberty offers a sound system with eight Infinity speakers and 368 watts of power.