Compact SUV; Built in USA
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $4,000 – $11,000*

2002 Jeep Liberty

2002 Jeep Liberty

2002 Jeep Liberty interior

2003 Jeep Liberty Renegade

2004 Jeep Liberty Limited

  • Cargo room
  • Off-road capability
  • Fuel economy
  • Ride comfort
  • Wind noise/engine noise (higher speeds)

Solid and capable, the Liberty was competitively priced when new. It’s been the off-road leader among compact SUVs, which prompts our Best Buy rating. For better or worse, Jeep avoided making it as carlike as most rivals. That dictates some compromises in rear-seat comfort and on-road handling.


Serving as a replacement for the aged Cherokee, the new compact Liberty was a roomier SUV with a more sophisticated suspension and available curtain side airbags. Built with unibody construction, like the Cherokee, the four-door Liberty wagon rode a wheelbase about three inches longer, and measured seven inches longer overall. Width and height also grew, and the Liberty weighed about 400 pounds more than the Cherokee.

A coil-spring front suspension replaced the Cherokee’s solid-axle, leaf-spring setup. The Liberty’s tailgate opened to left and held an outside-mounted spare tire.

Sport and Limited trim levels were available. Equipped with a 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the Sport had contrasting-color body cladding. The Limited Edition had a monochromatic exterior and brushed metallic interior trim, as well as a new 210-hp, 3.7-liter V6 that was optional for the Sport.

Four-cylinder models came only with a manual transmission, while the V6 got either manual or automatic. Liberty offered rear-wheel drive or a choice of two four-wheel-drive systems, both with low-range gearing. Jeep’s Command-Trac 4WD must be disengaged on dry pavement; Selec-Trac 4WD can be left engaged at all times.

Standard equipment includes 16-inch wheels and a 65/35 split/folding rear seat. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a sunroof were available.

Curtain side airbags and antilock braking were optional. Liberty’s 5000-pound towing capacity was tops among compact SUVs, This Jeep competed against the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and Mazda Tribute.

As a running change phased in during the 2002 model year, the ride height of all Libertys was lowered by about an inch. Jeep said the change was intended to improve stability in turns. A bolder-looking Renegade model joined the group during the 2002 season.

Yearly Updates

2003 Liberty
Standard four-wheel disc brakes were the main 2003 addition to Jeep’s midlevel SUV. Chrome 17-inch wheels were newly optional for the Limited Edition, in place of the Liberty’s standard 16s.
Sport, Renegade, and Limited Edition models were offered. Renegades had unique appearance features, including a roof light bar, “bolt-on-look” fender arches, and special alloy wheels.
As before, the Liberty Sport came with a 150-horsepower four-cylinder engine. Optional on the Sport and standard on Limited and Renegade was a 210-horsepower V6.
2004 Liberty
A tire-pressure monitor and hands-free cell phone were newly available in 2004. Sport models gained a standard CD player. All Liberty models could now maintain accessory power for 10 minutes after the key was removed from the ignition. New options included a rear cargo organizer, as well as the Uconnect feature, which used the Liberty’s audio system as a hands-free wireless link to any cell phone in the vehicle.
2005 Liberty
An available turbocharged diesel engine and two new transmissions highlight 2005 additions to Jeep’s 4-dr compact SUV. All models get a modest styling update for ’05, with Renegades gaining a flatter hood, taller grille, fender flares, and other specific touches. New options include satellite radio, navigation system, and Chrysler’s UConnect, which uses the audio system as a hands-free, wireless link to cell phones.
2006 Liberty
Jeep’s 4-dr compact SUV gains an antiskid system for 2006, but drops its 4-cyl gas engine.
2007 Liberty
Unavailable for 2007 is the 160-hp diesel 4-cyl offered for 2006.


longitudinal front-engine/rear- or 4-wheel drive

Either a four-cylinder engine or a V6 could be installed. The dual-overhead-cam, 2.4-liter engine produced 150 horsepower, versus 210 hp for the 3.7-liter V6. Four-cylinder models came only with a five-speed manual transmission, while the V6 came with either the manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. A Liberty may have front-wheel drive, or either of two four-wheel-drive systems. An available 160-hp 4-cyl turbodiesel engine and two new transmissions, a 6-speed manual paired with the 4-cyl gas engine and a 5-speed automatic paired with the 4-cyl turbodiesel engine, were new for 2005. The turbodiesel was dropped after 2006.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/148
Engine HP 150
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 165
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
6-speed manual
Turbodiesel dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/171
Engine HP 160
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.7/226
Engine HP 210
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 235
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic

Road Test

About 85 percent of Libertys sold had the V6 engine. Top seller has been the V6/automatic-transmission 4WD Sport.

Acceleration with the V6 is good off the line, but a Liberty can feel labored in highway merging or passing. A deep stab at the throttle is needed to coax the automatic to downshift two gears.

Selec-Trac allows set-and-forget 4WD running, but requires initial driver activation. Most rivals have no-fuss all-wheel drive.

Fuel economy falls short for a compact model. A 4WD Limited Edition averaged 14.8 mpg in mostly highway driving. In similar usage, a 4WD Sport managed 16.6 mpg. Liberty uses regular fuel.

Ride quality could be better, too. The suspension is not overly firm on bumps, though big ruts and ripples mean a jiggly–but not uncomfortable–ride. Rocking-horse motions and annoying side-to-side swaying on uneven surfaces are reduced somewhat by the lowered ride height, but still noticed.

Steering is not as responsive as that of a Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, or Mazda Tribute. In turns, grip and balance are good, but body lean remains pronounced, even with the reduced ride height. The Liberty’s rack-and-pinion steering feels firm and accurate, but transmits too much kickback off-road.

