2007 Ford Escape Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (2.3L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
I've owned Toyotas for 20 years and love my Prius, but Toyota blew it with the Highlander Hybrid. It's too big and the mileage just isn't good enough. In college I swore I'd never own another American car, but the Escape Hybrid turned me around. It's brilliant. With the 4WD it goes anywhere I want including rough dirt roads and deep snow.... and it gets 50% better mileage than my old 4- runner. I've tried to break it. I took it fast and fully loaded up a steep mountain highway to see if I could run the battery down.... no way. It just works. I get an honest 28-30 MPG average with the 4WD. Avoid the factory Nav system. Buy a Garmin instead.
The price! The sealed battery pack. I can throw scuba gear dripping salt water in the back, and not worry about trashing the battery. Leather seats are nice and have held up well. (The cloth seats looked cheap to me)
Rethink interior details. Little things like adding a sunglass holder make a big difference. A bigger gas tank would be nice. (The mileage goes down on dirt roads. That's not the car's fault, but you gotta plan for it.) Fire Kermit. It's not just for tree huggers... it's a very practical car.