The 2010 Ford Fusion was named Motor Trend magazine's car of the year Tuesday, beating out the Toyota Prius, BMW 7-Series, Chevrolet Camaro and others in the closely watched competition.
It was yet another accolade for Ford Motor Co.'s midsize sedan, which got high reliability scores in the most recent rankings from Consumer Reports and was the top-selling car made by a Detroit automaker through October. U.S. Fusion sales were up 15 percent in the first 10 months of this year, to 148,045, despite a 25 percent drop in overall car sales.
Still, the mid-size Fusion continues to lag behind the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord _ perennial leaders in the competitive U.S. mid-size market.
Motor Trend said the Fusion can compete with the Camry and Accord in performance, comfort and fuel efficiency. It praised Ford for offering several versions of the Fusion, including a fuel-efficient gas-electric hybrid and a sporty version with a V-6 engine.
"Ford has proven its resilience in these tough times by delivering to market a car with broad appeal to a broad range of consumers," Motor Trend Editor in Chief Angus MacKenzie said in a statement.
Motor Trend considered 23 new or significantly refreshed vehicles. The Fusion, introduced in the 2006 model year, was redesigned for 2010 with a new lineup of engines and transmissions, new exterior and interior and new options, including the Sync entertainment system and a blind-spot warning system.
Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said the 2010 Fusion has a sportier look and better fuel economy than previous versions. It gets 34 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with a four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The gas-electric hybrid version gets 41 miles per gallon in the city.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, Buick LaCrosse, Lexus HS 250h and Hyundai Genesis coupe were among the cars Motor Trend considered. The Fusion also beat out other Ford models, including the Mustang sports car and Taurus sedan.
It was the first time a Ford car had won since 2003, when the Ford Thunderbird got the honor, Kuzak said. Ford's 2009 F-150 was Motor Trend's truck of the year last fall. The Nissan GT-R was the car of the year for 2009.
"It reinforces the progress that we've made, particularly on the car side of the business," Kuzak told The Associated Press. "When people think of trucks they think Ford, but we needed to put Ford cars and crossovers in people's consideration."
Motor Trend conducts road tests on each vehicle and judges vehicles in six categories: design advancement, engineering excellence, intended function, efficiency, safety and value.