Brakes feel strong and have the added benefit of rear discs for 2003-04. The lowered suspension seems to reduce nosedive in quick stops.

Liberty ranks best-in-class in terms of isolation from unpleasant body resonance. But the full-throttle exhaust note and high-speed wind rush are intrusive. Tires sing on coarse surfaces, and one test model’s Selec-Trac emitted 4WD gear whine.

Gauges are large and legible. Low-set audio and climate controls are a little far from the driver, but generously sized and clearly labeled. Door-mounted power-lock buttons are easily mistaken for power-window switches, which are inconveniently located on the center console.

The new-for-2003 overhead console includes controls to customize such functions as which doors unlock with the first press of the remote key fob. Interiors have numerous padded surfaces and sturdy-feeling materials.

Expect fine head and leg room up front. Seats set unusually high, and could use more lumbar and lateral support. The front passenger gets a narrow footwell.

Head clearance is bountiful in the rear. Rear leg room is reasonable, but the footwell shape is uneven. You get good toe space under the front seat, though.

Like the front, the back seat is unusually high, and has subpar thigh support. Step-in is higher than in an Escape or CR-V, but not excessive. Door openings are narrow.

With the rear seat up, the cargo bay is wide and tall, but not long. Rear-seat sections easily fold in one motion, without removing headrests, but they don’t lay flat. Folding the seatbacks exposes brackets on walls of the cargo bay that intrude into load space.

The swing-open tailgate takes getting used to. Its window pops fully open via a remote key fob or a pull of the tailgate handle, but that convenience is undercut by an awkward reach into the cargo hold.


Model Tested: 2002 Jeep Liberty Sport

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 3
Ride Quality - 3
Steering/Handling - 4
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 5
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 4
Cargo Room - 7


Value - 5

Total: 43


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
104.3 174.7 71.6 70.2
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
69.0 18.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.7 42.1 40.8 37.2
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Front Passenger Injury - N/A

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Air conditioner
Description: Water leaks onto the passenger side floor requiring a new A/C evaporator drain hose. (2002)
Description: Rear brakes moan on light application requiring anti-rattle strips. (2003-06)
Engine noise
Description: Snapping noise from 2.4L engine in the 600-1400 rpm range caused by camshaft bearing caps and is corrected by chamfering the caps. (2002-04)
Exhaust system
Description: After a short trip (about three minutes) to the gas station, the tank may be difficult to refuel because the emission system is pressurizing the system and installing a flow management valve fixes the problem. (2002)
Exhaust system
Description: Squeaks that seem to come from the front are often from the parking brake cables in the rear rubbing on their guides while a rattle from the front is probably coming from the exhaust crossover union on which the springs should be eliminated. (2002)
Fuel pump
Description: The engine my crank several seconds before starting due to loss of fuel pressure caused by a bad check valve in the fuel pump assembly. (2002)
Electrical problem
Description: Instrument panel lights flicker requiring replacement of the body control module. (2006-07)
Description: The carpet in the cargo area wears out prematurely requiring replacement. (2002)
Description: Chirping noise under hood caused by serpentine drive belt secondary idle pulley which should be removed and a shorter belt installed. (2003-05)
Description: Temperature gauge reads higher than normal on vehicles equipped with 2.8L turbo diesel engine when under load requiring reprogramming instrument cluster. (2005)
Transmission problems
Description: Transmission may suffer delayed engagement after sitting overnight due to split in the filter in fluid cooler return line. (2005-06)
Transmission problems
Description: Transmission may suffer delayed engagement after sitting overnight due to split in the filter in fluid cooler return line. (2005-06)

Recall History

2002 Liberty
Description: The knee blocker trim panel on the driver’s side may disengage and startle the driver.
2002 Liberty
Description: In the event of a crash, sharp edges on the power steering pressure hose bracket could cut the wiring and cause a short.
2002-03 Liberty sold in or registered in salt belt states
Description: A loss of lubrication in the lower control arm ball joints could lead to corrosion, resulting in steering control loss.
2002-2003 Liberty
Description: Airbag control module may fail, causing airbags to deploy inadvertently while vehicle is operating.
2004 Liberty
Description: On vehicles with remote keyless entry, the software may malfunction and cause the door to continuously lock and unlock.
2004 Liberty
Description: Two valve cover studs may interfere with fuel injector and alternator wiring harnesses; damage could possibly result in underhood fire.
2004-2007 Liberty in certain states
Description: Vehicles in certain states may be equipped with rear lower control arms that can corrode and fracture from prolonged exposure to road salts.
2005-06 Liberty w/42RLE automatic transmission
Description: Cup plug that retains park pawl anchor shaft may be improperly installed; if it changes position, vehicle may not be able to achieve “Park” position.
2006 Liberty
Description: An incorrect right front door latch reinforcement plate may have been installed, which may cause the secondary door latch to become inoperative, increasing the possibility of passengers being thrown from the car in a crash.
2006-07 Liberty w/Valeo HVAC
Description: The blower motor may overheat. This could cause an interior fire.
2007 Liberty w/automatic
Description: The powertrain control software can cause a momentary lock up of the drive wheels if the vehicle is traveling over 40 mph and the operator shifts from drive to neutral and back to drive. If the drive wheels locked up, loss of vehicle control could occur.
2007 Liberty
Description: The antilock brake system control module software may cause the rear brakes to lock up during certain braking conditions. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning. Dealers will reprogram the ABS electronic control unit.
2008 Liberty
Description: Transfer case heat shield may rub and weaken the drive shaft, potentially causing it to break and fail. If the drive shaft breaks, it could strike the transfer case tunnel hard enough to deploy the airbags.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.

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