The Chevrolet Malibu hybrid was the "mild hybrid" of the bunch. While its appearance has been praised by some, its engineering earned few accolades from the C&D crew. They found the start/stop system rudely abrupt and the electric assist seemed to surge off and on with a mind of its own while under way. It not only came last in mileage (19.8 mpg city! Dude!), it also came last in acceleration. The can of tire inflation product in lieu of an actual spare only adds insult to injury. Let's hope GM puts more effort into the Volt. A lot more. Hit the jump to see how the others contestants fared.
[Source: Car and Driver]
The Nissan Altima hybrid borrows its hybrid tech from Toyota but bolts it up to their own engine. The result is a car that is equal to the Camry hybrid in fuel economy but able to turn in a top-of-the-heap 7.1 second 0 to 60 time. While it can produce some great numbers, the Nissan sadly lacks somewhat in refinement. There's a "loud whine" when you start moving in electric mode and when the motor kicks in with a jolt, as it is wont to do at the slightest provocation, it's "relatively loud and rough." Despite the noise and a lack of polish it was apparently fun to drive. We hope Nissan can iron out the few bugs once they start using a homegrown hybrid system.
The Toyota Camry hybrid benefits greatly from the years its maker has had to refine the complexities involved in making the hybrid system work smoothly. In fact, "smooth" seems to be the operative adjective when it comes to the Camry. It does the whole regenerative braking, engine engaging/disengaging thing with nary a whisper or complaint. It packs more passing power than the non-hybrid version while keeping the space and comfort that has found it so many fans over the years. The only complaint the reviewers could really make was it lack of "verve."
It was the 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid that really won the hearts of the Car and Driver folks, though. They said it has all the "slickness" of the Camry hybrid but is fun to drive and gets better mileage. They got 34 mpg from it over 300 miles of various types of driving (we managed 43.1 mpg) which was 2 mpg better than the Toyota. They raved about the instrument cluster which can be set to display practically nothing but the speedo or changed to the "expert screen" that shows things like battery charge and energy usage to involve the driver in the game of squeezing maximum distance out of the minimum amount of gas. With its updated styling and competitive price Ford may have a winner here that keeps it from ever needing to ask for any bailout bucks.