2010 Mercury Mariner Review

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John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
March 3, 2010

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid have aged well, remaining attractive, capable, and fuel-efficient with more than a little style.

TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid to bring you this hands-on review that covers styling, performance, safety, utility, and features from on-the-road observations. TheCarConnection.com's editors also researched reviews from other sources to give you a comprehensive range of opinions from around the Web-and to help you decide which ones to trust. High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid to produce this hands-on road test.

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.

Review continues below

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.

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2010 Mercury Mariner

Styling

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid are some of the few remaining options for those who prefer an upright crossover with SUV styling.

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.

Edmunds notes that the Mercury Mariner "isn't exactly the freshest face on the block, sharing as it does a nine-year-old platform with its Ford Escape sibling." Car and Driver also points out that "the design is old," calling the 2010 Mercury Mariners "square-jawed and truck-like compared to their relatively effete competition." Despite the vehicle's aged design, reviewers at Cars.com appreciate the external styling treatment, claiming that "the Mariner is a congenial-looking rig" with its standard "16-inch alloy wheels."

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. The interior of the Mercury Mariner gets neutral to positive marks in the reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Edmunds sees it in a positive light, praising the "upscale ambiance" inside the Mercury Mariner. Cars.com says "the dashboard's contemporary shapes and angled surfaces look interesting enough, but there's a tactile severity that permeates the whole interior."

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2010 Mercury Mariner

Performance

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid are staving off their age and will still lure the discerning driver with performance and fuel economy.

All three powertrains for 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 might, 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.

ConsumerGuide reports that the four-cylinder "provides better than expected acceleration, even with AWD." Car and Driver adds that 0-to-60 time "now stands at 10.4 seconds." Cars.com observes that the V-6 2010 Mariner "launches you swiftly, coming on strong particularly in the 40-60 mph range." And Motor Trend agrees, citing "a 0-60-mph time that Ford claims is a substantial 1.7 sec quicker than [a previous] model."

Edmunds notes that "both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission," and reviewers just can't say enough good things about it. ConsumerGuide states that "the transmission shifts smoothly and kicks down quickly for more power," while Cars.com adds that it "has shorter gears for quicker passing-lane bursts" while staying smooth and refined. The Mercury Mariner can also tow a respectable amount. Edmunds reports that, "properly equipped, the V6 Mariner can tow up to 3,500 pounds."

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, depending on which engine and transmission are fitted and whether the Mariner sports 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 that incorporates electric motors both powering the car and recharging 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 handling of the 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid improves as well, although braking comes in for some criticism. ConsumerGuide remarks that handling is "a surprise given the age of Mariner's basic platform" and noting that "body lean in turns is well controlled, though the steering feels overboosted and vague." Unfortunately, Edmunds reviewers report "its rear brakes were downgraded to inferior drums," so "the best stopping distance" Edmunds could manage from 60 mpg "was 154 feet-at least 25 feet longer than average, and frankly unacceptable."

7

2010 Mercury Mariner

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid win points for quiet ride and comfortable front seats, but the interior materials may disappoint.

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid might aim for the upscale market, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that their interiors fall well short of any pretense of luxury. The 2010 Mariner provides ample room for four adults, but getting three across into the rear bench seat is best confined to shorter trips. The front seats are well shaped, and the view through the tall, vertical windows lets driver and passengers see well above sedan-roof height.

Reviewers are impressed with what Edmunds calls the "comfortable interior," and they go on to assert that the "front seats are nicely shaped and supportive." The Cars.com reviewers have mixed reactions to the "five-seat Mariner's" front seats, though, which they say "have decent adjustment range, though the power driver's seat doesn't include a power recliner-you have to angle it forward and backward manually."

Reviewers are very split on rear seat comfort. ConsumerGuide deems the "knee clearance and foot space" to be "well above the class norm" and says "the supportive and well-countered seat is wide enough for short-trip three-adult comfort." On the other hand, Edmunds blasts the rear seat, calling it "flat as a day-old soda" and complaining that it "offers neither a recline function nor fore/aft adjustability." Cars.com agrees with their critique, saying "the seats have durable cushions, but the ones in back are a bit low to the ground, so tall passengers should expect to become familiar with their knees."

With a 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. Cars.com points out that the Mercury Mariner "offers a competitive 66.3 cubic feet of storage space" when the seats are folded. But many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com's experts find folding the rear seats to be a challenging and convoluted chore. Edmunds says, "it's a pain to fold the rear seat down," and Cars.com explains, "The rear seats aren't adjustable, and folding them down is a frustrating three-step process: Remove the head restraints, flip the seat cushions forward and the seat down."

According to ConsumerGuide, the "cabin small-item storage is plentiful" and "includes several console bins, as well as pockets in all four doors."

