The Ford Fusion Hybrid mid-size sedan was Ford's second hybrid vehicle after the Escape Hybrid crossover. The Fusion Hybrid, launched early in 2009 as a 2010 model, was a sensation.
It handily beat the gas mileage of the competing Toyota Camry Hybrid, with ratings of 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway, and its user information displays in the large display that showed both the instrument cluster and a variety of data on the hybrid system's operation was miles ahead of any other hybrid.
Ford, for instance, pioneered the idea of showing a vine whose green leaves grow slowly as you drive economically--and then, if you hammer the car, evanesce quietly away to leave the vine bare until you moderate your behavior.
While the Fusion line hasn't yet received the MyFord Touch voice-controlled infotainment and vehicle control system, it does offer Sync, which lets drivers choose songs, make and answer phone calls, and control the infotainment system, all by voice.
The powertrain is the latest evolution of Ford's specially tuned 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which runs lean to save fuel during those times when the electric motor is providing torque at lower engine speeds. The combination performs roughly as well as the Fusion's optional V-6 engine, but with fuel economy that's half again as high.
And it can operate on electric power alone at speeds up to 47 miles per hour, under the right circumstances, frequently switching into electric-only mode even for only a few seconds while it shuts off fuel to the engine--all of it done seamlessly and all but unnoticeably to the driver.
While the mileage isn't as high as the uber-hybrid Toyota Prius, the 2011 Fusion Hybrid is a far more conventional looking four-door sedan that doesn't shout "HYBRID!" at passers-by. The styling, revised for 2010, is crisp if a bit slab-sided, and while we're not wild about the big slatted chrome grille, we've gotten used to it.
The interior blends big car comfort (for four) with good materials and some nice touches. Ford has put a lot of effort into sound damping in the Fusion, and it pays off. Unlike the Prius, while you hear the engine spooling up at times, the sound feels removed and muted rather than just beyond your knees.
Fit and finish is excellent, and the Fusion Hybrid gets a handful of new features and options that include a 110-Volt power outlet and optional HD Radio.
Like most Fords these days, the 2011 Fusion Hybrid is fun to drive. The handling is flat and direct, and the electric power steering is remarkably good at conveying simulated road feel and feedback. The hybrid Fusion gets its own 17-inch chrome wheels, added color options, and relatively discreet badges with a small green leaf amidst the chrome lettering.
Overall, the Fusion Hybrid has been a huge boost for Ford. It's selling in volumes the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid--impressive on paper, but late to launch--can only dream of, and it simply outguns the aging Toyota Camry Hybrid on every front, from fuel economy to features.