Well, yesterday the quiet debate blew wide open. On the front page of Yahoo Autos, a review-of-reviews concludes the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid is a better all-around car than either the 2009 Toyota Prius or the 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid.
The piece from US News actually cites two road tests, one by USA Today and one from Car and Driver magazine. Its summary: "A new entrant in the contest ... may have knocked the Toyotas from their lofty perch." Online commentary exploded, with Ford partisans cheering on the hometown hero while Prius fans argued right back.
2009 Toyota Prius
The national newspaper gave props to the Fusion Hybrid for much better driving feel, allied to the superb smoothness and integration of its hybrid system. The buff book tested the Ford against the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, and (hard-to-find) Nissan Altima Hybrid, and said pretty much the same thing. Then US News itself weighed in to close the deal, lauding the Ford's cornering ability, integrated Sync system, and optional luxurious leather interior.
BUT ... and it's a big but ... none of the tests put the Fusion Hybrid head-to-head with the upcoming 2010 Toyota Prius, which has been completely redesigned. That car offers more luxury, more space, several industry-first features, even a solar moonroof with photovoltaic cells to power a ventilation fan that pulls hot air out of the car while it's parked.
Oh, and the 2010 Prius comes in at a combined 50 miles per gallon (against the Ford's 41 city/36 highway). On the other hand, the LA Times got 52 mpg in mixed city/highway use during a December test drive of the Fusion Hybrid.
But we think the Toyota Prius appeals to a different buyer than the Fusion Hybrid will. For one thing, the Prius is a five-door hatchback, while the Fusion is a four-door sedan that goes head-to-head with the similar Toyota Camry Hybrid (which the Ford handily beats in mileage). Just to confuse any "buy American" sentiments, the Camry Hybrid is actually built in Kentucky, whereas the Fusion is assembled in Mexico.
Contrasting the Prius to the Fusion Hybrid, there's also the question of appearance. Online commenters lauded the Ford for "not looking like a hybrid." Obviously, if you buy a Prius, you're pretty comfortable with the world knowing that you're driving a hybrid.
In the end, we conclude, the more high-mileage hybrids out there, the broader the range of choices for saving gasoline. And, hey, how can that be bad? But we really want to see that 2010-Prius-versus-2010-Fusion-Hybrid road test ... bring it on!
2010 Toyota Prius
[SOURCE: US News & World Report via Yahoo Autos]