Full 2010 Mercury Mariner Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 Mercury Mariner loses its optional in-dash CD changer but gains standard satellite radio, and Sync-equipped models without navigation now offer a communications system that includes 911 assist, traffic reports and turn-by-turn driving directions. Also, the newly standard MyKey system allows parents to limit speed and audio volume for their teen drivers, and a back-up camera is now available, as is a nifty Auto Park feature that steers the car during parallel parking.
The Mercury Mariner debuted four years ago, but it's essentially a rebadged version of the Ford Escape introduced way back at the turn of the century. Since then, both models have received significant styling, interior, powertrain and suspension revisions. These have kept the Mariner fresh, but it remains an open question whether they make the 2010 Mercury Mariner truly competitive against its rivals.
On the plus side, the recently fortified engines are certainly up to the challenge. The 240-horsepower V6 is bested by segment luminaries like Toyota's 268-hp RAV4 and Chevrolet's 264-hp Equinox, but it's powerful enough to move the Mariner around with decent verve. The base 171-hp four-cylinder unit is also just fine for this class. Fuel economy is solid too, with the front-wheel-drive four-cylinder model delivering a respectable 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
The availability of Ford's Sync system is another strong selling point, particularly with the new 911 assist and GPS functions (traffic reports and turn-by-turn directions) that run through your paired Bluetooth phone. Additional pluses include a new Auto Park system that blissfully takes the guesswork out of parallel parking, standard MyKey (which allows parents to set electronic limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume for their teenage driver), excellent crash test scores and the availability of a hybrid model (reviewed separately).
But the problem with the 2010 Mercury Mariner is that it's an "on-paper" kind of vehicle. It has a lot of strengths, but spend some quality time with the Mariner and you'll realize that Mercury hasn't taught this old dog enough new tricks. Its rear brakes were downgraded to inferior drums in 2008, and every Mariner since has borne this badge of shame. Additionally, the rear seats are a hassle to fold down and don't recline, limiting comfort and versatility.
How much significance potential buyers will allot to these issues is unknown, but for us they're enough to dull the Mariner's attractiveness in the small crossover SUV segment. A Mariner test-drive might be worth your time, especially if you have a fondness for technology features, but we certainly recommend also looking at the all-new Chevrolet Equinox, Honda's refined CR-V, Subaru's versatile Forester, the sporty Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan's stylish Rogue or Toyota's all-star RAV4.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mercury Mariner compact SUV is available in four trim levels: I4, V6, Premier I4 and Premier V6. The base I4 Mariner comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, privacy glass, full power accessories, air-conditioning, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a four-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The V6 includes all of the base I4's standard equipment plus the 3.0-liter V6 engine. The Premier I4 model adds rear parking sensors, ambient interior lighting, heated front seats, leather upholstery (Alcantara inserts are a no-cost option), a power driver seat, a six-speaker stereo, Sync and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Premier V6 model pairs the Premier I4's standard content with the six-cylinder engine.
Options on non-Premier models include a roof rack, a moonroof, Sync, leather upholstery, a power driver seat and ambient interior lighting. Among the options on Premier models are 17-inch wheels, step bars, a back-up camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Auto Park system that steers the car automatically while parallel parking, full Alcantara upholstery, a sunroof, an upgraded seven-speaker stereo system and a hard-drive-based navigation system with music storage, Sirius Travel Link and real-time traffic.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Mercury Mariner is available with either front- or all-wheel drive. The base 2.5-liter inline-4 generates 171 hp and 171 pound-feet of torque, while the uplevel 3.0-liter V6 cranks out 240 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions.
Properly equipped, the V6 Mariner can tow up to 3,500 pounds. EPA estimates are about average for this segment, with front-wheel-drive I4 models checking in at 20 miles per gallon city/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined (19/25/21 for AWD models), while front-wheel-drive V6 models are rated at 18 mpg city/26 highway/21 combined (17/24/20 for AWD models).
Antilock brakes (albeit with rear drums), traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags with a rollover sensor are all standard on the 2010 Mercury Mariner.
The Mariner earned a perfect five stars from the government in both front and side crash tests. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Mariner scored the highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side tests. Unfortunately, the Mariner's braking performance is poor. From 60 mph, the mechanically identical Ford Escape we tested recently stopped in a disappointing 138 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Mariner's cabin is a pleasantly functional space, thanks in part to a huge center console with removable bins. Satin-finish metallic accents and available leather upholstery add a premium sheen. However, the Mariner is starting to feel its age in terms of comfort and space. Up front, the seating position is too tall and there's no telescoping steering wheel, granting one the feeling of hovering above the controls. The front seats are shaped well enough, but the rear seat is as flat as a pirate's plank and offers neither a recline function nor fore/aft adjustability. What's more, folding the seatback down is a royal pain, requiring the headrests to be removed and the bottom cushions to be tipped forward. Cargo volume stands at a useful 29 cubic feet with the rear seat in place and 66 cubic feet when that seat is folded down – not bad given the Mariner's relatively compact footprint.
On the technology front, the new Auto Park option on Premier models is a cool feature, particularly at the Mariner's relatively modest price point: Once activated, the system automatically steers during parallel parking, asking the driver to control only the brake and throttle. We also like that Sync now offers 911 assist (an automatic 911 call via your Bluetooth-paired cell phone in the event of airbag deployment), traffic updates and turn-by-turn navigation, even without the optional navigation system. Using a paired Bluetooth phone, updates and directions are either sent via text message or piped through the Mariner's speakers. Finally, the standard MyKey system limits top speed (to 80 mph) and stereo volume for teenage drivers, among other vaguely Orwellian functions.
The 2010 Mercury Mariner feels reasonably secure during quick changes of direction, and its ride quality is pleasantly supple. Performance from either engine is satisfactory, and the six-speed automatic transmission provides smooth shifts. Braking distances are unacceptably long, however, and in general the Mariner lacks that extra dynamic something that would distinguish it from other compact SUVs.