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2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review – Best-in-class MPG meets Road trip

Thursday December 2nd, 2010 at 1:1212 AM
Posted by: berrichondanny

By Danny Chang

Pros

  • Great MPG
  • Decent power
  • Amenities galore & cool dash

Cons

  • 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.

Ford Fusion Hybrid has 11.8 cubic feet of trunk space basic necessities for the long road trip

Driving Impressions
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.

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Styling
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.

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid interior Ford Fusion center stack Baby seat gets preferred seating

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.

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Value

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.

BUILD INTERIOR PERFORMANCE HANDLING STYLING VALUE OVERALL
RATING 3.5 4.5 4.5 3.5 4.0 4.0 4.0/B



Ford Motor Co.Official website for Ford cars, hybrids, trucks, and SUVs – www.fordvehicles.com

5 Responses to 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review – Best-in-class MPG meets Road trip

  1. Niobiumelter says:

    I would purchase this car 10 to 1 over anything the Asian companies could offer – predisposed? Yep – I certainly am. I also believe that this review is typical of someone who is very prejudiced against American cars….or so blatantly biased that the actual review is void and meaningless. I will admit that I’m not a fan of anything that comes from the Asian car company – yes company (singular) because most of them are only sheet metal covers of the same automobile. Lexus verses Toyota is a fine example and some in the US have bought the ‘best’ advertising that is so much tripe – they’re the same car!

    I bought one of these after much study and inspection of the Asian varieties of hybrid. The Prius is a basic appliance and drives like one. The other Toyota/Nissan versions are not even in contention….no comparison in quality or style. The Fusion is so superior to the Asian versions that these reviewers will actually go after the body style of the Fusion – have they really even looked at a Prius? Talk about bland styling! Which drawer is for the cheese?

  2. nimblewick says:

    @francois

    When you first start the car, the gas engine comes on until the car is warmed up. Later, when the car is warm and you start from a dead stop, you can be in all electric.

    If only there were less hills around where I live, I’d make a serious effort to not use any gas while running errands.

  3. Kevin Mooney says:

    I recently bought the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid and have been very happy with it. I traded in a 2007 Ford Escape hybrid and noticed a couple of differences right away. With the escape hybrid I had no trouble leaving a stop sign at a slightly less than modest acelleration without the gas enging kicking in. With the Fusion, I literally have to crawl away from the full stop to keep the gas engine from kicking in. However, I definitly prefer the Fusion because once I hit in-town speeds(30-35 mph, Escape’s gas engine would continue to run, but the Fusion’s gas engine would stop immediately upon reaching cruising speed up to 45 mph.

    After 500 miles of driving from Virginia country side into Washington, DC, I have been averaging 38.5 mpg. Far better than the 29 mpg that I averaged with the Escape on the same trip.

    The Fusion is dead quiet when the gas engine is off with very little road noise making it into the interior. Evaen a highway speeds with the gas engine running, the Fusion is nicely quiet.

    Handling is nimble for a car that weighs in at 3800 lbb., and the optional Blind Spot Indicator System (BLIS) is very welcome in the congestion around DC. The Rear-view camera comes in handy when backing out of a parting space.

    The driver’s space is very comfortable and the tilt-telescope steering wheel makes it easy to settle in. Radio controls are mostly on the steering wheel along with the cruise controls.

    So far, I have been extremely happy with my choice and look forward to several years of pleasurable driving and saving gas.

  4. Peter Anastopulos says:

    You believe the Camry,Altima , Accord are better looking then Fusion?To me it’s so much cleaner,stronger and fresher then the Japanese or Korean paper mache vehicles.This car fits in with neighborhood of filled with European cars like 3 series and Volvo 60,Saab and Audi 4.While the Asian models look low rent.I think you have been blinded with cheap plastic mass market crap.Maybe you will like a car from Walmart.

  5. francois says:

    I got to try this car and I couldn’t figure out how to start it at first. Cause it’s dead quiet and only a small indicator light on the instrument cluster says that it’s ready. Ahh, hybrid! It’s quiet taking off for sure.

    But then the engine kicks in after a few mph no matter how slow you accelerate. I don’t understand why I can’t use electric power only if that’s all I need.

    41 city and 36 highway MPG is pretty good for a car that doesn’t look like a hideous egg. Why are they using Nimh batteries? Those weight twice as much and take double the space of Lithiums.

    This is a great effort for USA. Not world class but certainly a good entry.





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