2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review

Bringing top-level hybrid technology to the masses

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review
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The folks at Ford have done an incredible job at marketing the new 2010 Fusion Hybrid, making it seem like a game changer. In some ways that’s true, in other ways, not so much.

FAST FACTS

1. The Fusion Hybrid gets 41/36 mpg (city/hwy).

2. On average you’ll save $341.87 in gas each year.

3. It has the same type of two-mode hybrid system as found in the Toyota Prius, meaning it can operate on gasoline, electricity or a combination of the two.

4. It costs $27,270 and comes equipped with everything the 4-cylinder SEL model has except leather.

If you’ve watched the commercials or read the press release snippets you may have heard too-good-to-be-true stats like 81 mpg and 1,445 miles on a single tank. And while its true that Ford did achieve these numbers, you won’t. Not even close.

In Ford’s defense, however, those outrageous numbers serve a purpose and that is to inform people that the Fusion Hybrid is an incredibly fuel-efficient vehicle. And there’s no lie there.

41 MPG CITY, 36 MPG HIGHWAY

The real EPA numbers list the Fusion Hybrid at 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and an average of 39 mpg. In our weeklong test of the car we managed an impressive 42 mpg. It’s not often that you get a car that exceeds the EPA rating. In fact, we’re not sure it’s ever happened.

In order to get these incredibly numbers the Fusion is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. This is the same type of “two-mode” hybrid system found in the Toyota Prius. In that sense it’s nothing new, but what is impressive about the Fusion’s setup is that the batteries are significantly more powerful and can actually propel the car at speeds up to 47 mph.

While the pure EV mode is great in traffic jams, unfortunately there isn’t enough juice to get you off the line with anything close to a reasonable amount of speed and so after trying that method we decided to forgo the low speed electric power in favor of more throttle and the added use of the gasoline engine. Then, around town, when you reach you desired speed, lift off the throttle and it’s amazing how long you can coast using electric power. As is evidenced by our numbers, this trick seems to work.

It got us thinking though, if there was perhaps twice as much electric juice, we could even get up to speed on just electric power, eliminating the need for gasoline when leaving from a stop – which is when the most fuel seems to be consumed.

We won’t hold that against the Fusion Hybrid. Let’s just say the system was so good that it got us thinking what might be next.

THE COMPETITION

Another reason you might have an overwhelmingly positive opinion of the Fusion Hybrid is that you may have heard, as Ford hopes you have, that this vehicle is the most fuel-efficient mid-sized car in America. Ford’s definition is more than just a little creative, however, as the mid-sized Prius actually holds that title with 51/48 mpg (city/highway). The reason Ford can make the claim is really a matter of semantics.

Regardless, we’re not really sure too many folks will be cross-shopping these two. But we’ll get to that later.

Compared to the Camry Hybrid, the Fusion does rate 8 mpg better in the city and 2 mpg better on the highway and the Fusion so far out-paces the Malibu hybrid that Chevy stopped building the thing altogether.

HIGH-TECH DIGITAL DASH

The dash of the Fusion Hybrid is mostly electronic and is an impressive bit of technology to watch, especially when you first start up the car. The only other vehicle that has a system like this is the $80,000 BMW 750i.

Ford calls it the SmartGauge with EcoBoost instrument cluster and it has all sorts of displays, showing you your current mpg rating as well as a real time graph of fuel consumption. There is also a fuel-tank rating with how may miles you have left in the tank, as well as a power bar that shows when you are using electric power (shown in green), gasoline (red) or a combination of both. The graphs are a great way of allowing the driver to monitor their own driving style.

The screen also has a side display where leaves and vines “grow” when you drive economically. I honestly didn’t notice them. I did keep an eye on that power bar, however, and actually think it helped occupy my time while stuck in traffic, meaning I was not only using less gas, but I was also less bored.

On the flip side, watching that dash all the time did bring to mind two things the Prius has that the Fusion hybrid doesn’t: an Eco button and an EV button.

While on the Toyota you can just push an EV button for low-speed electric cruising (like in traffic), or an Eco button that limits throttle response to ensure acceleration is muted and less gas is consumed, on the Ford you can’t… no such buttons exist. In other words, fuel-efficient driving is your responsibility and demands you full attention, whereas the Prius makes saving fuel as effortless as the push of a button.

WHAT YOU GET

For the price, the Fusion Hybrid is well equipped and comes with everything found on the 4-cylinder SEL model, except for the leather seats. Greenies are sure to appreciate that the eco-seats are made of post-industrial 100 percent recycled materials, but to us they just looked cheap. Leather can be added for $1,190.

