Natalie Reid was born in Winnipeg, Canada, and probably never guessed that she would wind up finding work impersonating career party animal and public fool Paris Hilton.
As you probably remember, it debuted for the 2012 model year to a warm if not slightly cynical group of automotive writers who couldn’t help but compare it to products from Ford’s upper crust former subsidiary brand.
Even with a couple of model years under its belt, the Fusion arguably remains one of the best-looking cars in its segment and with an available hybrid powertrain it’s also one of the most efficient. Or so Ford led the world to believe by shouting from dealership rooftops about an average 47 MPG. Like Icarus, I managed to fly high enough to touch those numbers, but never for long. Ford finally admitted this year that its advertised mileage on the Fusion Hybrid and a handful of other models wasn’t accurate and released less optimistic figures.
Nevertheless, the Fusion Hybrid is a remarkably efficient machine. The revised sticker suggests you should see an average of 42 MPG between highway and city driving and honestly, that ain’t bad.
But now Honda is offering a hybrid version of the Accord that locks horns with the Fusion and supposedly offers an average 47 MPG. As a long-time lover of Honda’s mid-sizer, I set plans in motion to see which of the two is a better choice.
The hybrid Accord uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a 124 kW electric motor that make a combined total of 196 hp. This is a new hybrid powertrain not to be confused with the system at play in lamentable products like the Insight and Civic Hybrid. While the gasoline engine is capable of sending power to the front wheels, its first job is to generate electricity feeding into the battery pack that sits between the passenger compartment and trunk. As a side note, that means you can’t lower the rear seats to accommodate longer cargo.
The Fusion also uses a four-cylinder engine and electric motors for a total system output of 188 hp. Ford positioned the bulkier parts of its hybrid system in the trunk area and that intrudes on the cargo space. Boxier objects might not fit, but the advantage is that the seats can be folded and that means it’s still possible to use the trunk and cabin as a single space.
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Good Looking and Great Looking
Don’t let the Fusion’s dashing style nab you hook, line and sinker. It looks good, but so does the Accord. Both manufacturers avoided unnecessarily styling elements that scream “hybrid” or “green car.” The Accord gets a revised grille while both it and the Fusion wear subtle hybrid badges, but little more. Ford offers the Fusion with 18-inch wheels while the Accord gets model-specific 17’s.
Big Difference in Cabin Details
You could debate the merits of how both cars look from a curb for hours, but it isn’t until you get inside that the differences really become clear. The Fusion’s seats are softer and more couch-like, but the interior is a distant second to the quality and attention to detail Honda puts into the Accord.
Both cars have hard plastic surfaces scattered throughout, but Honda does a better job of hiding them. Perhaps more importantly, the buttons and switches are more satisfying to press.
There are differences in rear seat space between the two, but the margins are too thin to notice and if a quality cabin is among your top priorities, Ford’s product might be a tough sell. The Accord’s seats aren’t as cushy, but it feels like they are better constructed.
Despite that, the Honda has downsides. For some reason, the Hybrid model is only offered with a beige interior and the car I borrowed to test was already showing dirt with only a few thousand miles on the odometer.
Driving it Home
Needless to say, neither car is exciting to drive and they probably shouldn’t be because they are both designed with fuel efficiency as a top priority. Even still, there are differences you should know about.
The Fusion’s steering feels quicker and slightly heavier than the Accord does. Honda’s product feels nimbler, but that’s probably as much a product of how light its wheel feels in your hand as anything else.
The biggest difference between them is that Honda’s hybrid feels refined and is quiet under acceleration. Unfortunately, that isn’t true with the Fusion because you can hear the engine making a droning noise almost immediately.
It’s worth noting that the Fusion is available with automatic parallel parking and a “lane keep assist” feature that prevents the car from drifting over a painted line on the highway.
|Vehicle||2015 Honda Accord Hybrid||Advantage||2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid|
|Engine||2.0L four-cylinder hybrid powertrain||-||2.0L four-cylinder with electric motors|
|Rear seat legroom (inches)||38.5||Accord||38.3|
|Rear seat headroom (inches)||37.5||Fusion||37.8|
|Trunk space||12.7 cubic feet||Accord||12 cubic feet|
|Average estimated MPGs||47||Accord||42|
|Real world average MPGs||51||Accord||46|
Then again, Honda has “LaneWatch,” which is a camera mounted on the right-hand side-view mirror feeding into one of the two screens in the dashboard. It offers a wider viewing angle and that makes driving in tight city traffic much easier.
But if you’re seriously thinking about buying either of these cars, gas mileage is king. With that in mind, Steve Elmer and I put the two cars through a drive loop side-by-side to see how much gasoline they would (or wouldn’t) burn. Full disclosure: the route we took didn’t call for very much hard acceleration.
Remarkably, the Fusion scored an average 46 MPG to beat the newly revised estimates even if it still falls short of what Ford used to claim. That’s nothing to sneer at, but the Accord blew it away with 51 miles per gallon.
I wouldn’t expect to achieve that sort of fuel economy in either car while commuting through heavy traffic in either car, but it’s certainly possible provided you avoid hard acceleration.
Ford charges $27,165 for a basic Fusion Hybrid, or $34,700. Honda’s starting price for the hybrid is higher at $29,945 including delivery, but it also comes better equipped at the base level. “Touring” trimmed models like the car I drove cost $35,845 including delivery.
There’s one other thing to keep in mind. The supply of Accord Hybrids to U.S. dealers is stuck at a trickle because Honda is having a hard time supplying the hybrid components to the Ohio factory where it conducts final assembly on the car and that means sitting on a potentially long waiting list.
If you can take the time, I would implore you to. The Fusion isn’t bad, but the Accord Hybrid really is that much better.
2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid
2015 Honda Accord Hybrid