Test Drive: 2010 Ford Fusion is best gas-electric hybrid yet

The other great thing about the Fusion hybrid is information delivery. You can pick how much hybrid-related data you want on the instrument panel. Regardless of how much you ask for, Fusion delivers it informatively, no scolding or overwhelming you, as other hybrids do.

Yes, there's the "atta way" pictograph of leaves growing into a wreath if you drive just so. But you can shut that off.

• Mileage. Mediocre for a hybrid in the test, but the mileage numbers were continuing to climb even as the test ended. And the car registered 40-plus miles per gallon in a couple of short trips that usually return crummy, not outstanding, mileage.

Best guess: Moderate, but not mileage-obsessed, drivers could get 35 mpg or so in suburban settings. Not the 41 government rating, but impressive for a 3,720-pound midsizer.

Fusion's city mileage rating is better than Camry's 33 mpg, but does it get more in real life? Probably depends more on the driver than the car.

Even if the Fusion gets lower real-world results, it's still much smoother and a whole lot nicer to drive.

More about the 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid

What? Gasoline-electric hybrid version of midsize, four-door, front-drive Fusion that's been updated for 2010 model year. Ford's Mercury brand sells the nearly identical Milan.

When? Hybrid and gasoline versions begin arriving at dealers in March.

Where? Made at Hermosillo, Mexico.

Why? Pirate some sales from Toyota's Camry hybrid. And burnish Ford's "green" credentials.

How much? Starts at $27,995 ($3,295 more than most similar gas model). With all factory options: $32,435. Midlevel test car: $29,590 (no leather or navigation system). Gasoline model starts at $19,995.

How many? About 20,000 a year, including a few Milans; more if Mikey likes it.

How powerful? Modestly — punch not being the key issue in a hybrid: 2.5-liter gasoline engine rated 156 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 136 pounds-feet of torque at 2,250 rpm. Electric motor: 106 hp at 6,500 rpm, 166 lbs.-ft. the moment it begins to turn (an appealing attribute of electric motors). Ford says net combined hp is 191, but declines (like most hybrid makers) to specify net combined torque.

Continuously variable automatic transmission blends power from the gas, electric powerplants.

How fancy? Lots standard, including expected bags, belts, stability and traction controls and power accessories, plus the unexpected: Free six-month satellite radio service (Sirius), 110-volt outlet, six-CD stereo (instead of the typical single setup), dual-zone climate control, auto on-off headlights, auto-dimming mirror, backup alarm. In other words, you actually could abide the base Fusion hybrid.

How big? On the small end of the midsize scale. Fractionally bigger outside than Toyota Camry hybrid, slightly smaller inside, but has a bigger trunk.

Fusion hybrid is 190.6 inches long, 72.2 in. wide, 56.9 in. tall on a 107.4-in. wheelbase.

Passenger space is listed as 99.8 cubic feet, trunk as 11.8 cu. ft. Weight listed as 3,720 lbs. Turning diameter is 37.5 ft.

How thirsty? Rated 41 miles per gallon in town, 36 on the highway, 39 in combined driving.

Test car trip computer showed 27.2 mpg (but was continuing to climb when test period ended) in 300 miles of suburban driving. Registered a remarkable 41.4 mpg in one 5.1-mile suburban trip, 44 mpg in a 3.1-mile hop, driven normally, no nursing.

Tank holds 17 gallons. Regular (87 octane) gasoline is specified.

Overall: Best hybrid.

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