“If fuel economy is your only goal, this is the SUV to buy.” Leave it to the Mensa members in the editorial department to so brilliantly state the obvious. Unlike our seventh, eighth, and ninth place finishers, the 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid promises useful utility and fuel economy without the performance orientation (and subsequent loss of efficiency), the luxury, and the inflated cost. For just under $27,000 buyers get a front-wheel-drive SUV with 155 horsepower, 124 lb.-ft. of torque, and ratings of 36 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined. Drop another $1,600 on the four-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid and you’re looking at up to 33 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg in mixed driving. And don’t be overly concerned about the low power ratings being capable of propelling between 3,600 and 3,800 pounds of mass – this rig’s gas/electric hybrid system provides instant torque on start up, so acceleration is quite good. Limiting the Escape Hybrid to fifth place are cheap interior materials and our uncertainty about what will be done when the batteries need to be replaced or recycled. Seems that if equal efficiency and usefulness are available from a non-hybrid model, there’s no sense in creating another toxic waste issue to be dealt with ten years from now.