Comparing Cousin Hybrids

The 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid is a very close cousin to the more popular 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, so we have reposted our review of the Fusion Hybrid below. (Photos were swapped out to show the Milan Hybrid.)

If the Fusion Hybrid appeals to you—many reviewers believe it’s the best hybrid on the road—then the Milan offers a stylistic alternative. The Milan Hybrid’s base price is slightly higher than Fusion’s, but close enough that your choice of optional equipment means they are essentially priced the same—just north of $30,000 out the door.

The choice between Milan Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid comes down to style: the design of the grille, the cut of edges between roofline and windshield, the distance between and angle of the headlights, the shape of taillights, and the curve of the back bumper. Check out the long list of detailed close-up photos in our comparison of Fusion and Milan.

Review of Ford Fusion Hybrid

USA Today emphatically stated, “The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid is the best gasoline-electric hybrid yet.” said, “Fusion Hybrid is a significant step forward for the technology, particularly for family sedans.” And Car and Driver said the Ford Fusion Hybrid “wipes the floor with the Toyota Camry Hybrid.” Comparisons with the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Nissan Altima Hybrid (only available in eight states) make sense. They currently are the three leading hybrid contenders in the mid-size family sedan category. The Toyota Prius hatchback—with its unique aerodynamic design, slightly smaller interior, smaller engine and 50-mpg rating—will probably appeal to a different buyer.

From Gas to Electric and Back

The Ford Fusion Hybrid’s 41 city / 36 highway mileage ratings handily beat the Camry Hybrid’s 33/34 and the Altima Hybrid’s 35/33. Ford engineers also did a tremendous job of eliminating the flutter-rumble that many hybrids make when transitioning from gas engine to electric mode. In the Fusion Hybrid, the gasoline engine seamlessly starts up and shuts down “with only the very faintest shudder” according to Automobile magazine. USA Today goes further: “There was no—none, nada, zip—vibration or shimmying in the test car when the gasoline kicked in to help the electric. No other hybrid—not even that $107,000 Lexus—can make that claim 100 percent of the time.”

The Fusion Hybrid—and its sibling, the Mercury Milan Hybrid—are the first vehicles to use Ford’s second-generation hybrid system. Hybrid-electric vehicle systems engineer Gil Portalatin told us that the control logic for the new hybrid system provides much tighter integration of engine operation and power delivery. The new logic goes as far as to vary the engine’s valve timing, fuel delivery, and spark timing to match the power delivered through the electric motor, permitting very aggressive fuel shutdown under light loads. As a result, the Fusion Hybrid’s 2.5-liter engine shuts itself off twice as much as the earlier Escape, with the electric system providing more power. In addition, new control logic for the regenerative brakes recaptures up to 94 percent of the braking energy and feeds it to the battery.

Zesty Drive

Mercury Milan Hybrid

Mercury Milan Hybrid

Enthusiasm from the auto press is also extended to the Fusion Hybrid’s road manners. said, “Compared to the similarly sized Camry Hybrid, the Fusion Hybrid is a relatively zesty sedan…The Fusion’s braking force feels reassuringly linear.” Jalopnik wrote, “The Fusion also comprehensively outdrives the Camry; providing a level of steering feel, control responsiveness and overall ability that’s far greater than that of its Japanese competition.” wrote that the Fusion Hybrid’s 2.5 liter 4-cyclinder engine provide plenty of power for freeway ramps, while hugging the road and offering a comfortable ride. Auto writers similarly praise the steering, handling, suspension and quiet ride.

The combined output for the Fusion Hybrid’s engine and motor is 191 horsepower. Besides the Hybrid, the 2010 Ford Fusion lineup offers a choice of three different engines: a 2.5-liter inline-4 with 175 horsepower; a 3.0-liter flex-fuel V6 with 240 hp; and a performance-tuned 3.5-liter V6 with 263 hp.

The one consistent criticism regarding the Fusion Hybrid’s drive is that Ford exaggerated when it claimed that the sedan can go 47 miles per hour, and as much as two miles, in all-electric mode. That requires just the right conditions for acceleration, load, battery charge level, weather—and proper alignment of stars. Unless you exert extreme care to stretch the electric drive, you shouldn’t count on more than a few blocks at relatively low speeds.

