2010 Automobile All-Stars

Ford Fusion Hybrid | Exceptionally ordinary.
By Robert Cumberford

It's just a car, an ordinary everyday family driver, nothing special. Except that it is special, very special indeed. Quietly, Ford has put a car on the road that essentially enlists Toyota hybrid technology but uses it more cleverly than the originating company did, giving us a sedan that burns even less fuel than the Camry Hybrid over an identical route. And it does it without obliging drivers, whether they want to or not, to make a statement with special aerodynamic styling like Toyota's Prius or Honda's Insight.

With its particularly well-programmed continuously variable transmission, the Fusion steps off smartly. It is definitely not a performance machine, but neither does it feel hobbled or inadequate for daily driving, which is quite impressive when you consider its 3700-pound-plus weight. If you are gentle with your right foot, the car moves off silently, without engaging the 156-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. When the engine does start, the transition from all-electric to mixed drive is as smooth and unobtrusive as anyone could wish.

The Fusion's party trick is LCD color screens on both sides of the speedometer. With four modes of data presentation selectable by the driver, these reveal all you want to know about how you're driving and how much fuel you're using as you go. If you are "good," i.e., don't waste fuel, a green vine graphic begins to grow at the extreme right side of the cluster.

Perhaps the best part of the Fusion Hybrid experience is that there isn't much of anything, apart from those screens, to tell you that you're in anything other than a nice, comfortable, regular car that anyone can drive without the least reflection. Its very ordinariness is what makes it an Automobile Magazine All-Star.

Base price: $28,350
Engine: 2.5L I-4 electric/hybrid, 191 hp (combined)
Battery: Nickel-metal hydride, 1.4 kWh

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