Ford Take Top Car, Truck Honors at Detroit Auto Show

January 14, 2010

For only the third time in the last 17 years, one automaker has dominated the awards at Detroit's North American International Auto Show. This year's is the 21st exhibition.

Ford's Fusion Hybrid was named the 2010 North American Car of the Year and the Transit Connect was named the 2010 North American Truck of the Year. The judging was done by a panel of 49 automotive journalists.

The two other automakers to win both awards were Honda in 2006 and General Motors in 2007.

According to the auto show, these awards are rather unique as they are not the product of a single media outlet. Instead, automotive journalists from the United States and Canada voted for the top vehicles. The journalists represent all forms of media newspapers, magazines, radio, television and websites. This is a good cross-section of the automotive journalistic world.

The winning vehicles represent innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar, according to the panel of journalists.

This year's winning car was a walkaway winner over the two runners-up. The Fusion received 241 votes, while the Volkswagen Golf/TDI/GTI received 146 and the Buick LaCrosse was third with 103.

The same is true in the truck category. Ford's Transit Connect received 213 votes while the Chevy Equinox received 183 and the Subaru Outback was a distant third with 94 votes.

Two of the jurors, Cesar Csaba and Jim Mateja, both longtime automotive journalists, gave the Fusion and Connect very high marks and were enthusiastic in their praise of the two Ford products. Their views reflected the collective views of the jurors who named the Fusion and Transit Connect the winners.

Indeed, Ford took quite a chance this year with its Fusion. Normally, a vehicle's life cycle is about six years between major restylings. Instead, Ford chose to radically restyle the Fusion into what amounted to a new vehicle in three years, rather than in six so that about the only similarity between the new Fusion and the old style from the outside, at least is the three-bar grille that debuted on the 2007 Fusion.

The 2010 Fusion's line changed from reasonable lines that were aerodynamic but that also just lacked a certain amount of pizazz. The older Fusion's front section was broader and squarer than the new Fusion and it sloped up toward a raked windshield and a pleasantly rounded body. The rear finished smartly in two bright taillight assemblies and a neatly designed trunk.

The interior was nice but plain. In other words, the older Fusion was a nice vehicle but it was nothing to rave about. The new version is as different as day is from night.

Instead of just nicely sloping away from the broad front, the front cross-section has been depended and rounded and literally sweeps from a narrower, more exciting low cowl through the nicely integrated light cluster and front fenders into a sloping hood which picks up the line of the front end and carries it to the A-pillar that seems slightly more sloped than the older versions windshield. The lines then sweep through a more rounded body and roofline to a sleek rear window and on out through two nicely integrated rear quarter panels and a nicely finished trunkline. The wheels are also larger brushed aluminum that worked nicely with the restyled lines of the Fusion.

The interior was reworked so that the instrument cluster is more integrated with the front panel and the center console lines sweep into a much more organic whole. Access to all the key controls and gauges is easier for the driver. The seats are also comfortable and supportive and keep you in place when you decide to throw the Fusion around a bit. Indeed, while the Fusion Hybrid is no muscle car, it does perform pretty well for a hybrid and is, altogether a very nice rework and a bold thing for the automaker to do.

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