Safety is an important criterion, not only for our Car of the Year judges, but for anyone. The Fusion excels here too. Besides standard four-wheel disc brakes, ABS, dual-stage airbags, and a variety of other active and passive safety measures, you can order a rearview camera system, as well as a Blind Spot Information System that warns you when another vehicle is hiding in your blind spot.

Downsides? Just a few. Our fuel testing includes photo shoots and other activities that tend to reduce real-world mileage, but the Hybrid model fell somewhat short of its EPA ratings. The manual gate on the Sport's SelectShift transmission is located on the far side of the shifter, not near the driver as it should be. The lower rear-seat cushion lacks support, and the front-center armrest is uncomfortably low. The 3.0-liter V-6 has 23 less horsepower than the Sport's 3.5-liter engine, but doesn't earn any better EPA mileage ratings (although it is E85-compatible). Yet these are small points that do little to diminish the Fusion's overall goodness.

In these tough times, value is high on everyone's list. It's here that the Fusion delivers great pop for the penny. The four-cylinder Fusion S starts at just $20,345 and is well equipped at that. Depending on which of the other four models you choose, and optional equipment levels, you'll find many of them will price out in the mid- to high-$20,000 range. Our fully loaded Sport AWD, at $33,525 as tested, represents the high range of the Fusion lineup.

St. Antoine summarizes: The Ford Fusion now represents "a sensational lineup of quality powertrains (for which Ford deserves huge applause), smartly tuned chassis, functional and attractive cabins, and outstanding value." The Fusion has matured into a fully competitive roster of midsize sedans, able to compete with the best in the marketplace, including sales juggernauts such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. In all, it's a worthy winner of Motor Trend's 2010 Car of the Year competition.