Mercury Tracer

The 1970s was arguably the Mercury line’s most challenging decade since the automotive manufacturer rolled its first car off the Ford assembly line back in 1939. Coming off some of its less-than-stellar models, including the Bobcat, Monarch, Zephyr, and Colony Park, Mercury sought to reinvent itself in the mid-to-late 1980s with the Marquis, Sable, Merkur, and the compact, four-door Tracer.

More on the Mercury Tracer
Mercury Tracer Origins

Introduced in 1988, the Mercury Tracer was the Ford replacement model for the European-only Mercury Lynx. From 1991 until its eventual demise in 1998, the Mercury Tracer would be the official version of the Ford Escort, one of the auto maker’s most successful lines of the 1980s.

Despite the Tracer’s low sticker price, engine reliability, and above-average crash scores; the vehicle was pulled from production when the 1999 models entered the marketplace. By 2011, less than 100,000 Mercury vehicles were sold worldwide, which turned out to be a mere one percent of Ford’s 16 percent market share. Ford soon cancelled the Mercury lines permanently.

About the Mercury Tracer

Known mostly for its excellent fuel economy ratings and high consumer affordability, the Mercury Tracer maintained an enviable EPA gas mileage mark throughout its decade-long run that hovered in the high-20s for city driving and the high-30s on the highway.

The first generation Mercury Tracer was available in two styles: a four-door notchback, which is a body style term that refers to the distinct angle of the rear window in relation to the vehicle's more horizontal roofline and its back end, and a four-door wagon. Power for these base model Tracers came from an 88-hp, 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine. Standard on the Highline LTS was a dual-overhead-cam, 1.8-liter, 127-hp, four-cylinder engine. Both car models came matched with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

At first, the Tracer was simply a revamped version of the Ford Laser, which was already being sold overseas in Australia and Asia, but within three years, the Tracer would be paired with the more successful Ford Escort body platform, earning that year’s Mercury model a place on Car And Driver’s distinguished Ten Best list for 1991.

Mercury Tracer Features

With an original list price that never went over $15,000, the 1999 Mercury Tracer gave its potential buyers a few added features, not that the low cost and ideal fuel economy wasn’t already enough to draw customers into the dealership.

Mercury introduced a new LS sport wagon model in 1999 as a way to entice its market appeal to younger drivers. The LS sport wagon model came standard with leather seating surfaces and 15-inch wheels. Other changes for that year included a standard interior trunk release on all sedan trims, power windows and door locks, panic alarm, a remote keyless entry feature, and an AM/FM cassette player as well. The LS model could be further optioned with alloy wheels and a tachometer.

New exterior colors for 1999 include graphite blue, black, oxford white, and tropic green, with slate blue replacing willow green for the interior trim color scheme option.

Both the LS sport and the baseline Tracer, sometimes referred to as the GS, came equipped with identical four-cylinder, two-liter Compound Valve Angle Hemispherical Combustion Chamber (CVH) engine that delivered 110-hp and 125 lb-ft of torque.

Mercury Tracer Evolution

Throughout its three generations, the Mercury Tracer essentially remained unchanged between 1988 and 1998, the year Ford discontinued the Mercury line.

First generation Tracers, assembled in Mexico and Japan, came in three separate trims: three- and five-door hatchbacks, and five-door station wagons. Powered by a Mazda 323 1.6-liter, B6 14 engine that generated 82-hp and 92 lb-ft of torque for the baseline model, the subcompact Mercury Tracer GT had a slightly stronger powertrain that upped the horsepower by 20.

The second generation Mercury Tracer received its most substantial model makeover. With improved passenger space, a great price, and a twin-cam, four-cylinder, 16-valve, 1.8-liter engine good for 127-hp, the front-wheel-drive five-passenger Mercury would be the jewel in the crown for the Tracer line.

For its final generation, the Tracer remained virtually the same as the previous build, save for a few exterior tweaks here and there: side view mirrors, fascia, and redesigned tail lights and reflectors.

Select a Mercury Tracer Year

1999 Mercury Tracer

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1999 Mercury Tracer is primarily designed to be as low priced as possible, while still offering moderate performance and comfort.

1998 Mercury Tracer

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1998 Mercury Tracer is a compact car manufactured by Ford Motor Company and sold under its Mercury division.

1997 Mercury Tracer

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1997 Mercury Tracer aims to keep as low of a price as possible, while still offering moderate performance and comfort.

1996 Mercury Tracer

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The 1996 Mercury Tracer is a compact car manufactured by Ford Motor Company and launched in 1988.

1995 Mercury Tracer

Midsize, Sedan, Wagon

The Mercury Tracer is a compact four-door car, based on the Mazda 323 platform, which was introduced in 1987 and produced through the 1999 model year.