You made me love you. I didn’t want to do it.

Let’s be perfectly honest. I wouldn’t normally look twice at a mid-sized sedan. I have four kids. Two who sit in carseats. I rarely even glance at normal vehicles that seat less than six. Plus I’m a car snob. I’m into auto everything, extra options and the leather seating. So I probably would have completely overlooked the Ford Fusion Hybrid (and really missed out on a fabulous vehicle) if it were not for two things:

1. This past Wednesday I got to drive the Fusion all around LA with fellow blogger Jessica Gottlieb as part of an “eco driving challenge”, prior to attending the American Idol finale. We drove on a course with yellow flags. I pretended I was on Amazing Race.

2. The music video commercials for the Ford Fusion shown all season during American Idol, were just so cool. They definitely piqued my interest. I love car commercials, and when I see a great one, I’m more inclined to want to check out the car.

Hopping into the Fusion Hybrid I was struck that the interior was really nice. Posh even. The leather seats had contrast stitching like a nice handbag (I am forever comparing car seats to handbags) and were comfortable to sit in. The interior was quiet and surprisingly luxurious. Sitting in the drivers seat I admired the high tech gadgetry. It felt very cockpit-like, in a good way. I might even have thought I was in a higher priced luxury car, until Jessica attempted to adjust her seat. She discovered the passenger side seating was manually operated. A little odd, but not my problem. I was behind the wheel. A fun place to be. I was willing to overlook the seat issue, considering the Fusion’s other charms. Namely, it appreciates me.

I could go on about the way it handled, and how great the mileage is but you can get that kind of review anywhere. So I’ll tell you why I really loved the fusion. It was all about the recognition.

As a self employed mom, I so rarely get told that I am doing a good job. Whole weeks go by without kudos. My kids don’t evaluate my performance and tell me I got a gold sticker for recycling this week. No one ever musses my hair and says, “job well done on the cloth diapering!” Come to think of it, perhaps I was an easy mark for Ford. They definitely clued into something that I was hungry for. That nod, that pat on the back, a little recognition!

The Ford Fusion dishes out the recognition right on the dash via the SmartGauge with EcoGuide. This unique display is one part personal driving coach and one part behaviorial therapist. It rewards good eco driving behavior by “growing” leaves on the dash. Drive really well and you’ll not only save dollars at the pump, you’ll grow a full leafy tree. Which is the grown up, eco responsible version of a sticker chart full of gold stars. As silly as that sounds when I type it, it was terrifically fun and rewarding to see the tree grow as we drove.

Jessica and I were awesome eco drivers I should tell you. We grew a gorgeous tree with our fabulous eco driving skills. We had an average of 42mpg between us, on our urban driving course. We blew most of the other drivers out of the water. 42 mpg through downtown LA is just phenomenal. But honestly, who cares about numbers, because…tree!

Sadly , despite our eco-prowess, we did not win the eco driving challenge. In the end it was our vanity that did us in. We left on the AC after we exited the freeway. Our efforts to be cool put a ding on our mileage and cost us the championship title. Another (far less cool and far more sweaty!) team managed 43.4 mpg on the same course. I personally, did not get to see their tree but I refuse to believe it was anywhere near as pretty as ours.

Ford is really onto something with their attention to detail, and clever user friendly technologies. I could get spoiled with all this recognition and reward. Pretty soon I’ll be expecting my low-flo showerhead to make me pretty rainbows for me when I manage to wash, rinse and condition in under 10 minutes

Disclosure: I was super lucky to be Ford’s guest at the American Idol finale. Prior to the event I was not much of a fan of American Idol. So I was cool with whoever won. I was already a fan of Ford’s in car technology. Also, incidentally, I was already a fan of Jessica Gottlieb.