Redesigned for last year, Ford’s Fusion Hybrid continued forward into 2014 with only minor updates as it continues also to gain market share against Toyota.
This it has done despite some controversy over its ability to as-easily reach its estimated EPA mileage rating.
Even more telling are the percentages for Ford’s five-passenger midsized family hybrid. During 2013 its sales were up 164 percent over the outgoing model from 2012 whereas the Camry Hybrid was down 2.6 percent.
The Camry had been revised one year prior, but in short, people are voting their checkbooks in favor of the refreshed Ford assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico.
This year Ford introduced a less expensive “S” trim level starting at $26,270 compared to the previous year’s $27,200 entry point. An SE and Titanium model are available as well, and options can push the out-the-door price into the lower to middle 30s.
Other changes for 2014 include two new exterior color options – Dark Side and Sunset – and Ford’s in-house designed inflatable rear seat belts.
Under the hood is a parallel hybrid system based around a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle engine merged with electric motor.
The gas engine delivers a rated 141 horsepower and 129 pounds-feet torque. Electric power is 118 horsepower, 177 pounds-feet of torque. Combined system output is 188 horsepower, enough to propel the car to 60 mph in perhaps 7.3 seconds through its eCVT transmission.
All-electric running at up to 85 mph is possible for brief intervals.
The car saw a software upgrade to help it better achieve its 47 mpg figure Ford certifies for its city/highway/combined cycle estimates.
Nonetheless, a fair degree of scuttlebutt has transpired among Internet commenters – some saying they can not achieve this mileage, others saying they can, and some even saying they can get into the 50s with it.
We have seen an average 39-41 mpg in mixed driving and suspect a bit more can be had, but this is less than the Camry Hybrid is more apt to do on a similar drive.
Although miles per gallon matter, especially for a hybrid, a car is not only about that, but the entire experience. And it’s here the Ford is redeemed in part by solid build quality, good driving manners, reasonable space, and attractive styling.
The Fusion has a 112.2-inch wheelbase, is 191.8 inches long overall, and rides on 17-inch wheels standard, or 18-inch optional diameter wheels.
Inside, the instruments feature a “Smartgauge with EcoGuide” to keep drivers apprised via twin 4.3-inch LCD monitors with info able to be toggled between symmetrically placed steering-wheel-mounted buttons.
All controls are within easy reach, and material quality 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 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.
The Fusion Hybrid is as quick as an early 1990s 5.0-liter Mustang GT used to be in the quarter mile – mid 15s in the low 90 mph range – and it corners and brakes reasonably well in qualified terms.
This is a family “green” car, mind you, and even if it gets mid 30 mpg to low 40s in the hands of the less-than-careful driver, it shows how automakers have upped the ante on several fronts.
Ford says its front MacPherson Strut suspension and multilink rear suspension rival that of a BMW, but we’d not go so far as to say it fools us into thinking we’re driving a 535i.
Its wider low rolling resistance 225 tires provide some extra stick though, and while that probably does not help with fuel mileage as well as the narrower 205s on a Camry Hybrid, the balance of attributes makes it a pleasant car to live with.
Unless a lot of consumers are making mistakes, the market speaks louder than anything as Ford reported all last year that the Fusion’s market share rose over the competition.
That said, there are other great choices, including the Camry Hybrid, and Honda’s stellar but priced-higher Accord Hybrid.
Honda’s new full hybrid is its most competent mpg champ with EPA rating of 50 mpg city, 45 highway, and the exact same 47 combined Ford pins on the Fusion.
Most agree the odds of brand H hitting this target are higher than with the Ford, but Honda knows it has something special, and the hybrid Accord starts at just under $30,000, but may be worth it anyway.
Our recommendation is after you have read reviews, and thought about it, do test drive potential choices, as you are the ultimate judge.
But to answer our question, in qualified terms, the Fusion Hybrid is a fine car that does many things well.
At the very least it exceeds its non-hybrid stable mates by a wide degree with superior mpg and is comparable in most other respects.
Last month (January 2014) it was the second-best seller in America, beating the Camry Hybrid by a small but not insignificant margin and represents a solid value.
For more details and a video, please also see our 2013 full Ford Fusion Hybrid review.