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2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid offers a great sedan with heaps of fuel efficiency

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is one of the finalists for the Internet Car of the Year, an award jury that I created. The winner will be announced during the Chicago Auto Show media days Feb. 10-11. (Go to www.internetcarandtruckoftheyear.com for complete info on the awards.) The Fusion Hybrid was also named the Examiner.com 2010 Car of the Year. It's a deserving honor (and I voted for it).

The Fusion Hybrid is a deserving contender for this award, which was voted on by 12 of the leading Internet automotive writers from across the U.S., because it is a game changer in the hybrid vehicle field. Simply put, it’s the best hybrid on the market because it’s the best sedan with a hybrid powertrain.

Let me qualify that statement somewhat. I have not driven the third-generation Toyota Prius yet. However, based on what others have written and the fact that it’s not a finalist for Internet Car of the Year, I’m still going to stand by belief.

What’s got me convinced is how effortless it is to achieve strong fuel economy while not depriving yourself of any of the pleasures of driving a first-rate sedan. (The Ford Fusion is among the best midsize sedans on the market.) My combined fuel economy was 37 miles per gallon, which is impressive because I mostly did highway driving (which does not benefit hybrid technology) and it was less than ideal weather conditions, which challenges all fuel economy and not just hybrid engines. The EPA rating for this sedan is 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

Maybe it’s not even right to compare the Fusion Hybrid to the Prius because it’s real competitor is the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Ford says its sedan is America’s most fuel-efficient midsize sedan, which puts the Prius in the compact class. Ford tops the Camry Hybrid by 8 mpg in the city and 2 mpg on the highway.

One tidbit I picked up from reading the Ford press material that could explain why I didn’t hit higher numbers is the gas engine is used to heat the interior when needed – and it was pretty cold at the beginning of December when I drove the Fusion Hybrid. If the weather had been warmer, it has an electric air-conditioning compressor to further minimize engine use.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid is powered by 2.5-liter I-4 engine (156 horsepower/136 ft.-lb. of torque) that runs the Atkinson cycle mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission or e-CVT. You never feel the transition from electric to gas power. As Ford explains, this is due to the fact that the Fusion Hybrid has intake variable cam timing (iVCT), which allows a more seamless transition from gas to electric mode and vice versa. The spark and cam timing are varied according to the engine load to optimize efficiency and emissions.

However, it’s not just fuel efficiency that won me over about the Fusion Hybrid. The Fusion shuttled me back and forth to Boston from Hartford twice and induced no driver fatigue because of its smooth, quiet ride. The eight-way power driver seat with lumbar support provided the right degree of comfort. My only quibble with the Fusion Hybrid was the optional power moonroof. If you stand more than six feet tall, it could provide for an uncomfortable driving experience.

Speaking of driving experience, the Fusion Hybrid does not disappoint in any situation. It effortlessly merges on to highways plus feels comfortable when accelerating at slower speeds under electric power for better fuel economy.

It’s also the available technology one finds inside a Fusion Hybrid that makes it appealing (and justifies a $31,940 price tag). The model loaned to me for a week by Ford came with the driver’s vision group that includes a rear view video camera that worked extremely well and blind spot information system with cross-traffic alert. The latter is a simply ingenious system that can alert you if traffic is coming while you are backing out of a parking space. People who frequent malls and other busy shopping centers must have this system.

Like any good green car, the Fusion Hybrid comes standard with ecologically friendly cloth seating. However, my review car came with cow unfriendly leather trimmed front seats that were heated. It also has a leather wrapped steering wheel.

Bottom line is you can have both great fuel efficiency and drivability in one midsize sedan. No sacrifice has to be made (except for a slightly smaller trunk) when it comes to the Ford Fusion Hybrid. You will not be disappointed driving this sedan and you will be in your own small way helping the environment.

(Questions and comments about this review and other automotive concerns can be e-mailed to usedcars.guide@about.com. All queries are answered.)

VITAL STATISTICS

  • Wheelbase: 107.4 inches
  • Length: 190.6 inches
  • Width: 72.2 inches
  • Height: 56.9 inches
  • Curb weight: 3720 lbs.
  • Engine: 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve Atkinson cycle
  • Horsepower: 156 hp @ 6000 rpm
  • Torque: 136 ft-lb @ 2250 rpm
  • EPA estimated mpg city/highway: 41/36
  • Base price: $27,920
  • As-tested price: $31,940
  • Also consider: (a comparative vehicle) Toyota Camry Hybrid, Nissan Altima Hybrid, Toyota Prius

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