|Ford Fusion Hybrid
| Ford Fusion
More Expert Reviews
|Ford Fusion Hybrid
By Danny Chang
- Great MPG
- Decent power
- Amenities galore & cool dash
- Small trunk due to battery placement
- Interior space a bit tight for a family
- Styling not a strong suit
I have driven both the first generation regular gasoline engine Ford Fusion and its cousin Mercury Milan as rental cars on business trips and I must say I was not particularly impressed. They are perfectly fine mid-size sedans, just nothing to write home about. But I’ve always been intrigued by the Fusion Hybrid. Here was an American sedan with a self-developed hybrid technology that got better mileage than a Toyota Camry? Beating Toyota, the company that started the hybrid craze, at its own game? This I had to see, and drive, for myself. So I was glad to have the chance to drive one down to LA for my sister’s wedding last weekend.
The Fusion Hybrid pairs a 2.5 L in-line four that produces 155 HP to an electric motor powered by a NiMH battery to pump out a total of 191 net horsepower. Ford claims the electric motor is capable of traveling up to 47 MPH before the gasoline engine kicks in, a higher speed than any other hybrids on the road today. I had a hard time seeing this all weekend, the gas engine always kicked in at low speeds even below 20 MPH. Perhaps it’s due to my lead foot? In any case, I did not have high expectations taking the hybrid Fusion down to Los Angeles on Interstate 5 from the Bay Area, given the hilly and twisty stretches of the 152 and the long, sustained and steep inclines of the Grapevine north of Los Angeles.
The Fusion Hybrid managed to pleasantly surprise in both power and in average MPG. Steering feel is a bit light but stable enough at highway speeds to not merit a whole paragraph of complaint. The eCVT (electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission) was actually quite acute and I had no trouble going up those steep inclines in the fast lane at speeds well above the legal limit.
The most impressive bit of the Fusion Hybrid is definitely the exclusive dual LCD SmartGauge instrument cluster with EcoGuide. It’s great for a tech geek, you can spend 30 minutes just going through the system menus to try out different display options and vehicle system information. It even shows you more leaves on a tree as your driving habits improve. I strongly advise against playing with this system when you’re driving.
I am not a huge fan of the restyled Fusion. The original model, though no looker either, at least had very clean and disciplined lines, especially on the front end with vertical headlights that wrap over the top and square inset lights. The refreshed model’s headlights don’t fit the car well and looks like an afterthought. The three-bar horizontal chrome corporate grille is over the top. The profile looks so generic that it’s hard to tell the Fusion apart from any four-door sedan from the ‘80s. The tail end is also way too high, giving the designers a hard time to deal with the taillights and trying to make the vast expense of metal appear more stout. I can’t wait for more European Ford design language to flow through to North American models. The new Fiesta and upcoming Focus are great examples of how much more flair European Fords possess. Everyone else in this world gets to enjoy them, why can’t we here in the US? One other big miss here is that it’s really hard to tell the Hybrid from a regular Fusion. If you’re spending this much money ($28,100 starting MSRP, the tester was north of $32,000 with the Rapid Spec 502 A package) on a Fusion, you better make sure people know you’re driving the Hybrid.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
The Fusion feels a bit tight on the inside. It is a bit narrow with not much space between the driver and passenger seats, and rear legroom leaves something to be desired. Compared to the Camry, this feels like a compact car on the inside. With a baby seat in the center back seat, there was not a lot of room for my wife and mother-in-law on either side of the baby. Trunk space was also a premium since the Hybrid’s battery is located behind the rear seats and takes up about 1/3 of the regular Fusion’s trunk space. The battery also prevents the rear seats to fold down or have a pass through, a big problem if you ever plan on carrying anything longer than a golf club.
The front seats are quite comfortable…for a little while. In spite of the 10-way power adjustments, I suffered from lower back pains about halfway down to Los Angeles, which is about two and a half hours or 200 miles into the road trip. I found the lateral support lacking and had nowhere to rest my elbows.
The tester had heated leather-trimmed seats, part of the Rapid Spec 502 A package. What the heck is the Rapid Spec 502 A package, you ask? Good question. For starters it includes the Rapid Spec 501 A package, which actually has a host of interesting techie goodies: Blind Spot Information System (lights on the side view mirrors), Sony sound system, power moon roof, rear view camera and rain sensing wipers. These are options you’d expect on a luxury car, not on a Ford!
In addition to this, the 502 A package throws in a navigation system with SIRIUS Traffic™ and Travel Link™. Microsoft Sync is standard, which is actually quite nice, it even includes Bluetooth streaming of music from my iPhone. I found the navigation interface fairly easy to learn and operate, and Sync voice commands are actually quite logical and easy to use.
I did have issues with the traffic update feature as I approached Los Angeles, however, as the system notified me of a traffic incident but failed to route me around it even though I set the preferences to avoid traffic incidents. It also told me there were no incidents on my route as I sat in traffic north of Burbank for about 30 minutes.
With the top-of-the-line options package the Fusion Hybrid came in at $33,740. With this kind of money, one can get into entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura TSX or the Infiniti G25, very nicely equipped and good to drive. Plus you get the brand cache missing on the Blue Oval. But you could save money on gas with the Hybrid, you say. Ford claims 41 city and 36 highway MPG on the Fusion Hybrid, so it’s true that you’ll save more gas with this than you would on the Acura or Infiniti. I averaged 32 MPG on my trip but I was pretty happy with flooring the accelerator pedal most of the time. And there was a lot of highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, not the best conditions for a hybrid. So how much money you save from the higher MPG depends a lot on how far you drive and how you drive. But then again, can you really put a price on saving the Earth?
Not All Hybrids Have to Drive in the Slow Lane
Overall I must say the Fusion Hybrid surprised and delighted. I was expecting a sluggish car that would force me to be amongst the semi trucks in the slow lanes on Interstate 5 most of the way down to LA, but instead I found myself frequently leading the charge in the fast lane. The Fusion Hybrid was very competent in power and maneuverability, great on fuel efficiency despite my driving style, and had lots of bells and whistles on the inside. The tight interior space and trunk space as well as the seats would prevent me from taking this car on a long road trip again, but I think the Fusion Hybrid would make a fine commute car.
|Official website for Ford cars, hybrids, trucks, and SUVs – www.fordvehicles.com|