Ford's Response to Prius and Volt

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I recently got a chance to drive the hybrid gasoline-electric versions of Ford Motors' ( F) two new cars, the C-Max and the Fusion.

A few short months from now, these two cars will be followed by variants that incorporate larger batteries and a wall plug. More about those versions later in this article.

The Ford Fusion hybrid competes squarely with Toyota's ( TM) Camry hybrid.

Everyone can see that the Fusion beats the Camry's fuel economy rating 47 miles per gallon to 41, but what about the rest of the car?

Most people will agree the Ford looks a lot better on the outside, and I found the Ford to have the edge on the inside as well, although perhaps to a lesser degree.

Driving the cars, I found the Ford is at least as powerful and that the gasoline-electric-gasoline transitions are even smoother than the already smooth Toyota. Both cars perform very well overall, but it's hard not to draw the conclusion that Ford has out-engineered the new Fusion in comparison to Toyota's already very excellent Camry hybrid.

I also drove the Ford C-Max hybrid, which shares the identical drivetrain with the Fusion hybrid. The C-Max is basically a short and slightly tall station wagon, which competes with the regular and "V" (station wagon) versions of the Toyota Prius.

Most people would agree the Ford C-Max looks better than any of the Prius models. It doesn't look as stunning as the Fusion, perhaps, but I found it to be better than the Prius for sure.

In terms of the interior, and the dashboard in particular, the C-Max adopts Ford's new nearly universal corporate ID, and is therefore a lot more conservative than the regular Prius and the "V" station wagon.

Which one is better? It's a matter of taste here. A technology fan such as me would normally prefer the Prius, but in this case I think I would tip in favor of the Ford C-Max, because it is so relatively uncomplicated.

In terms of interior space, the Ford C-Max sits somewhere in between the regular Prius and the "V" station wagon. The Prius V clearly has more luggage space, and it also has an adjustable rear seat for the ultimate in small-car rear-seat comfort. However, the C-Max compares favorably both in terms of size and comfort to the regular Prius.

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