Read more after the jump to see our results.
During the first day of mixed highway and city driving conditions, the Mariner Hybrid delivered an average fuel economy of about 27.6 mpg, more than 10% below the EPA estimated numbers. While still offering a significant improvement over the 4cylinder and 6-cylinder Mariners, making up for the higher purchase price would take quite a long while. On the second day of the Mariner test, however, I reset my average fuel economy up to that point and decided to keep the LCD readout on the instant fuel economy readout. From day two on, I tried to adjust my driving style to improve fuel economy. Slowly but surely, the average fuel economy inched up. Restrained acceleration, sticking to the speed limit a little more closely, and keeping the speed below 20 mph or so when going from stop sign to stop sign increased the average fuel economy to 31.4 mpg over about 500 miles of driving, 300 of which were freeway miles. While adjusting your driving style is a proven way to improve fuel economy in a traditional gasoline engine, it seems to be even more important when driving a hybrid, something to keep in mind if you are in the market for a hybrid.
So how does the Mariner Hybrid stack up when compared to its competition? The only other currently available hybrid SUVs - the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX 400h - offer comparable EPA estimated fuel economy, but are priced higher and are larger. In addition, their real-world fuel economy has been reported to be more around 25 mpg, which seems to be expected since they are both heavier vehicles with larger gasoline engines and smaller battery packs. The Mariner Hybrid and its close cousin the Ford Escape Hybrid can, without hesitation, be called the most fuel efficient SUVs currently available on the market. For those consumers looking for a fuel-efficient vehicle with the space offered by a compact SUV, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid offers an excellent choice (especially if you prefer a more stylish alternative to the Ford Escape). The Mariner is lacking some features available on the competition, but that might be a sacrifice many of you are willing to make, in light of rising fuel prices. Hurry up, only 2000 will be available for 2006.