Used 1998 Mercury Mystique Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1998

The 1998 Mystique receives a freshened interior and exterior that includes new wheels and a new front end. Mechanical enhancements include 100,000-mile maintenance intervals for the 2.0-liter Zetec engine, improved manual transmission shifter feel, improved NVH and improved air conditioning performance. New interior pieces are intended to distinguish the Mystique from its otherwise-identical twin, the Ford Contour.

Vehicle overview

Ford Motor Co. spent six billion dollars developing this new "world car," designed to be the best compact in every market in which it was sold. The program tested Ford's ability to utilize all of its worldwide resources to create a car that would streamline production, thereby slicing overhead and building bigger profits.

The result is the Mercury Mystique, and for less than the average amount of a typical car purchase in the United States today, you can get one loaded up with equipment, with performance and road feel you never would have expected from a sedan made in America. Actually, the road manners of the new Mystique are no mystery, given that Ford of Europe did the development work on this car.

The LS variant of the Mystique comes with a 24-valve, twin-cam, 170-horsepower 2.5-liter V6 engine that doesn't require a tune-up until the 100,000-mile mark. Also included on the LS are big tires mounted on alloy wheels and sporty front seats. Load on air conditioning, power windows and locks, moonroof, cruise, traction control, antilock brakes and a CD player with premium sound and the sticker stays under $22,500, with room for negotiation. Mystique GS is equipped with a four-cylinder engine, and is surprisingly zippy when mated with the manual transmission.

Much has been made in the automotive press about the Mystique's rear seat, and after spending a week with one in the 1997 model, we found ourselves wishing for more room. Mercury claims that they have increased legroom by two-inches this year, and it does seem to offer Edmund's tall editors a more comfortable seating position. The front seats in the Mystique are great, offering plenty of room and very good support; not what one would expect in an American compact.

In the last two years, the Mystique has won plenty of awards and has received great press from automotive critics, but still hasn't caught on with the public at large. For 1998, exterior enhancements are designed to attract attention to this oft-forgotten compact car, while interior improvements are supposed to make it even more inviting to drive. Mercury has simplified the buying process with the 1998.5 model by introducing trim level specific options. The GS, for example, can no longer be had with the V6 engine.

While we aren't yet sold on the Mystique's new exterior look, we still like the car a great deal. The body structure is stiff, and the ergonomically correct instrument panel features legible dials and well-placed controls. We really like the way the Mystique feels, but for people who need more interior room the Dodge Stratus and new Chevrolet Malibu offer a convincing argument to shop around before buying.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.