2005 Ford Escape Hybrid AWD 4dr SUV (2.3L 4cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Having used an Explorer 4x4 for over 10 years, I am really happy with this vehicle, especially in rough road/offroad situations. The Escape is far less agricultural than the Explorer, better handling, and that gas mileage (I'm getting about 28.5) means I'm saving over 2 gallons per hundred miles. The payback is not really there yet, but if gas stays above $2.20 then it's worthwhile. If you're a technophobe I'd stay away until it is more proven.
Smoothness of CVT, simple dash, easy access to underhood maintainence items. handling compared to Explorer.
Better seats for large person Option to hold electric traction on. Reclining rear seat option. CANBus port for 3rd party toys.