- Good power, surprising gas mileage
- Available hybrid version
- Modern six-speed automatic transmission
- Excellent safety package
- SYNC infotainment system second to none
- Noise and refinement only average
- Marginal comfort in rear seat
- Rear-seat folding complex, awkward
- Hybrid information displays not well integrated
The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid have aged well, remaining attractive, capable, and fuel-efficient with more than a little style.
The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid are solid, stylish five-passenger compact SUVs that were completely updated for 2009. Although they're nearing the end of a model life that began a decade ago, Ford continues to add features. New for 2010 are five driver aids: blind-spot warnings in the mirrors, the MyKey programmable key, a rearview camera, Ford's well-reviewed Active Park Assist, and an upgraded version of the SYNC infotainment system. In the highly contentious compact-SUV class, they compete against the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, the Hyundai Tucson, and the new-for-2010 GMC Terrain. The base Mariner starts at $23,560, and the Mariner Hybrid at $30,105.
The traditional, upright lines of the 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid disguise their actual personas: They're carlike crossovers. A Mariner makes no attempt to soften its lines, unlike such competitors as the Honda CR-V; it's an SUV from any angle. But the tasteful chrome grille and other fashion-forward design elements set it apart from the more pedestrian Ford Escape, with which it shares a platform. Inside, materials and appointments were extensively upgraded a few years ago, giving the Mariner pair both matte metallic accents and a two-tiered instrument panel.
All three powertrains for the the 2010 Mercury Mariner were overhauled last year to deliver better fuel economy and more power. The standard engine on the 2010 Mariner is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 171 horsepower. For more heft, a 3.0-liter V-6 makes 240 horsepower; this is the choice if you need towing ability. Both engines come with a responsive and fuel-efficient six-speed automatic, and the smaller engine can also be paired with a five-speed manual.
On-demand four-wheel drive is available with either engine, but don't be confused-the Mariner is hardly designed for off-road use. The added traction is meant for gravel driveways, muddy parking lots, and snowy suburban streets.
Gas mileage varies among versions, depending on which engine and transmission are fitted and whether the Mariner comes with front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The four-cylinder paired with the automatic (we expect few orders for the five-speed manual) is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway. With the V-6, six-speed automatic, and four-wheel drive, it returns a respectable 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.
If maximum economy is your goal, the 2010 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is fitted with Ford's sophisticated hybrid-electric powertrain. Its durability has been proven over many years of use, including combat duty in New York City taxi fleets. It pairs a specially tuned version of the 2.5-liter four with a hybrid transmission incorporating electric motors that both power the car and recharge the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack over the rear axle.
The Mariner Hybrid is rated at 34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, though gas mileage falls to 30 mpg city, 27 mpg highway if four-wheel drive is specified. For 2010, the hybrid model's air-conditioning compressor is now electric, so cool air continues to flow even when the engine switches off to let the Mariner Hybrid run in all-electric mode.
The 2010 Mariner and Mariner Hybrid provide ample room for four adults, but getting three across into the rear bench seat is best confined to shorter trips. The front seats are comfortable, and the view through the tall, vertical windows lets driver and passengers see well above sedan-roof height. While the rear seats are adequate, their bottom cushions are a bit short for taller adults. With total passenger volume of 100 cubic feet, the Mariner is smaller than some other compact SUVs, including the Honda CR-V and the seven-passenger Toyota RAV4.
On-road handling and ride quality are good in both the 2010 Mariner and Mariner Hybrid. They ride and handle much better than earlier models, due to a suspension that was completely retuned last year to refine the ride, with new struts, shock absorbers, and sway bars.
Not all is perfect inside, however. TheCarConnection.com's experts find folding the rear seats to be a challenging and convoluted chore. First, all three headrests have to be removed. Then the rear cushions are folded up on hinges at their leading edge. Each seatback must be released with an individual latch before it can be folded forward. The resulting flat load floor provides up to 66.3 cubic feet of cargo area, but you're still left with three headrests sliding around the load bay.
The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid get decent marks for safety. Four front airbags are standard, as are side-curtain airbags that extend into the second row. The Mariner earns five stars for frontal and side-impact NHTSA crash tests, and the IIHS gives it "good" ratings (its highest) for front offset and side impact crash safety. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, and electronic stability control are also standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system. An available Rear View Camera System is a new option for 2010.
The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid are at the leading edge in the features race, though many of them are available only as pricey options. Perhaps most important is the SYNC interface and infotainment system that Ford developed with Microsoft. Even beyond the iPod interface is its ability to let drivers operate Bluetooth mobile phones in hands-free mode. SYNC comes with real-time traffic, weather, and information like fuel prices via Sirius Travel Link, another option, integrated into the navigation system, all easily controlled by voice commands. The blue-green instrument lighting is pleasantly easy to read, and some Mariner trim levels offer LED-powered ambient lighting that can be set to one of several different colors. The only feature Mariner lacks is a factory-fitted rear-seat DVD player.