Consumer Reports rates top 2 hybrid cars

LOS ANGELES The Toyota Prius dominates the market for hybrid cars, and for the last eight years has been Consumer Reports' top-pick "green" car.

Now there's a redesigned Prius, as well as another promising new hybrid, the Ford Fusion.

Consumer Reports and Eyewitness News just tested both cars, and it looks like the Fusion may give the Prius a run for the money. We found that both cars did very well, although for varying reasons.

The Prius hybrid was first sold in America in 2001. Three years later, Toyota introduced the second-generation Prius. And now, for 2010, the Prius has once again been redesigned.

Steve Bennett is one of more than 700,000 Americans who has purchased a Prius.

"When we decided we wanted to get a hybrid, or at least seriously consider it, the word Prius came to mind. It was the one we were most familiar with," said Bennett.

Consumer Reports just tested the 2010 Prius. Toyota's made some changes with this third generation.

"It's still the most fuel-efficient car you can buy, getting 44 miles per gallon overall, but it's tuned a bit differently. City mileage isn't as good but highway mileage is better," said Jon Linkov, a Consumer Reports tester.

The Prius now gets 32 miles per gallon in the city and 55 miles per gallon on the highway.

But wait, there's a new "green" on the scene, and it's the hybrid Ford Fusion. While impressive, the Fusion's mileage isn't as high: it gets 25 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway. Also, the Ford Fusion hybrid is more expensive, with a base price of more than $27,000, while the base price for the Toyota Prius is as low as $22,000.

So what does the hybrid Fusion give you for the money?

"It handles better, it's more comfortable, and the Fusion is actually enjoyable to drive. That's something you don't expect with a hybrid," said Linkov.

Bottom line is, Consumer Reports says both the new Toyota Prius and the Ford Fusion are good choices if you want a hybrid for your next car.

The Toyota Prius consistently has had excellent reliability, and so have other front-wheel-drive versions of the Ford Fusion. So Consumer Reports expects that both these hybrids will continue to have very good reliability.

In addition, Motor Trend Magazine announced Tuesday that the Ford Fusion is its 2010 car of the year.

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