Additional standard features include power windows with a one-touch up/down driver’s window, power locks with remote entry, power 8-way driver and 6-way passenger heated seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Ford’s voice-activated SYNC system, cruise control and redundant audio controls on the steering wheel, an auto dimming rearview mirror and power/heated body colored mirrors.

The car’s dash is nice with the same sort of good materials and excellent build quality that Ford has become known for as of late. The steering wheel and armrest are both leather coated and while we like that the wheel has nice stitching on it, the overall size of the thing is a bit large.

Our tester featured Ford’s Moon and Tune package, which adds a moonroof, while replacing the standard six-speaker audio system with a 390-watt, 12-speaker setup. It also had the Driver’s Vision Package which includes safety features like a back-up camera, reverse sensors and Ford’s BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), which lets you know if there is an object in your blind spot by illuminating a light on the side mirror.

Standard safety includes seven airbags (include a driver’s knee airbag), ABS with EBD, a tire pressure monitoring system, child safety rear door locks and Ford’s AdvanceTrac stability control system with integrated traction control.

Hybrid models also get special 17-inch wheels, Ford’s hybrid badging and of course, that cool digital dash. In total, the Fusion Hybrid (with leather) costs $28,460 – that’s $4,485 more than a comparable SEL model.

THE DRIVE

Out on the road the Fusion Hybrid is two cars in one. On the highway it drives very much like a large full-sized sedan with a soft comfortable suspension, while around town it feels much smaller and has a reasonably sporty feel for a mid-sized vehicle.

Unlike a lot of other hybrids on the market the Fusion doesn’t feel underpowered. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder and electric motor combine to produce 191hp.

As for the brake pedal feel, something that many hybrid manufacturers have struggled with due to the regenerative braking system, it is much improved in the new model. The pedal isn’t nearly as touchy and is far superior to the system Honda is using.

BUT IS IT WORTH IT?

Is the Fusion Hybrid worth the added cost to your pocketbook? The real answer is, well.. maybe. Is it worth it to the environment? Yes.

Compared to the Fusion Hybrid’s average 39 mpg rating the standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder gets an average of 27 mpg. Based on annual driving of 12,000 miles and an average price of $2.50 a gallon the Hybrid will cost $769.23 a year to fill up the massive 17.5-gallon tank, versus $1,111.10 for the four-cylinder, for a difference of $341.87.

If you recall, the difference between the Hybrid and 4-cylinder SEL model is $4,485, meaning that even after 10 years you won’t make up the difference in fuel-savings. If you drive more or fuel goes back up to $4.00 (which it is likely to do) then the hybrid will become a better buy.

But wait, the Hybrid model is actually a better buy right now thanks to generous green car incentives from the government that make it less expensive than the 4-cylinder.

THE VERDICT

Overall, we’re impressed with the hybrid version of Ford’s new 2010 Fusion; a car that holds its own against the mid-sized Japanese competitors. Sure Ford has made some big claims, but they have done so to prove a point. That’s what writers call a hyperbole.

What makes the Fusion Hybrid a winner isn’t just that it’s good at being a hybrid, but that it’s good at being a car. Other than those “road and leaf” hybrid badges, the cool SmartGauge with EcoBoost instrument cluster and the fact that it’s completely silent on start-up, there’s little that is hybridy about the car.

You can even drive it like any other vehicle, but if you want to get most out of every drop of fuel you’ll have to spend your time watching the gauges and feathering the throttle. What we’d really like to see is an Eco button (like in the Prius), so you can leave the task of driving efficiently to the car’s computer.

While it is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, people aren’t likely to be cross-shopping it with a Prius because it’s not a pretentious “look-at-me-I’m-saving-the-environment” type of car, but rather an unassuming, practical, quality family vehicle that also happens to be good for mother earth.

In our review of the new 2010 Prius we pointed out how Toyota is working hard to make its niche-market hybrid appealing to mainstream consumers. The Fusion Hybrid is a car that already is.

While Ford’s big claims about the car may be exaggerated and it isn’t really a game-changer in the battle for improved fuel-economy, it is a revolutionary vehicle in the sense that it’s bringing excellent hybrid technology to the masses.

LOVE IT

  • Fuel-economy.
  • Still a normal car.
  • Way-cool digital dash.

LEAVE IT

  • Fuel-efficient driving requires constant driver involvement.
  • Cheap-looking eco-seats.

RELATED READING

2010 Toyota Prius: First Drive – Toyota adds plenty to the third-generation Prius to give it mainstream appeal 2010 Honda Insight – Honda’s first mass-market hybrid does the job, but it’s not up to the company’s engineering standards 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid – It’s everything that’s good about a Civic, with even better fuel economy 2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid – Practical People Mover

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