Among hybrid cars, the five-passenger family sedan segment is the most competitive, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid is America’s best-selling example.
Since the launch of Ford’s coupe-silhouette sedan in October 2012 for the 2013 model year, the Fusion Hybrid has been well received, and for 2017, to help momentum along, the car was mildly refreshed.
Revealed in January this year, interior and exterior updates were rolled out for the entire Fusion line, with the Hybrid getting a top-shelf Platinum trim to add to the S, SE, and Titanium.
These refreshes kept intact the Hybrid’s gas-electric powertrain but tweaks along with more efficient electric motors yielded 42 mpg combined over the 2016’s 41 mpg.
A quick scan of the HybridCars.com sales Dashboard shows the Fusion Hybrid is holding the line against competitive hybrid sedans which are otherwise all variations on a theme combining front-wheel drive, mid-sized, aerodynamic and contemporary designs.
These are, namely, the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid, and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid. Upscale but not significantly far above alternatives include the Lincoln MKZ, Toyota Avalon, and Lexus ES hybrids.
In the Ford’s favor, particularly at the upper end, is that the U.S. EPA said the 2016 Fusion Hybrid Titanium (latest model reviewed) took just five months to pay back the $160 price premium over a 2016 Fusion FWD Titanium based on 15,000 annual miles. A $2,160 price gap for the Hybrid SE and non-hybrid Fusion SE takes 4.7 years, assuming the same 15,000 annual miles, 55 percent city and 45 percent highway driving and a fuel price of $2.16/gallon. A $2,925 gap at the Fusion S level, according to the EPA’s idealized numbers, takes 6.4 years – still not bad when the EPA says far longer for some of the household names by other carmakers mentioned above.
But this payback period is variable, and a sure way to cut it is if miles traveled or gas prices increase. Dealer discounts, manufacturer promos, and other variables can further add to the case, and further, a car is chosen based on a balance of attributes besides price, so let’s take a look at some more details.
New For 2017
Ford emphasizes updates, but the casual observer may be hard pressed to see major changes. The Aston-Martinesque grille is now a bit wider, headlights are updated to LED for Titanium and Platinum trims, and projector beams remain for the base S and SE. LED taillights are now restyled with chrome trim.
New on the inside is an automatic transmission gear selector dial. Ford touts this as saving space in the center console compared to a traditional shifter.
Other stylistic updates abound and new Sync 3 system for audio, phone and navigation comes with an 8.0-inch touch screen on the Platinum, Titanium, and SE models with Technology package. This system also bundles adaptive cruise control and Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection.
Style and Design
The Fusion Hybrid, aside from model-specific trim, wheels, and badging, is outwardly barely distinguishable from the other Fusions right on up to the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 Sport model with 325 horses.
It’s an extremely handsome car, nicely appointed and roomy inside front and back as well, and ideal for someone who does not wish to stand out with a green car statement, such as one would experience with a Toyota Prius.
Our $38,290 as tested Platinum included all the trimings, along with soft, comfortable Venetian leather seating accented with offset color piping, and diamond quilt stitch pattern making for a truly upscale impression.
These power seats are uniquely ventilated with cool air or heated, well bolstered, and are complemented by a leather wrapped solid-feeling steering wheel, and armrests.
Riding on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, and 191.8-inches long overall, the 3,700-pound car blends in on the road. About the only concession one has to make for driving a hybrid is less trunk room – 12 cubic feet versus 16 due to the hybrid system battery. Split 60/40 rear seat backs do still allow cargo pass through, unlike the case with the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi, so utility is not excessively compromised.
And, the pay-off may be worth it for those aspiring to use less fuel, and emit fewer greenhouse gases, with all the convenience of a conventional car with up to 588 miles range, which brings us to the powertrain.
Full Hybrid System
Like the other brand hybrids mentioned, this is a full hybrid, meaning it may use either its 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle gas engine, or its AC synchronous motor, or both.
In actual practice, the sophisticated engine control computer does what it has to in order to maximize efficiency with all-electric speed potential to 85 mph – up from a former 62 mph.
Rated engine power is 141 horses at 6,000 rpm and 129 pounds-feet torque at 4,000 rpm.
The motor contributes 118-horsepower, 177 pounds-feet of torque and the merging of the two is seamless.
Total system output of 188 horsepower is routed through an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) driving the front wheels.
And if you are wondering why the power is only 188 horses and not the sum of the 141-horse engine plus 118-horse motor – 259 horsepower – that is because, as typical for hybrids, the two do not make peak at the same operating speed.
