The new Ford Fusion Hybrid is now Consumer Reports' top-rated domestic sedan. Essentially tied with the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the Fusion Hybrid achieved an excellent 34 mpg overall in CR's fuel economy test and offers sportier driving.

The newly freshened four- and six-cylinder versions of the Ford Fusion family sedan are much improved and now compete with the best models in the category. All three versions were quieter and more refined than previous versions.

Consumer Reports also tested four- and six-cylinder versions of the freshened Kia Optima in its tests of family sedans in the September issue.

"The new Fusions are very impressive especially the Hybrid," said David Champion, senior director of CR's Auto Test Center. "The Hybrid successfully blends excellent fuel economy with driving pleasure, something all other hybrids have failed to do. All have a comfortable ride, agile handling, and the innovative display on the Hybrid encourages frugal driving."

Prices ranged from $20,365 for the four-cylinder Optima to $32,360 for the Fusion Hybrid, which included a $5,000 package that added navigation, leather seats, a moonroof and other options. All of the cars in this group are recommended based on test scores and the cars' previous reliability history. CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR's Annual Car Reliability Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

The Audi Q5 was top in CR's test of compact luxury SUVs, also in the September issue. A combination of performance, comfort and refinement has made the Q5 one of the top-rated models in the growing compact luxury SUV market. (Note: The Audi Q5 was one of the top-rated cars ... Subaru Forester 2.5XT Limited - $28,860 is listed in first place.)

Full tests and ratings of family sedans and compact luxury SUVs appear in the August issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale Aug. 4. The reports are also available to subscribers of

Family Sedans

The Ford Fusion Hybrid's ride is supple and controlled, with good isolation from bumps. The Fusion Hybrid, ($32,360 Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price as tested, base hybrids start at about $28,000), is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with electric motor that combine for 191 hp and delivers 34 mpg overall and can be propelled up to 47 mpg on electricity alone in CR's own fuel economy tests. The CVT transmission performs smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well-finished. Due to the battery pack, the Hybrid's trunk is smaller than the non-Hybrid's and its seats do not fold down.

The Kia Optima is a sensible, well-rounded sedan that's competitively priced. It might not be an exciting drive, but it's roomy, rides well, and handles securely. The Optima LX, ($20,365, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 175-hp, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that accelerates smoothly and gets 25 mpg overall. The five-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The Optima has a nicely-finished interior. Cargo space is Excellent.

Compact luxury SUVs

The Audi Q5 is quiet, agile, and fun to drive. It has a composed ride and a meticulously finished interior. The Q5 Premium Plus, ($42,800, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 270-hp, 3.2-liter V6 engine that delivers very strong and smooth performance and gets 19 mpg overall on premium fuel in CR's own fuel economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts responsively and very smoothly. Braking is Excellent. The Q5 has a well-finished and luxurious interior with wood and chrome detailing, lined storage compartments, and padded trim. Trade-offs include confusing controls and modest rear-seat and cargo space.

The Volvo XC60 is quick and civilized, and it benefits from Volvo's safety advances. Handling is sound, but the car is not as sporty to drive as its competitors. The XC60 T6 AWD, ($42,245, MSRP as tested), is powered by a turbocharged 281-hp, 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that is lively but gets an unimpressive 17 mpg overall. Braking is Very Good. Many interior panels are soft to the touch, and the satin-look metal trim is well done. Cabin storage is moderate.

The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 certainly has its virtues, but it trails most of the competition in this class. It's quick, quiet, agile and nimble in routine driving. The GLK350, (41,760, MSRP as tested), is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that delivers excellent performance but gets only 18 mpg overall on premium fuel. The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is Very Good. The interior is nicely finished, with padded surfaces and imitation leather covering the seats. Cabin space is similar to others in this group.