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Small SUVs like the Mercury Mariner represent one of the near-perfect compromises of the automotive world. They allow consumers to sit up high with a broad view of the road, load up children and cargo without bending and twisting, and plow through freak winter storms without stopping to put on snow chains. Yet, unlike larger SUVs, they're easy to drive, easy to park and (mostly) easy on the wallet when it comes time to refuel.
As such, having a compact sport-utility in the lineup is a must for any successful automotive brand. Mercury was a latecomer to this segment, adding the Mariner to its portfolio for 2005. Only three years later, it received a thorough cosmetic freshening and that was followed the next year by mechanical improvements. Sadly, this addition to the lineup wasn't enough to save Mercury, as the brand was gone after 2011.
A sibling of the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute, the Mercury Mariner compact crossover SUV used all the same underpinnings as its relatives, but gained unique styling touches inside and out. In general, it was a mid-pack choice for a modern compact SUV; other top crossovers typically offered greater refinement, versatility and overall performance.
Most Recent Mercury Mariner
The Mariner was sold for two generations. The more recent version was offered from 2008-'11. Compared to earlier Mariners, these newer models featured an exterior and interior makeover that improved quality.
Mercury offered two trim levels: base and the more upscale Premier. In that first year, a 2.3-liter inline-4 rated for 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque powered the base Mariner. The base V6 and Premier models came with a 3.0-liter V6 good for 200 hp and 193 lb-ft of torque. Both engines were paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive was available across the board.
For 2009, mechanical changes were made. The inline-4 grew to 2.5 liters and 171 hp, the V6 was pumped up to 240 hp and both were matched to a new six-speed automatic transmission. That year also saw the debut of Ford's Sync multimedia voice control system and a revised suspension that improved ride quality. In light of all that, the 2009 and later Mariners are the more desirable ones. A number of high-tech features arrived for 2010, including Ford's MyKey system (which allows parents to limit speed and audio volume for their teen drivers), a back-up camera and a nifty Auto Park feature that steers the car during parallel parking.
Although the Mariner had some desirable technology features, its subpar brakes and aged overall design were fairly apparent when compared to rivals from Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota. As such, if you're shopping for a used compact SUV, we recommend that you also consider those competitors before making a decision.
Past Mercury Mariners
The Mercury Mariner was introduced for 2005 as a slightly more upscale twin to the Ford Escape. As such, the pre-2008 models suffered from poor interior materials just like the Escape. Still, this "original" model was pleasant to drive, with tight and responsive handling that only fails to impress when compared with newer compact SUVs. From '05 through '08, the Mariner was powered by either by a 2.3-liter inline-4 that made 153 hp or a 3.0-liter V6 making 200 hp -- both of which came with a four-speed automatic transmission. The '05 to '07 Mariner came in base Convenience, midlevel Luxury and high-line Premier trims. The Convenience model offered basics like air-conditioning, a CD player and power accessories, while the Luxury moved you up to a V6 engine and a few more features. The Premier's highlights included leather seating, rear parking sensors and side airbags.