Also per hybrid practice, regenerative braking is employed to send current back to the 1.4-kWh li-ion battery on deceleration. Another hybrid-oriented technology, now finding its way into non hybrids is a stop-start system which shuts the engine off at a standstill.
Acceleration estimates vary quite a bit depending on who is testing it. Zero-to sixty mph has been reported as low as 7.3 seconds, to as high as 9.1 seconds. Zero-30 has been reported as low as 3.2 seconds, and the quarter mile has been as quick just below 15.9 seconds at a tad over 90 mph.
A rigid chassis using a fair amount of high-strength steel includes 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 a sophisticated inflatable rear seat belts.
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.
Also available is enhanced active park assist, which includes parallel and reverse perpendicular parking, park-out, and forward and side sensing systems.
The Fusion Hybrid is quiet when started with the pushbutton in its default electric mode. If the HVAC is cranked up however, the engine may kick on.
Its ride quality is smooth with front MacPherson Strut and multilink rear suspension. With perhaps 200 pounds-feet torque, even in the dry, the front tires will briefly claw for traction when accelerating from a stand-still, especially if negotiating a turn while starting.
On the highway, it is again an easy gliding ride with plenty of pep for passing and cruising great distances in comfort.
Around the bends, the vehicle does OK on 225-series low rolling resistance tires.
Its eCVT transmission saves fuel, and overall with active noise canceling, the Fusion Hybrid is very quiet, muting road, wind, and engine noises.
Opening the driver’s window however will create a buffeting effect.
At night, the LED lights work fine with bright white color temperature. Interior ambient lighting also adds to a comforting upscale effect.
The automatic headlight function meant to dim high beams when oncoming cars are coming works, but we found ourselves preferring the old fashion technique of flicking the left side stalk as needed to dim the high beams. Why? The system could shut high beams off responding to reflective street signs, or delay seconds longer than desired turning the high beams back on.
It’s a small issue, and likely a personal preference, and meanwhile the car is satisfying in most every circumstance.
Outward visibility is OK, not stellar, but sufficient, and a back-up camera does come in handy.
Braking action is essentially linear and regenerative action is not intrusive – if noticeable at all. Also the stop-start system works flawlessly.
The car’s ability to drive in EV mode at high speeds, while possible, will see the engine kick on if one presses the accelerator past a certain modest point.
As for the fuel efficiency, note despite a more-rigorous EPA test cycle this year, the Fusion can make the grade.
We saw as high as 44 mpg on an easy loop, with ham-fisted driving pushing combined mpg into the mid-upper 30s. As always, this is strictly up to you. If you speed, or otherwise drive in ways not to maximize the hybrid’s strengths, idealized window sticker numbers will be harder to achieve.
The U.S. EPA also notes hybrids tend to loose a greater degree of mpg in cold weather than conventional counterparts, so be advised.
The Hybrid For You?
Year to date, the Fusion Hybrid’s sales are up 25 percent. Last month the car was bested in the U.S. sales arena only by the perennially best-selling Prius – down 12 percent by the way – and which in years past sold triple the volume of the next-nearest competitor.
Not so this year, and hybrid sedans – the most-competitive hybrid segment – are now mature technology with relatively high mpg in exchange for more-ordinary looks.
You’d still be advised to check out other vehicles mentioned up top, including the new 46 mpg Malibu Hybrid and 48 mpg Accord Hybrid. While marketers say people make emotion-based decisions – with exterior design being a leading motivator – we’ll remind you also what to pay attention to.
Factors to investigate include total sales price – including any deals offered or negotiated – insurance, anticipated maintenance, repairs, and depreciation. Those folded in with how you overall like the car after a test drive should help clarify your decision.
This said, the Fusion Hybrid provides a very solid package. Pricing starts at $26,060 for the Fusion S Hybrid. From here it rises to $26,865 for the SE, $31,395 for the Titanium, and $37,895 for the Platinum Hybrid.
Even at a time of inexpensive gas, and as consumers make a run for crossovers in favor of sedans, the 42 mpg Fusion Hybrid can make sense.
Over five years, the EPA says drivers stand to save $2,500 in gas compared to the national average. Compare that to spending $1,750 extra for the AWD 20-mpg Sport, or only $250 saved by the FWD Fusion.
The difference is still significant, and stands as a hedge should gas prices rise.
This remains true for an otherwise “normal” looking car that gives up nothing in drivability, comfort, style, performance, and which has risen to be America’s best seller.