One thing we here at Family Car Guide like to do every so often is to take a look at two competing models and see how they stack up against each other, using the ratings from our parent Web site, The Car Connection. This week, it's an all-American match-up, as we pit the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu mid-size sedan against one of its Detroit counterparts, the 2010 Ford Fusion.
The Fusion was refreshed for 2010, while the Malibu is getting a bit older--its redesign came in 2008. So it may seem to be an unfair comparison, but as you'll see, the contest is actually closer than you'd think.
2010 Chevrolet Malibu
The basics: Front-wheel drive mid-size sedan with four-cylinder and V-6 power.
Fuel economy: 17/26 mpg
Rating: 8.6 out of 10
The Malibu loses its hybrid model, and some folks might be put off by the four-speed automatic transmission available in some models, but there is still a lot to like about the Malibu.
On the subject of the powertrain, we write: "Performance from both engines is very smooth, while handling is well-controlled at most speeds, though push it a little and things can start to get awry. If equipped with the four-cylinder engine, the Malibu has a fuel-saving electric power steering system, but V-6 versions come with a hydraulic power steering that provides much better feedback."
We also like the inside: "Just as the exterior is attractive, so is the cabin, which is very well designed and features materials with a quality feel to them. The front seats are among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, while the back offers more legroom than most rivals."
This passage sums up our overall feelings: "Just as the exterior is attractive, so is the cabin, which is very well designed and features materials with a quality feel to them. The front seats are among the most comfortable in the mid-size sedan class, while the back offers more legroom than most rivals."
The Bottom Line? "The 2010 Chevrolet Malibu remains one of the strongest players in the mid-size sedan segments, though its rivals are certainly worth a look."
2010 Ford Fusion
The basics: Front-wheel drive mid-size sedan with four-cylinder and V-6 power. All-wheel drive and hybrid models are available.
Fuel economy: 18/41 mpg
Rating: 8.8 out of 10
We give the Fusion high marks for its styling: "The 2010 Fusion's new styling looks sharp, especially the aggressive front end that puts a new face on Ford's three-bar grille. The design requires a new hood and front fenders, and the result is as sculptural as it is contemporary. The changes at the rear are subtler and, along with updating the look, improve visibility because the third brake light is now mounted at the top of the trunk lid. The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid model will appeal to those who don't want to flaunt their sensibilities; only the Hybrid badges give you obvious visual confirmation that you're looking at the most efficient mid-size sedan on the road."
We also like the overall dynamics of the Fusion, despite some reservations about rear-seat space: "As as result, these interior changes yield a comfortable driving environment with a good seating position, improved visibility, and much less noise. The Ford Fusion's backseat still feels a bit more cramped than some other mid-size sedans, though, and the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid model lacks split-folding rear seats, which are sacrificed to accommodate the battery pack."
Finally, we give the hybrid high marks for fuel economy: "This excellent fuel economy comes from a sophisticated hybrid powertrain, hooked to a quiet 155-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that runs using the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle. The electric motor housed within the transmission unit adds 36 hp at full throttle, providing a total of 191 hp. The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid can propel itself on electric power alone for short distances and at low speeds, and a lighter, more powerful battery pack allows the gasoline engine to shut off more often."
The Bottom Line? "If you seek proof that Detroit in general, and Ford in particular, can build a comfortable, high-quality, fine-driving, and hyper-efficient sedan that is more than competitive, look to the 2010 Ford Fusion."
2010 Ford Fusion Sport
The Fusion wins by a nose. A bit surprising, because the Fusion is fresher and offers all-wheel drive and a hybrid model. That just goes to show how much better the Malibu is than the previous generation. The big question now is, will the next Malibu be able to dethrone the Fusion?