The Ford Fusion proves you don't need glamor or lots of horsepower to get recognition. This year, the rather pedestrian midsize sedan won top honors from Motor Trend as Car of the Year after an overhaul of the 2010 models. Among them is the fuel-efficient Fusion Hybrid.
Appearance: The design is more streamlined compared to its predecessors but not quite as elegant when compared with some of the newer cars in the very competitive midsize class. The most noticeable change for 2010 is up front, where a three-bar chrome grille, headlamps and fog lights are integrated into the design to give the Fusion a more commanding look. In the rear, the taillight lenses have a honeycomb pattern.
Performance:The Fusion lineup includes a hybrid, which is the model we drove. It has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and, according to Ford, under certain driving conditions, can run on battery power up to 47 mph before the gas motor kicks in to help. Combined with the continuously variable transmission, the car's acceleration is smooth, and the switch between modes is seamless. The two motors have a combined 191 horsepower. As with most hybrids, regenerative braking helps to charge the battery.
Interior: Aside from the dash and hybrid display, there's nothing flashy. There are just two cup holders, and Peter found our tester's controls and knobs somewhat dated-looking. The heated leather front seats are comfortable and plush, but Lyra found the headrests uncomfortable because they're angled forward too much. The ambient lighting gives you seven color choices. The trunk is smaller than the regular Fusion because of the battery pack behind the rear seats. The dual-LCD Smart Gauge with Eco Guide driver information system is vivid and easy to read - even in sunlight, but Lyra found it too bright for night driving. The displays offer detailed fuel economy information and even help drivers maximize mpg with four levels of information. The best part: The "Efficiency Leaves," a fun-to-watch (please keep your eye on the road) graphic that lets you "earn" leaves the more economical your driving. Peter thinks it's the best display he has seen in any hybrid. We both liked the Blind Spot Information System, which alerts you to cars in the next lane and is one of our favorite features on any car.
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Our 3 favorites
Peter Couture: 50, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with a teenager and a middle-schooler.
Gas cap: There is none. It's Ford's capless filler.
Hybrid display: It will make you want to become a hyper-miler.
Midsize might: You don't have to settle for a compact.
Lyra Solochek: 44, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with a 6-year-old and a teenager.
Storage: There is a top-of-the-dash bin, a pullout storage tray and a two-tier center bin.
Safety alerts: There are blind-spot and cross-traffic warnings.
Go green: Try to "grow" leaves for more efficient driving.
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2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Price: $27,270, $31,949 as tested
Powertrain: 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder with electronic continuously variable transmission, regenerative braking, FWD
Horsepower: 191 combined
Dimensions in inches: Wheelbase, 107.4Length, 190.6Width, 72.2
Fuel economy: 41 miles per gallon city, 36 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
Safety features: Air bags and curtains, ABS, electronic stability control, traction control, postcrash alert.
Nonhybrid trim levels: I-4S ($19,695),I-4 SE ($21,225),V-6 SE ($23,715), I-4 SEL ($24,655), V-6 SEL ($26,265), Sport ($26,505)
Options worth considering: Navigation, Blind Spot Information System, moonroof, heated leather front seats, Sony sound system, rearview camera.
The bottom line: As with all hybrids, you'll pay a sticker-price premium for the technology, but the Fusion seems worth it to us commuters. The Fusion may be an overlooked player in the midsize segment, but it shouldn't be.