But the major complaints stem from the poor materials quality inside the 2010 Mariner. While Edmunds reviewers declare that "fit and finish is good inside the 2010 Mercury Mariner," this represents a very clear minority opinion. Cars.com rips into the Mercury Mariner's overall quality, claiming "the plastics look and feel cheap, with uneven gaps along some surfaces." ConsumerGuide says the interior is "awash in hard, hollow plastics" and deems "the overall ambiance [to be] low-buck," noting that their "extended-use test vehicle has some misaligned trim on the front-passenger door."

ConsumerGuide reviewers compliment the climate controls, which they say "are simple to use," but they complain that "the available navigation system absorbs most audio functions," and the end result is that "some simple adjustments are needlessly complicated" on the Mercury Mariner.

The 2010 Mariner and Mariner Hybrid ride and handle much better than earlier models, due to a suspension that was completely retuned to refine the ride, with new struts, shock absorbers, and sway bars. Reviewers notice the subdued driving environment. ConsumerGuide says that "wind and road noise are also present but are not objectionably loud," and Cars.com points to "sound-deadening improvements" that make it "possible to enjoy instrumental music without cranking the stereo" even at highway speeds.

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2010 Mercury Mariner

Safety

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid get good marks for safety, compromised by rear drum brakes and lower-than-usual rollover ratings.

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid get decent marks for safety despite a basic design that's a decade old, which many reviews read by TheCarConnection.com explicitly mention.

Both the IIHS and NHTSA award the Mercury Mariner their highest possible marks in every impact category. In NHTSA tests, the 2010 Mercury Mariner earns a five-star rating in all four frontal impact tests and side impact tests. The IIHS also gives the Mercury Mariner its highest possible rating, "good," in both the frontal offset and side impact tests.

ConsumerGuide reports that "available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain side airbags and front side airbags." Electronic stability control is standard, as is a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Edmunds notes that "a rollover sensor" for the curtain airbags is standard. On the other hand, they point out that the Mercury Mariner's "rear brakes were downgraded to inferior drums," saying the Mariner "continues to bear this badge of shame." TheCarConnection.com's editors remark that drum brakes weigh more and may be inferior for high-speed braking ability, but cost less for manufacturers to fit.

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid are two of relatively few small sport-utility vehicles to be rated three stars for rollover from NHTSA-in both front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models.

While some new crossovers are notorious for poor visibility-Chevrolet Equinox, we're talking to you-the compact Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid don't suffer from this common SUV criticism. In fact, ConsumerGuide proclaims that the Mercury Mariner offers "fine all-around visibility," thanks to its commanding driving position and large windows. An available Rear View Camera System is a new option for 2010, further improving rear vision.


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2010 Mercury Mariner

Features

While the 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid can be equipped with a ton of features, they're not cheap.

The 2010 Mercury Mariner and Mariner Hybrid are at the leading edge in features, though many of them are available only as pricey options. While Car and Driver contends there are "no meaningful differences between models," Edmunds notes the 2010 Mercury Mariner is a "compact SUV [that] is available in four trim levels: I4, V6, Premier I4 and Premier V6" and cites standard features on the base models that include "full power accessories, air-conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a four-speaker CD stereo...and keyless entry." It goes on to attest that the Mercury Mariner Premier models add "rear parking sensors, ambient interior lighting, leather/Alcantara upholstery, a power drive seat...[and] Sync."

The SYNC system is probably the 2010 Mariner and Mariner Hybrid's most important accessory. Edmunds describes it as "Ford's exclusive...multimedia integration system," and it wins uniformly high praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

Edmunds goes on to say that "the alluring Sync system gives [the 2010 Mercury Mariner] a technological edge over its compact SUV rivals." SYNC lets drivers operate Bluetooth mobile phones in hands-free mode. It 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.

Other options for the base 2010 Mercury Mariner, according to Cars.com, include "dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats, a moonroof, upgraded leather and a navigation system." For the Mercury Mariner Premier, Edmunds lists more options, such as "17-inch wheels, step bars, a moonroof, [and] an upgraded seven-speaker stereo system." ConsumerGuide notes that the Mercury Mariner is available with an Amenities package that groups a "rear-obstacle-detection system [and] dual-zone automatic climate controls," while the Sun and Sync package for the 2010 Mercury Mariner base adds a "power sunroof, iPod adapter, wireless cell phone link, [and] voice recognition."

The 2010 Mariner Hybrid comes with many of these options as standard along with the high-mileage hybrid-electric drivetrain, and that's reflected in a base price $6,500 higher than the base 2010 Mariner. It also includes unique hybrid "leaf" badges on the sides and rear of the vehicle, eco-friendly seat fabric made from post-industrial recycled materials, and a standard 110-volt power outlet inside the car.

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