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2010 Ford Escape Hybrid
Sticker price: $29,645 - $33,725
Mileage: 31 hwy, 34 city

Electronic stability control is a requirement for the Insurance Institute's Top Safety Pick Award. This technology, which helps drivers to maintain control in abrupt maneuvers, could reduce the risk of a fatal crash by as much as a third, according to the Institute's research. Its been called the most important safety improvement in cars since the seat belt.

Unfortunately, it wasn't available on the Escape Hybrid until the new 2010 model year. (It was available on non-hybrid versions, though.) With it, the Escape Hybrid now offers excellent crash safety as well as accident avoidance.

The Escape Hybrid is also a very functional mini-SUV that's enjoyable to drive and quite dependable. It's continuously variable transmission, while very efficient, does tend to play up the raspy sound of the 4-cylinder engine when accelerating hard or going uphill. Fortunately, the Escape Hybrid can run on electric power much of the time in city driving.

All of this, including the Top Safety Pick Award, also applies to the Escape Hybrid's close cousins, the Mercury Mariner Hybrid and the Mazda Tribute Hybrid.

NEXT: Honda Civic Hybrid

Last updated September 18 2009: 3:05 PM ET
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