Used 1997 Mercury Tracer Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

The Mercury Tracer is totally redesigned this year with enhancements across the board. The most noticeable improvements are in the powertrain and in the ride quality. New sheet metal gives the Tracer a rounder, more aerodynamic appearance as well. The speedy LTS sedan is discontinued.

Vehicle overview

Tracer is the slow-selling Mercury counterpart to the Ford Escort. Available only as a sedan or a station wagon, the Tracer is a reliable but dated compact. Newer sedans from Dodge, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Chevrolet and Pontiac render the Tracer an engineering also ran, but it remains a solid value at $12,000. Additionally, it is one of very few compact wagons on the market, and the speedy LTS sedan is a well-kept performance secret.

An 88-horsepower four cylinder powers the base sedan and wagon. For 1996, the 1.9-liter base motor goes 100,000 miles before a tune-up. LTS sedans get a twin-cam, 1.8-liter Mazda motor good for 127 horsepower, along with stiffer suspension settings and added trim and equipment. The LTS is a worthy competitor for newer cars offered by other manufacturers, but the base Tracer should be considered only against other bargain basement vehicles such as the Hyundai Accent or Geo Metro LSi.

The base engine is rough and noisy, offering passable acceleration. Off-the-line response has been improved this year on Tracers with automatic transmissions by revising final drive ratios. The LTS sedan is fun-to-drive. All Tracers have dual airbags and score well in crash tests. Anti-lock brakes are optional only on the sporty LTS.

New last year was a limited-edition Trio package that included alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a spoiler on sedans. This year, buyers can get a Trio in any of Tracer's exterior colors. Also added during 1995 was an integrated child seat. It continues for 1996.

If you're looking for a sprightly, high-revving, family funster, the Tracer LTS is worth a look. If you're looking for basic transportation, shop the Ford dealer and choose a slightly less expensive Escort LX sedan or wagon. Better yet, drop by the local Chevy store and see what a value the new Cavalier is.

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.