With gas prices approaching (and in some cities surpassing) the $3 a gallon mark, everyone is singing the gas pump blues these days.

While we’re all feeling the pinch of rising fuel prices, no one wants to compromise on versatility and performance.

There is an alternative — the restyled 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid SUV.

Available in front or all-wheel drive configurations, the Escape Hybrid SUV offers comfortable seating for five with more than 27 cubic feet of cargo area behind the rear seat (66 cubic feet with the rear seat folded flat), tows up to 1,000 pounds and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 36 mpg in the city using regular unleaded gasoline.

It’s quiet, smooth, responsive and has a base price starting below $26,000.

The full-hybrid system utilizes a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine (133 horsepower) in conjunction with a 70 kw electric motor to produce a net 155 horsepower. It has a 0-60 time similar to that of 200 horsepower V-6 engine, yet with a 75 percent improvement in city driving fuel economy.

It’s like getting the best of both worlds.

During the past two years, taxi drivers in San Francisco and New York City have used Escape Hybrids during their shifts to demonstrate fuel savings and durability.

Currently, there are more than 40 Escape Hybrid taxis in San Francisco and more than 20 in New York City, with many already having logged more than 125,000 miles each on the odometer. San Francisco cabbie Paul Gillespie recently reported that his Escape Hybrid saves him up to $30 in fuel each shift, with an annual savings around $6,000. He’s been driving an Escape Hybrid cab since 2004 and has logged more than 125,000 miles without any major mechanical repairs.

“The fuel economy of the Escape Hybrid puts thousands of dollars back in drivers’ pockets and helps decrease fuel emissions,” Gillespie said in the report released by Ford.

For those unfamiliar with hybrid vehicles, the batteries for the electric motor are constantly being recharged as you drive the vehicle, meaning you never need to plug it in. You fill it with gas and go — although it doesn’t need filling quite as often.

Being a full hybrid, the Escape can also operate in electric mode only at speeds below 30 mph — which often occur in city driving situations. In electric only mode, no fuel is being used and no emissions are being emitted from the vehicle.

When the driver accelerates, the gas engine is engaged automatically.

It really is a seamless system.

The redesigned Escape is absolutely stunning. Space prevents me from going into detail, but it’s loaded with safety and convenience features.

For those looking for a no compromise option to save on fuel, the Escape Hybrid is a must test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.