2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid: Very Short First Drive

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Memo to carmakers: Midtown Manhattan on a weekday can be a challenging, frustrating place to hold a test drive.

Two days ago, we drove the new 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid at a Ford media event, one of a handful across the country to show off its redesigned mid-size sedan.

The 2013 Fusion will be offered with three gasoline engines--a standard 2.5-liter four, and two EcoBoost turbocharged fours, of 1.6 and 2.0 liters--along with a Fusion Hybrid and, a few months later, a new Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid that Ford claims will be rated at more than 100 MPGe (MPG-equivalent).

The Fusion Hybrid has been rated by the EPA at 47 mpg combined (47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway), better than any of the gasoline versions--and an notable improvement on the 39-mpg combined rating of the outgoing current Fusion Hybrid.

So when we climbed into the Fusion Hybrid on Eleventh Avenue, we were looking forward to testing its performance.

Manhattan traffic had other ideas.

Between two drivers, we covered 7.1 miles in about 40 minutes. Of those, the car's display told us, 4.1 were covered electrically with the engine off.

Admittedly, the Fusion Hybrid spent a lot of time in stop-and-go traffic, meaning we sat with the engine off and the air-conditioning on for a large proportion of the total time.

We had only about 2 miles in which to test the car's quoted ability to run on electricity only as high as 62 mph.

We saw that once, briefly, at steady speed on a flat part of the West Side Highway; otherwise, cut-and-thrust traffic kept us on the power or the brake most of the time.

So here's the sum total of our impressions:

  • The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is comfortable to ride in, both front and rear
  • The hybrid system noticeably varies the point at which the car switches from electric to engine: the less charge the battery has, the quicker the engine comes on (many hybrids do this, but it seemed particularly noticeable in this car)
  • The digital displays in the instrument cluster either side of the central speedometer continue to be among the best in the business (although not as groundbreaking as they were in 2010)
  • Our 22.1-mpg gas mileage wasn't reflective of much of anything, since it reflects engine use almost entirely for hard acceleration

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Enlarge Photo

We also spent 15 minutes in a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine fitted with the optional $295 start-stop system.

It worked smoothly, wasn't overly lumpy when switching on and off under creeping traffic--always the toughest test for start-stop systems.

Ford says the start-stop system produces about a 3.5-percent fuel efficiency boost overall, but can improve fuel efficiency up to 10 percent for owners who drive mostly in cities.

We look forward to getting a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid to use over our usual test route.

MORE: REVIEW: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

The 2013 Ford Fusion will compete directly with the Toyota Camry (new in 2012), the Honda Accord (new for 2013), the Nissan Altima (new for 2013), the Chevrolet Malibu (new for 2013), and the Hyundai Sonata.

The 2013 Fusion line will go on sale later this year, including the Fusion Hybrid model. All hybrid Fusions are made in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The Energi plug-in hybrid version will launch at selected Ford dealers in certain regions early next year.

Meanwhile, Ford: How about weekend drive events in Manhattan instead? The traffic's much better then.


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Comments (9)
  1. So was the test drive right in front of a Chrysler dealership?

    It is great to hear that the start/stop is working well. Seems like a nice technology to start putting in non-hybrid cars.

  2. @John: Yeah, the test drive was held at a hotel across the street from a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep dealer. LOL.

  3. The increased fuel efficiency is impressive -- a 20% jump on the previous model is meaningful and a sign of things to come.

    I have to disagree, somewhat, re the dashboard. I found the information and displays fascinating in my week with the previous model but I wonder, seriously, at the human-systems interface. Toyota has been working to make the Prius displays, for example, ever more user friendly in terms of being able to gain information about vehicle performance with minimal distraction from observing the road. The Fusion / Ford display, spread out so far on either side of steering wheel, cannot be looked at and absorbed without taking one's eyes off the road. Seriously have to wonder whether this causes accidents.

  4. Note: to be clear, I really liked the older Ford Fusion Hybrid and would almost certainly appreciate the new one as well. (http://getenergysmartnow.com/2009/07/02/energy-cool-ford-putting-feedback-systems-into-practice/) Just reacting to the 'best dashboard' question as the human-systems interface issue merits attention/fixing.

  5. @A Siegel: Reasonable minds may differ, without test data on reaction time. I find the Prius "Multi Information Display" easier to glance at from the road, since it's at the base of the windscreen rather than behind the wheel (slightly less change in eye focal length).

    But compared to the old, full-color 2010 Fusion and the slightly updated version in the new model, I find the Prius MID looks like someone sprayed icons, numbers, graphs & characters toward the dash at random from a nozzle.

    The layout is highly non-intuitive (IMHO), though I can't comment on how easy each one is once regular drivers learn it.

    The Fusion has a large choice of user-selectable layouts for that left panel.

  6. Made in Mexico? I am very concerned about the reliability. I used to have a GM vehicle made in Mexico. It actually fell apart not long after purchasing it new. I got rid off it right before warranty expiration.

    I was excited reading this article about Ford Fusion Hybrid until the word "Mexico" appeared.

  7. Frank, a legitimate concern, I guess, but Mexico has landed almost every new car factory announced in the last few years, so the OEMs clearly don't hare your concern. Just this year, Audi, VW (same company, I know, but separate plants), BMW, Mazda and Hyundai have announced new plants in Mexico while not one new plant has been announced in the U.S.

    I've spent years visiting plants in various countries and there really isn't much difference anymore due to locstion IMHO. The test equipment is the same, same for process, etc... All in all, there's zero evidence that factories in Mexico have any more problems, as even the expensive German OEMs have agreed.

    Again, just one opinion here, but I don't share your concerns.

  8. "•Our 22.1-mpg gas mileage wasn't reflective of much of anything, since it reflects engine use almost entirely for hard acceleration"

    I am kind of surprised with this number. I agree that "short" drives sometimes tend to lower the actual MPGs. But 22mpg is really low.

    Is that the computer display or measured in gas consumed? I guess in a 7 miles test loop, energi model would have been better suited for the situation.

    How was the few short acceleration that you got from the car? Was it peppy enough? How is the handling in lane changing?

  9. "We covered 7.1 miles in about 40 minutes"

    I wanna try to calculate the MPG of a regular car in the same situation. Seems mostly stop and go, probably a lot of idling. I will have to assume a few things. My car I drive to work daily has a 1.6L 4 cyl. In an hour of driving on the freeway, I use about 1.5 gallons of gas. Given that is for an engine running at about 3K rpm, idling is much lower at about 1K rpm or less. Taking a few things into account, lets say that an hour of idling uses about 1 gallon of gas.

    So using your numbers, 7.1 mi/40min.In that 40 min, 2/3 of a gallon were used. then we have 7.1mi/.667gal then we set it equal to 'x' mi/1gal. When we solve for 'x', we get:
    10.6 mi/gal.
    Makes the 22.1 MPG of the hybrid look good

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