The suburb is located on flat land at the northeastern shore of the Manukau Harbour, to the northwest of the centre of Manukau city and 15 kilometres south of Auckland city centre. It is an important transportation node for the city, being on one of the two State Highways running south from Auckland (State Highway 20), and also being the location for Auckland International Airport, which lies close to the harbour's edge to the south of the suburb.
It has four major sub-areas; Mangere Bridge, Mangere Central and Mangere East, with the fourth, Favona in the east, sometimes counted as part of Māngere as well.
The suburb is named after Mangere Mountain, one of Auckland's largest volcanic cones. The title comes from the Māori words 'hau māngere' meaning lazy winds, after the shelter the mountain provides from the prevailing westerly wind.