Exterior & Interior Design

Mercury Milan Hybrid

Mercury Milan Hybrid

The entire line of Ford Fusions—including the base S, mid-level SE, well equipped SEL, and the Fusion Hybrid—hasl been spruced up for the 2010 model year. said the new Fusion “keeps its predecessor’s athletic lines, but adds some much-needed presence: The flanks seem better-rounded, the headlights sharper.” Car and Driver adds, “The refresh makes the Fusion sharper looking, particularly since the weird headlamps of the original have been replaced.” Reviewers said the Fusion Hybrid looks like an uplevel Fusion SE or SEL. But not everybody likes the design. Bloomberg wrote, “From the lackluster rims, which look like they’re made of plastic, to the generic sedan shape, the Fusion has no flash whatsoever.”

The interior, especially the high-tech features, gets mixed reviews, but mostly positive. Detroit News said, “The new instrument cluster looks much more sophisticated, and the dash has an easy flow. The touch points are soft, and every inch of the cabin uses high-quality materials.” Jalopnik said, “The Fusion is nicer inside too. While still not up to European levels of design, the Fusion cabin doesn’t revolt in the same way that the Camry does.” Car and Driver adds, “Inside, the Fusion also receives a new instrument panel, redesigned seats, and more stylish trim, although the quality of some of the materials isn’t yet on par with those of the class leaders.”

The new Fusions offer Ford’s popular Sync voice-activated digital entertainment and integrated mobile phone system. Other options include blind-spot information mounted on the outside mirror, a backup camera screen cleverly hidden in the rearview mirror, cross-traffic alerts when reversing, and real-time traffic and weather through the Sirius Travel Link satellite radio system. Other standard features include bags, belts, 110-volt outlet, six-CD stereo (instead of the typical single setup), dual-zone climate control, auto on-off headlights, and auto-dimming mirror.

The Fusion Hybrid uses a new nickel metal hydride battery with 20 percent more power, in a package that’s 30 percent smaller. That means the Fusion Hybrid sacrifices only a negligible amount of trunk space compared to the standard version—but not enough to retain rear folding seats, which are not available in the Fusion Hybrid. The Camry Hybrid managed to keep folding back seats.

Ford Hybrids Come with Fuel Economy Nag

Ford SmartGuage

The Ford SmartGuage “coaches” the driver on how to achieve maximum fuel economy.

The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid, are also the first to use Ford’s new SmartGuage technology. Inspired by the Toyota Prius’s hybrid energy/consumption monitor, the SmartGauge goes further by helping the driver to learn specific techniques to achieve higher efficiency. The dashboard interface offers feedback to the driver—both visual and sound. In other words, it actually talks to you.

The gauge cluster is comprised of dual hi-resolution LCD screens to display instantaneous mileage and fuel economy history—as well as key data including battery charge, engine output, and accessory power consumption. One animation depicts a vine of leaves that grows larger as the driver becomes more efficient over time. To prevent sensory overload, the system allows the driver to decide how much information to see, and what can be ignored. That’s critical, because many reviewers believe the fuel economy system is distracting. And others experienced “false alarms” from the cross-traffic alerts.


Mercury Milan Hybrid

Mercury Milan Hybrid

If you like the Fusion Hybrid’s more dynamic handling and performance, and smoother hybrid system, compared to the Camry Hybrid or Altima Hybrid, then get ready to pay for it. The Fusion Hybrid, with a base MSRP of $27,300, is $2,000 more than the Camry Hybrid or Altima Hybrid. And it’s several thousand dollars more than the base-level Fusion S trim, which has a fuel efficiency rating of 22/31. For reference, Ford’s other hybrid, the Escape Hybrid SUV, is comparably priced to the Fusion at $29,300 and offers fuel economy at 36 in the city and 31 on the highway.

Reaffirming Ford’s commitment to hybrid-electric vehicles, Nancy Gioia, the executive responsible for Ford’s electrified vehicles, said all its new products globally will permit hybrid versions. Gioia, a 26-year Ford veteran, told that design standards have been changed to ensure future Ford “vehicle architectures” can accommodate gasoline, diesel, and hybrid powertrains. Not all vehicles will be offered as hybrids in all markets, she said, but Ford wants the option to add gas-electric drive with as little change as possible. If that makes it easier for Ford to roll out best-in-class hybrid features in compelling vehicles like the Ford Fusion, it’ll be a good thing.