Launched as a 2013 model in October 2012, Ford’s second-generation Fusion Hybrid rapidly ascended the sales ranks, and is presently America’s fourth-best-selling hybrid.
Thoroughly face-lifted and overhauled, the 2013 Fusion Hybrid improved on what was already an otherwise well-regarded full hybridization of Ford’s midsized, five-passenger family sedan.
As Ford prepared to launch the new Fusion and other hybrids, the company targeted Toyota models and the Dearborn automaker has since issued press releases indicating “conquest” and hybrid sales records and new faces visiting Ford dealerships.
Ford was more outspoken before a controversy broke out over the Fusion Hybrid/C-Max’s 47-mpg EPA mileage rating, but the strategy still seems to be working. As of the half-way mark this year, Fusion Hybrid sales were up 283.6 percent compared to June 2012 with 20,283 sold versus the Toyota Camry Hybrid which was up 11.7 percent with 23,834 sold.
Yes, Ford is accelerating, has reported this year’s first quarter as its best ever for hybrid sales, and just today announced software recalibration intended to help the Fusion and other hybrids maximize their fuel efficiency.
To be sure, hybrids are yet a sub-market, but we thought we’d look closer at what the commotion coming from Ford is all about.
The Fusion Hybrid shares its powertrain with the sixth-best-selling C-Max and is assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico. Ford says for 2014 the vehicle will change very little. It has added an entry level Fusion S trim (price reflected in blue box above), will offer some new interior and exterior color options, and is adding its proprietary inflatable rear seat belts.
Downsized Hybrid Powertrain
To help get that all-important 5 mpg better EPA combined rating over a Camry Hybrid, Ford ditched the first generation’s 2.5 liter Atkinson cycle inline-four cylinder engine and went with a 2.0-liter. This is now coupled with a more-powerful AC synchronous motor and a 1.4-kwh lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk replaces a nickel-metal hydride pack.
The new 12.3:1-compression ratio DOHC engine is assembled in Chihuahua, Mexico. It has an alloy block and cylinder head, four valves per cylinder, and intake variable camshaft timing (iVCT), among other efficiency enhancing technologies.
Rated engine power is 141 horses at 6,000 rpm and 129 pounds-feet torque at 4,000 rpm.
Additional oomph is supplied by the 118-horsepower, 177 pounds-feet of torque from the electric motor which provides seamless drivability through the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) driving the front wheels.
System power is rated at 188 horsepower and our in-house guess-o-meter says torque not disclosed by Ford is in the neighborhood of 200 pounds feet.
Naturally, a stop-start system is employed and the engine generates power into the battery along with regenerative braking.
The 3,668-pound car is capable of all-electric running for spurts up to 62 mph (100 kph) – soon to be upgraded to 85 mph (137 kph) – and may toggle back and forth depending on degree of accelerator input.
Acceleration estimates vary, but 0-60 takes around 7.3 seconds, 0-30 requires around 3.2 seconds, and a standing quarter mile run was clocked by one publication at 15.86 seconds at 90.4 mph.
The Fusion Hybrid – as is also true for non-hybrid Fusions and the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi – has become one attractive-looking family car.
Leading the way are headlights like squinting eyes and a new grille treatment borrowed from Aston Martin with variations thereof finding their way onto other midsize and smaller Fords.
The new look is combined with a sleeker flowing silhouette that deviates from the traditional, “three box” design of powertrain/cabin/trunk.
“Our design goal for the new car was to give the mainstream sedan buyer a top-drawer visual experience, adding some emotional appeal to an already sensible choice,” said Chris Hamilton, Fusion chief exterior designer.
The car rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, and is 191.8 inches long overall.
Three trim levels are offered from the new S to SE which we drove, and Titanium.
Features include Projector Laser-Cut Headlamps, LED tail lamps, touch-pad keyless entry, and 17-inch wheels standard, with 18-inch wheels for the Titanium.
Interior Styling and Features
Spacious and thoroughly modern, the inside of the car is all-day comfortable, with supportive seats cushioned with soybean-based foam, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel that let us set up the ergonomics just the way we wanted.
The main instruments are dominated by a “Smartgauge with EcoGuide” to keep drivers apprised via twin 4.3-inch LCD monitors flanking the speedo with info one can toggle with symmetrically placed steering-wheel-mounted buttons.
One feature that works well is the Brake Coach which grades the driver up to 100 percent as to how well he or she applied the brakes to capture regenerative energy. This is in addition to info such as battery charge level, whether EV mode is being used, or the gas engine is running – which one can typically hear anyway.
The $35,010 SE model we sampled included SYNC with MyFord Touch. This agnostic interface allows one to plug in a device to operate on the 8-inch touch screen.
Also included was navigation that was operable in conjunction with a removable SD card. The car also has the usual 12-volt power port, USB connections, and coax plugs to accommodate current phones, mp3 players, video games and computers – all the comforts of home. In your car.
All controls are within easy reach, and the steering wheel has multi-function buttons that can be learned intuitively by someone reasonably tech-savvy along with controls for cruise control and phone.
Quality of materials is reasonably high, with soft-touch vinyl strategically placed on front door panels, dash.
Leg room is good at 44.3 inches in front and 38.3 inches in back. Shoulder room is listed as 57.8 inches in front, 56.9 inches in the rear.
The car is quiet too, in part due to an acoustic noise-canceling technology.
Trunk capacity is 12 cubic feet.
The Fusion and Hybrid version were awarded five out of five stars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) under its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The Fusion was also rated as a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Underlying the car’s chances of keeping occupants whole is a body that’s stronger by 10 percent. Ford used more high-strength steels and added dual first-row knee airbags and adaptive front airbags that vent and tether to conform to a specific occupant’s size, position and seat belt usage.
