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2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid

by Martha Hindes

2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid
2007 Mercury Mariner Hybrid Interior

Anyone unfamiliar with hybrid vehicles might be a bit confused about Mercury Mariner's fuel economy numbers. This compact sport utility vehicle shows better mileage for city driving than on the highway. The 32 city/29 highway EPA numbers for the Mariner hybrid aren't a misprint. Some hybrid vehicles shine in slower, stop-and-go driving than they do at a flat out run.

The award winning Mariner, one of an elite number of SUVs sold in the U.S. to use a variation of hybrid technology, follows in the treadmarks of its higher volume, more populist Ford Escape cousin. Unlike some of its Japanese competitors that first rolled out small autos to test the hybrid market, Ford chose the recently maligned sport utility as an attention grabber. It took guts to start with one of the least aerodynamic vehicles, designed more for clamboring over berms or hauling stuff than for hauling at speed to redline territory. The attention won by the hybrid edition helped in a transition from green foe to friend.

Mariner is a "full," not one of the "mild" hybrids that use partial hybrid technology. It gains electricity from regenerative braking and can cruise silently on electric power up to 25 miles per hour before the 2.3-liter gas-powered four kicks in. Outside, small earth friendly badges and a small cooling vent signal its nature. Inside, gauges keep track of recharging.

For 2007, its second year, the five seater Mariner hybrid gets optional side curtain airbags, added interior comfort, safety and convenience features plus two new exterior clearcoat metallics: Tungsten Gray and Light Sage.

Automatic transmission, intelligent four-wheel-drive and nimble driving characteristics are among standard goodies included in the $28,615 base priced model (including destination fee). Upgrades include leather trim, tire pressure monitor and Sappele wood interior touches.

Hybrids generally have a trade-off in purchase price compared with projected long term fuel savings, although federal gas credits are making it less an issue. But, in our opinion, having a sport utility with a conscience would have to be a moral morale-booster even on its own.