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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
Decent acceleration, hefty cargo capacity, a no-nonsense exterior, and, of course, admirable gas mileage fit the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid to a tee.The Bad
Difficult fold-down rear seats, poor brakes, a dated platform, and a sky-high price tag are among the ’09 Mariner Hybrid’s lowlights.
The CarGurus View
Though it looks like it could handle mountain trails and backwoods paths, the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid is a rather tame, family-oriented compact hybrid SUV with a ton of creature comforts and a sparse appetite for fuel. It's not as refined as many of its conventionally powered contemporaries and way more expensive than most, but this hybrid Ute nonetheless fits comfortably into its eco-niche.
At a Glance
For all-world fuel economy, admirable cargo capacity, and the performance, traction, and safety of available all-wheel drive (AWD), one could do worse than the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid. This midsize five-passenger SUV, delivered in only a Base trim level, has been tweaked to deliver more horsepower and a plusher ride than last year, while a number of additional comfort and convenience features are also tossed in. Unfortunately, the Mariner Hybrid continues to use an anachronistic front disc/rear drum brake arrangement that noticeably degrades braking performance, while an elderly platform and uninspired cabin fit and finish do little to justify its hefty price tag.
On the positive side, new standard equipment for 2009 includes stability control, Ford’s popular SYNC infotainment integration system, satellite radio, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, while 66 cubic feet of cargo space translate into a sizeable load-bearing capability. The Mariner’s high stance means superior all-around visibility, while a compact turning radius and an available rearview camera and backup sensors significantly reduce the stress of maneuvering and parking on crowded city streets.
Only one other hybrid competitor, Saturn’s Green Line Vue Hybrid, offers a challenge to the Mariner Hybrid, but a number of conventionally powered compact Utes, such as Honda’s CR-V, Hyundai’s Santa Fe, and Toyota’s RAV4, come close to matching the Mariner Hybrid’s fuel economy while delivering equal or better refinement at a lower initial cost.
An up-powered 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder (I4) engine delivers the ’09 Mariner Hybrid’s serious brawn, while a 70-kilowatt (94 hp) electric motor does its bit to deliver a combined 177 hp and 136 lb-ft of torque. The brains behind the muscle is a continuously variable transmission that, according to several reviewers, makes for smooth and responsive shifting and a seamless transition from gas to electric power and back. Unfortunately, at speeds over 60 mph, the CVT loses some of its effectiveness and can make passing a matter of effective timing and acute perspicacity. Acceleration from a stop, meanwhile, is noted by virtually all reviewers as better than average, and mileage ranges from 34/31 mpg with the standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) Base trim to 29/27 in the available AWD version. There are actually two electric motors in the FWD Base, one helping power the drivetrain and another for powering accessories when the vehicle is stopped. The AWD version is equipped with a third electric motor providing power to the rear wheels when needed, as well as a center-mounted mechanical limited-slip differential.
Trailer-towing capacity with the Mariner Hybrid is maxed at a mere 1,000 pounds, and its AWD system is limited to providing power to the rear wheels only when slippage is detected; true full-time-AWD power is lacking, rendering this system less effective than it might be in snow and mud.
As is traditional in hybrid systems, regenerative braking helps re-charge the nickel-metal hydride battery, and auto-engine stop/start combines with variable valve timing in the I4 to help conserve fuel. A downside to this particular hybrid system, however, is that despite its dedicated accessory motor, the auto-engine stop/start feature does not shut down the gas engine at a stop when the air conditioner is running.
Ride & Handling
The 2009 Mariner Hybrid is thought by most reviewers to give a comfortable if not plush ride with few effects from bumps and road imperfections. Many reviewers also mention acceptable levels of road and wind noise on the highway. A four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson front struts, front and rear stabilizer bars, and a multi-link rear suspension are complemented by 16-inch alloy wheels and electric power steering that, with this hybrid’s added weight, provides a stable if occasionally ponderous cruise. Downtown, a tight turning radius gives this compact Ute decent maneuverability well suited to city traffic and crowded parking lots. Reviewers, as well, mention a somewhat overfriendly steering feel that’s fine for downtown, but not so fine for highway driving. With a nimbleness that virtually all reviewers find surprising in such an elderly platform design, the ’09 Mariner Hybrid acquits itself admirably on twisty roads, with little body lean or noseplow in hard cornering.
A number of reviewers find considerable fault with the ’09 Mariner Hybrid’s continuing use of the old-technology front disc/rear drum brake system. A test of the identically equipped Ford Escape with conventional gas engine found stopping distances from 60 mph to average a woeful 154 feet. With their added weight, hybrid versions of both the Escape and the Mariner can be expected to do even worse, which is clearly unacceptable in today’s automotive world.
Cabin & Comfort
Despite the addition of a number of standard comfort and convenience features, a low-rent feel permeates the ’09 Mariner’s otherwise comfortable cabin. Too many hard plastic surfaces and a disconcerting inattention to proper fit and finish are noted by reviewers as inappropriate to this hybrid’s price and pretensions. Cabin storage, on the other hand, is considered by most reviewers to be adequate if not capacious, while comfortable, well-designed seats make longer journeys better than merely tolerable.
Notwithstanding a less-than-luxurious cabin ambiance, this five-passenger mini hybrid Ute does offer a plethora of standard creature comforts, including premium cloth upholstery, power-adjustable driver’s seat, split-folding rear seatbacks, digital keypad power door locks, power windows and mirrors, tilt-wheel steering, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, leather-and-alloy steering wheel, dash and cabin accents, single-CD player with six speakers, Bluetooth wireless communications technology, and a USB connection. Additionally, for 2009, Ford's highly regarded SYNC infotainment interface, Sirius satellite radio, and steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls are now standard as well.
Options for the ’09 Mariner Hybrid include a rear-view camera and reverse sensors, voice-activated DVD navigation, leather-trimmed upholstery, upgraded audio with a subwoofer, power moonroof, heated front seats, remote engine start, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and heated outside mirrors.
For 2009, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid boasts standard four-wheel ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, dual front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, front fog/driving lights, and SYNC-activated Airbag Deployment Notification and Vehicle Collision Notification. In addition, stability control is now standard, while a remote anti-theft alarm is also available. Additionally, a high stance gives the ’09 Mariner excellent all-around visibility.
For 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the Mariner Hybrid five stars for front and side impact protection, five stars for rear-seat side impact protection, but only three stars for rollover protection in both the FWD and AWD versions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gives its highest rating of Good for the Mariner’s front and side passenger protection attributes, but its lowest rating of Poor for roof strength.
What Owners Think
Though generally in agreement that the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid meets or exceeds expectations, owners do have a few issues with this compact sport ute. Foremost is the low-end choice of cabin materials and a disconcerting lack of interior workmanship, with the needlessly complicated and protruding second-row folding seatbacks, and the resultant difficulty of cargo loading and storage, coming in a close second. Though considered generous by most reviewers, cabin storage has been disparaged by a number of owners, and a touchy gas pedal has some owners frustrated when trying to drive in electric mode only. As well, a hefty base price does little to endear these foibles to a number of owners.
On the plus side, owners are, of course, pleased by the ’09 Mariner Hybrid’s superb mileage figures, rugged good looks, surprising ride comfort and agility, and by the newly standard, always well-received SYNC audio/communications interface system. Decent performance, a reasonably noise-free cabin, and an abundance of standard goodies and gizmos keep an overwhelming majority of owners satisfied with this eco-friendly family hauler.
by Eric Tallberg
Talk about the 2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
Looking for a Used Mariner Hybrid in your area?CarGurus has 104 nationwide Mariner Hybrid listings starting at $5,995.