Eight airbags in all are used and these work with sophisticated seat belt system. For 2014, the Fusion will add its name to the four other cars that get inflatable rear seat belts, these being the Ford Explorer, Flex, Lincoln MKT and MKZ. This technology was developed by Ford, first appeared as an option on the Explorer in 2010, and is proprietary at the moment.
Also within the safety category are standard or available driver assist technologies including Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Rearview Camera, Hill Start Assist and Electronic Parking Brake.
Our car had Active Park Assist to help with parallel parking.
As a “global platform” car, the Fusion Hybrid is smooth on the interstate, and holds a line as well as could be asked for in this segment when pushing it on the curves.
The Ford’s suspension is MacPherson Strut in front and multilink in back, which Ford says is “comparable to Audi and BMW configurations.” While we’d not otherwise mistake the Fusion for a BMW, it is a controlled ride to be sure.
Compared to a Camry Hybrid, it’s a bit more composed on the back roads, although both perform respectably and don’t let exuberant drivers feel like they’re risking an encounter with the bushes if pressing the edge of speed and grip.
The 225-series tires are wider than the 205s on a Camry, hold the road fairly well, although being low rolling resistance, they are not gumball sport tires, and some slippage can be felt on occasion. The extra width probably also contributes somewhat to the Ford’s reduced fuel economy.
With front wheel drive and perhaps 200 pounds-feet torque, even in the dry, the front tires will claw for traction when accelerating from a stand-still, and especially if negotiating a turn while starting.
The car has no problem cruising at legal and well over legal speeds, as you might have gathered by the mid-15 second quarter mile at just over 90 mph.
In the early 1990s, this would have been competitive with a Mustang GT with a 5.0-liter V8, but this is what you get with Ford’s new fuel sipper family car.
Its eCVT transmission saves gas, gets the job done, but is not the stuff that ideal sports car experiences are made of, and the sound is different than a car equipped with a regular automatic – such as a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid or Kia Optima Hybrid. Most people do get used to the revs staying in one band or another depending on severity of gas-pedal input as the eCVT adjusts ratios progressively to accelerate. After a while, it becomes the new normal.
Normal as well is braking action, which is essentially linear and regenerative action is not intrusive – if noticeable at all.
Also the stop-start system works flawlessly, and the car’s ability to drive in EV mode up to 62 mph is true, although pressing the accelerator past a certain modest point will bring the engine back on in a heartbeat.
Anyone who has been paying attention to automotive news knows Ford has been sued over mileage claims and some unsavory allegations have been bandied about in the free-for-all Internet by those who perhaps feel they’ve been deliberately misled about the Fusion Hybrid’s EPA-rated 47/47/47.
The EPA and Ford both state hybrids do exhibit a far wider mileage return, depending on driving styles, and some drivers are countering the wraith by stating they can reach the advertised numbers.
In ordinary, not-exceptionally careful driving on highways, back roads, and hills up to 6-plus percent grade, we experienced between 39-41 mpg.
With its strong electric motor, the car is capable of relying on this fuel-free driving and we believe that it can be made to reach 47 mpg, but are sure it takes more care to do it.
To maximize economy, it helps to eliminate jackrabbit starts, be smooth on the gas, learn to work with topography – that is, let gravity do the work where possible – among other techniques.
We do not recommend “drafting” because this is problematic and is actually a citable moving violation. Following too closely can be stressful and feel pushy to the driver in front of you, can be perceived as self-centered to those whose bumper you are riding, and should not be used to reduce aerodynamic drag for a few ounces of fuel savings.
Otherwise, you will want to use every other technique and learn to work with this hybrid powertrain’s strengths and weaknesses, or else, like many cars besides, this one will not meet its EPA numbers but as of August, it may have a better chance of it.
On July 16, in an implicit acknowledgment of allegations against touted economy for the Fusion as well as C-Max and Lincoln MKZ hybrids, Ford said it would introduce software changes in August to improve efficiency for these cars.
As the Camry Hybrid is to regular Camrys, the mileage of the Fusion Hybrid far excels its 26-28 mpg non-hybrid stable mates and matches their everyday performance in so many ways, one wonders why more people don’t opt for the hybrid.
Comparing the Fusion Hybrid to the Camry Hybrid however, it’s a closer call. The Camry has a less impressive EPA number, but with careful driving we have seen 58 mpg in that car – you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who can hit 58 mpg during mixed driving in a Fusion Hybrid. And in any event, achieving the Camry Hybrid’s advertised low 40s is more attainable than meeting Ford’s vaunted 47 mpg numbers.
As for the hybrid cousins from Korea, the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, their mpg rating is not as high any way you look at it, but they do present good quality updated designs, and offer actual six-speed automatic transmissions for those who do not want a CVT.
A couple more odd contenders could be from Volkswagen – the Jetta Hybrid is a sporty alternative, a “compact” verging on mid-sized and then you have the two diesel sedans – Pasatt TDI and Jetta TDI which are available with DSG automatics or six-speed manual transmissions, if that extra control is something that would appeal to you.
Meanwhile, Ford’s Fusion Hybrid stands as an all-new design with looks that turn heads, and it keeps one’s attention also with its well laid-out interior, and driving performance. Like we said with the C-Max Hybrid, even if a driver has a tough time reaching 47 mpg, it could still be in similar territory to the more modestly estimated competition.
If you’re actually shopping, we’d recommend you sit in, and preferably drive cars you are considering to see how things stack up with your own tastes and preferences.
But here’s the short answer as to whether the Ford Fusion Hybrid is worth getting: Despite mileage ambiguities being contested at the moment, the Fusion Hybrid is an improved and competent car and could be a solid choice.