Hybrids have seemingly been on the cusp of mainstream fame for years now as the US consumer searches for ways to reduce fuel consumption. But, could it be that the car of the future is actually already on sale today?
Model: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Engine: Duratec 2.5L I-4 Gas Engine [156-horsepower] & Permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor [106-horsepower/275V]
EPA Fuel Economy: 41mpg City, 39mpg combined, 36mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 38.44mpg [SmartGauge reported as 40.7mpg]
Total Miles Driven: 542 miles
Base MSRP: $27,270
As driven MSRP: $31,940 (includes $1,270 in “rapid spec” savings)
Available Government Tax Credit: $850 until April 1st, 2010
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT)
Equipped Options & Features: Rear View Backup Camera, BLIS (Blind Spot System), Moonroof, Sony Premium Sound System, Leather/Heated Seats, Navigation System, SYNC
Driving Dynamics & Performance
Generally, hybrids are not the most exciting vehicles to drive. Not true with the Ford Fusion. It’s the first hybrid we’ve tested that doesn’t feel somewhat lifeless and numb at all the control points. Typically, over-boosted steering and a mushy brake are just par for the hybrid course. Not so for the Fusion, which drives much more like its non-hybrid counterpart than one might expect. On the road, if not for the CVT transmission and EV mode, it would be difficult to tell you were not driving a fully gas dependent Fusion.
Acceleration is also non-hybrid like. Lay into the throttle and you’re met with a decent push of grunt from the internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric motor combination. Although it’s hard on the conscious to mash the accelerator in a car meant to save fuel, you won’t be disappointed if you have to.
But we digress, the reason you would buy a hybrid is for fuel economy and the Fusion Hybrid does a pretty damn good job at that. On the backwoods roads of New Hampshire we traverse daily, our Fusion averaged a cool 38.4mpg. That’s almost exactly on par with the EPA’s combined driving average of 39mpg and 2mpg lower than what the SmartGauge system indicated. More impressively, during our stint we could only muster through a half tank of gas, despite traveling 378 miles during fuel economy testing (we traveled 542 miles in the Fusion Hybrid total).
Like most other hybrid vehicles, the Fusion can run under either full electric power or a combination of electric and gasoline engine power. The real difference is how the Fusion acts under electric only power versus the competition. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, just for example, is tuned for low end torque, making moving off from a start under electric power a snap. The caveat is that EV mode cuts out at 40mph and it’s hard to maintain speed. The Fusion Hybrid is a little different as it’s almost impossible to get underway without starting the internal combustion engine. Once at speed however, the Fusion enters and stays planted in EV mode with ease all the way up to 48mph. That small 8mph difference may not seem like much until you consider how many roads in the US are posted at 45mph- a speed at which the Camry Hybrid’s gas engine would be running and the Fusion Hybrid’s engine would not.
Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish
Similar to how the Fusion Hybrid drives, it’s styling doesn’t exactly scream “hybrid vehicle” either. That’s a good thing, the Fusion is already a stylish automobile. On the outside the only hint of being a hybrid is the specialized hybrid badges and unique wheels.
We have to note the great sounding doors. I know, you’re asking yourself why we’d mention the doors. It’s just that they shut with a mechanically precise sound that you rarely hear, even on more upscale vehicles.
On the inside, you’ll find a plush environment. Gaps are kept to a minimum, although we’re still not satisfied with the quality of the plastics on the lower and upper consoles, door trim, and surrounding the emergency brake. With that said, for this price and the amount of technology included, you’re going to have to give a little.
Worthy of noting, Ford decided not to include LED rear tail-lamps on the Fusion Hybrid. We find it odd considering the reduced energy use that LEDs provide over typical incandescent bulbs. Hopefully this will be an upgrade in model years to come.
Audio, Electronics, & Technology
This is perhaps the ringer category for the Fusion Hybrid. With the SmartGauge system and SYNC, Ford has a decisive edge on any competitor in this segment. When you factor in the extra large 8-inch navigation system screen, Sirius Travel Link, a Sony Sound System, rear backup camera, stability and traction control, and automatic climate control- the Fusion Hybrid stands supreme.
The highlight of the Fusion Hybrid is Ford’s SmartGauge system, an extremely innovative dual LCD paneled gauge cluster (as seen above). Configurable to display information in one of four formats, this car wouldn’t be the same without it. It shows you exactly how much juice you can give the throttle before kicking on the gas engine or conversely, how much you need to let off the throttle before EV mode takes over. SmartGauge makes driving a hybrid for maximum fuel economy less of a game of skill and more a walk in the park. Our only concern is how much the system will cost to fix years down the road when something goes bad.
Comfort & Ergonomics
Another huge surprise was how comfortable we were in the Fusion. The 8-way power driver seat gave firm support without feeling hard and supported my sensitive back after hours behind the wheel.
We also appreciated Ford trusting us to adjust the SmartGauge system while in motion. Sometimes automakers lock out the settings and configuration menus on navigation systems and driver information systems at speed. It’s an annoying trend. Ford, showing respect for the driver, has opted to allow access to the SmartGauge configuration menu while on the road. Ford, thank you.
Other creature comforts to note include excellent heated seats (they get nice and hot!), Sirius Travel Link, Sirius radio, and an excellent functioning navigation system.
The rear trunk is slightly smaller than in a “regular” Fusion, as Ford packs the batteries between the trunk space and the rear seat-backs, but you still have plenty of room for larger luggage.
It’s not often we are sad to see a hybrid leaving our office. While we love saving gas, the driving experience that comes along with most of these eco-machines left much to be desired – until now. The 2010 Fusion Hybrid thoroughly impressed and left us with the refreshing feeling that the bar for these types of machines had been raised and raised far. This is the new flagship of FoMoCo.
Perhaps the most refined and best executed hybrid to date.
- The only hybrid that can operate in EV mode over 45mph
- SmartGauge is a revolutionary step in presenting information to the driver
- All the benefits of a hybrid in a “regular” car package
- Dash and door coverings are too hard and plastic-like in spots
- SYNC voice commands are tedious to use, navigation system adds obnoxious layers to otherwise simple actions
- Priced higher than a Toyota Prius