When it launched early in 2009 as a 2010 model, the Ford Fusion Hybrid was a sensation.
It easily outdid that year's Toyota Camry Hybrid in gas mileage, with ratings of 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, for a combined overall rating of 39 mpg. (The new 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid is rated at 41 mpg combined.) That's not as high as the 50-mpg rating of the Toyota Prius, but the Fusion Hybrid had the advantage for many buyers that it didn't "look like a hybrid" but simply like a regular mid-size sedan.
It was stylish, well equipped, and comfortable, and the user information displays--both in the all-glass instrument cluster and the central display--was simply miles ahead of any other hybrid's presentation.
While many makers have them now, Ford was the first to portray efficient driving with a vine that grows leaves slowly as the driver conserves fuel--only to have them fade away to nothing if the driver floors it and drives inefficiently. And, if you're really irritated by that idea, you can hide it away and never see it--a huge amount of the operating data and graphic displays are user configurable.
The current 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid is in the last year of its life, and will be replaced by an all-new 2013 Fusion Hybrid later this year. The new car will have the MyFordTouch voice and touch control interface, but it's not offered on the 2012 Fusion. (Given the problems many drivers have had with the first version, that may not be such a bad thing--the 2013 model will have an upgraded version.) The 2012 model does offer Sync, however, so drivers can make and answer phone calls and use voice commands to control the Fusion's infotainment system.
The Fusion Hybrid is fitted with a modified 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motor-generators that function as an electronic continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The hybrid Fusion, under the right circumstances (flat roads, low speeds, gentle acceleration) can run in electric-only mode up to 47 miles per hour, giving far more electric miles than Toyota systems that top out around 30 mph. When the engine does switch on, unlike the Prius and to a lesser extent the Camry Hybrid, the sound as it spools up is muted and feels farther away.
The interior is comfortable for four, acceptable for five, and fit and finish is excellent. The 2010 Fusion was extensively redesigned with a special focus on the interior, which offers features like a 110-Volt power outlet and a short list of options. The Hybrid model was added as a new model at that mid-cycle revamp.
While it's a heavy mid-size sedan, the 2012 Fusion Hybrid remains fun to drive. It corners flat, and the feel conveyed by the electric power steering is remarkably good against Toyota's historically numb and feedback-free efforts. The hybrid Fusion is fitted with unique 17-inch chrome wheels, a handful of fairly discreet badges, and its own palette of paint colors.
It's not inexpensive--the starting price is $28,775 before delivery--but the Fusion Hybrid has been rapturously reviewed since its launch two years ago, and it's a big win for Ford. We look forward to the continuing battle of the hybrid sedans next year, when the all-new 2013 Fusion Hybrid competes with both the new 2012 Camry Hybrid and the newest entrant in the field, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.