2009 Mercury Mariner Hybrid 4WD

Phil makes a good point; a hybrid drivetrain (and the efficiency mindset that goes with it) doesn't really mesh with the heavy, impractical, inefficient-by-nature SUV, no matter how small. As such, I can't help wondering just how much better the Mariner's fuel economy would be if it were a tad smaller, a tad lighter, and less of a brick in the wind tunnel. It just seems too much like a stopgap, as if we're kidding ourselves as to what we really ought to be driving. I feel wasteful, no matter how much less gas I'm using.

Still, the Mariner Hybrid is a relatively capable example of both the small SUV and the hybrid species, no matter how incongruous the pairing may seem. The chassis refresh has done good things for the Mariner's road manners, and it no longer seems like the porpoising, fumbly vehicle it once was. It's no sports car - or a Toyota Prius, for that matter - and the hybrid side of its personality still seems like a little bit of an afterthought (I drove with the lightest of all possible feet, and I rarely got the car to go full electric, despite not using any accessories or climate control), but it does its job well enough. Happily, the harsh interior plastics are finally gone.

Would I recommend buying one? Yes, but not until after someone had given me a couple of very good reasons as to why they needed an SUV rather than a car.

Sam Smith, Associate Editor

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