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2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (Ford Ford)
2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (Ford Ford)

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

The hybrid with the most bang for your buck Add to ...

If it’s bang for your buck you want in a hybrid, look no further than the 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Given the discounts Ford of Canada is offering and combine them with the refinement here in this gasoline-electric car, the MKZ Hybrid is the best dollar-for-dollar eco-car for sale today.

That, of course, may change tomorrow if Lincoln changes the deal. At this writing, Lincoln is still offering the Employee Pricing discount in Canada. That’s $3,056 off the sticker price of $42,200. Add in a factory discount of $1,376 that gets you a moon roof and voice-activated DVD navigation system for free, and then another $4,000 Delivery Allowance discount and the total comes to nearly $8,500 in potential savings.

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Be forewarned, though; the employee deal is posted on Lincoln’s website (lincolncanada.com), but the rest of these offers require a little more digging and likely some serious negotiating.

If you do score this premium mid-size sedan, I’m betting you won’t be disappointed. I’d also lay odds that you have not even considered a Lincoln of any sort. The MKZ, hybrid or otherwise, might never have hit your radar screen. And upscale hybrids? Almost no one associates Lincoln with hybrids.

But you should. This is a really fine premium hybrid: quiet, comfortable, the quality appears to be very good and this sedan is flat out loaded with technology.

Truth is, the rational story, the left-brain stuff, is all there. You have the pricing, sure. But on safety, the MKZ is a Top Safety Pick from the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. On quality, the Lincoln brand is No. 1 in J.D. Power and Associates three-year Vehicle Dependability Study – and the MKZ won its segment in that same study. Even Consumer Reports likes the car.

Now you might argue that the Ford Fusion Hybrid, with a sticker price about $8,000 less and also loaded with discounts, is an even better buy. Not so.

The Fusion Hybrid is fine, but not as well done at its Lincoln cousin – even though the two share most of their mechanical bits and pieces and they look more alike than not, Lincoln badging and that signature “bow wave” grille aside.

Lincoln clearly spent some extra money grinding the details. The work shows up in a car that feels better put together than the Fusion Hybrid and by quite a margin. It’s a fine package, whereas the Ford feels just a little raw by comparison.

There is also the green story and it’s not to be overlooked. The MKZ is a ritzy gas-sipper, with better fuel economy (4.6 litres/100 km city, 5.4 highway) than a $13,000 Ford Fiesta sedan (7.1 city/5.3 highway).

The Fiesta is a fun, zippy little grocery-getter, but it has none of the comfort, the convenience, the size and the high-tech wizardry on offer in the Lincoln. Yet the Lincoln burns less gas.

Here’s another thought to throw into the mix: the MKZ Hybrid is the same price as the all-wheel-drive version of the purely gas-engine MKZ. Interesting. Do you want to go green with your Lincoln, or put traction on all four wheels and burn more gas?

What any buyer should know is that Ford is among the world leaders in hybrid technology. In fact, Ford and Toyota just signed a deal to co-operate in developing future hybrids. Perhaps someone at Toyota took the MKZ for a test drive before inking that agreement. The truth is, Toyota does not make a gas-electric car better than this.

In driving, the MKZ Hybrid does not shudder at all when the gas engine starts and joins the electric drive to pull you along. The CVT – continuously variable automatic transmission – has a built-in “kickdown” feel when you give the throttle a good nudge.

Here, the feeling is very similar to a conventional gearbox and that gives the car some character. Thus, the hybrid part is invisible – until you start calculating the fuel savings.

The rest? The seats are firm, but comfortable, and they are perfect for accommodating the middle-age types likely to give this one a peek. In back, you’ll find legroom a little tight, though. Same for rear headroom.

Ford and Lincoln have been rightly criticized for getting a bit busy with controls and displays. The info on offer is useful and comprehensive, but you’ll need to take some time to figure everything out. But voice-activation DVD navigation is free and, once mastered, it works beautifully.

Then there is the leafy eco picto-gauge. Using it fully allows drivers to grow leaves and flowers that indicate “green” driving or the lack thereof. It’s a gimmick, but kinda fun and the grandkids will probably love it.

You will like the performance. The 2.5-litre, four-cylinder gasoline engine is rated at 156 horsepower and 136 lb-ft of torque and, when combined with the 106-hp electric motor, net horsepower hits 191 – though the electric drive piece means acceleration feels much friskier than the numbers suggest.

Lincoln types would like to see you cross-shop this one against the Lexus HS 250h hybrid ($40,850) and you should. The Lincoln is more car for less money.

Tech specs

2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

Type: Mid-size premium hybrid sedan

Price: $42,200

Engine: 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, DOHC

Horsepower/torque: 156 hp/136 lb-ft

Electric motor: 106 hp

Battery pack: 275-volt nickel metal hybrid pack

Combined net power: 191 hp.

Transmission: CVT

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 4.6 city/5.4 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Lexus HS 250h hybrid

jcato@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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