The Ford Fusion Hybrid has become a fuel-economy leader for the second-biggest domestic automaker. Now, in its second spin around the block, the Fusion Hybrid's stretching its gas-mileage envelope--and adding some plug-in, electric-only driving to the experience as well.
The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the related Fusion Energi share the same sleek body with the gas-powered Fusion sedan. Those cinematic good looks carry over intact, as do most of the Fusion's confident road manners. It's in the powertrain department where these versions are radically different: the Fusion Hybrid adopts a 2.0-liter four-cylinder related to the turbocharged one in the most expensive models, but instead of adding forced induction, it grafts on an advanced hybrid pack with lithium-ion batteries and an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT) to power the front wheels.
The concept's identical to the outgoing Fusion Hybrid, which earned EPA gas mileage ratings of 41 miles per gallon city, 36 miles per gallon highway--but in its new, leaner form, with its reformulated and smaller battery pack, the 2013 Fusion Hybrid's EPA ratings soar to 47 miles per gallon, whether we're talking city, highway, or combined. That compares well not only to the outgoing model but to the latest Camry Hybrid's 43/39-mpg ratings.
The Fusion Hybrid also can run on electric power alone for a few miles at speeds of up to 62 mph, 15 mph faster than before. That's the prelude to the Fusion Energi, the plug-in hybrid version that's coming late in 2012, with a slightly larger battery pack and an estimated electric-only driving range of approximately 20 to 28 miles.
We've had a brief drive in the Fusion Hybrid to observe its road manners and very short fuel-economy runs, which we registered at 36 mpg on a mixed run of city and hilly roads. We'll reserve judgement until we can control the refueling of the vehicle, though we've noted elsewhere on Green Car Reports how hybrid vehicle drivers often find real-world gas mileage is substantially lower than EPA figures.
What's clear from our drive is that the Fusion Hybrid's powertrain is smoothly integrated, its gas engine well isolated and its noise levels low--in part, because Ford fits active noise cancellation to nix some of the not so good vibrations. The transition between electric and gas-electric power is as good as it gets in this class, and braking feel has been tuned to as close to normal as possible, while preserving the regeneration that recharges the hybrid's battery pack.
The powertrain differences do slow down outright acceleration, and soften the cornering that mark some of the real high points of the best gas-powereed Fusion sedans. But the hybrid Fusion still has the more lively electric power steering feel common with other models, and forgiving but firm suspension tuning.And then, there's that rock-star body. The Prius looks like a hybrid; the Fusion Hybrid looks like a celebrity, with its svelte contours and its exotic-looking grille. The cockpit's an exercise in restraint, especially in the Hybrid, which demands MyFord Touch--which replaces the base car's buttons and knobs with a smooth LCD touchscreen and steering-wheel controls that run climate, navigation, phone, and radio functions. It's elegant and spare in a way that recalls the best Audi designs, and it's a striking note even in a class of cars that's gotten so much better at appealing to mainstream buyers without pandering to mass-market tastes.
The Fusion Hybrid has interior room that's about the same as the outgoing model, reorganized a bit to accommodate the sleek roofline. Without a sunroof installed, there's very good headroom, even in the back seat, and four six-foot adults can sit with ample knee room, though the front passenger's feet will be canted slightly inward, around the wheel well. The Hybrid's base seats are covered in recycled material; it's shiny in an environmentally pleasing but inexpensive-looking way, but the seats themselves are shaped very well, with thin but supportive cushions and headrests that don't push too far forward as in some recent Fords.
The Fusion Hybrid's batteries sit in a raised hump behind the rear seats, consuming 4 cubic feet of trunk space, but leaving 12 cubic feet for storage--and significantly, mounting low enough to enable engineers to retain fold-down rear seats and a useful pass-through to the cabin.
The 2013 Fusion has eight airbags standard--front, side, and knee bags for front-seat passengers, and side curtains that cover the entire window opening front and rear--for all four outboard passengers. Ford is aiming for five-star safety ratings from the NHTSA; the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick.
Bluetooth is standard on the Hybrid, while a rearview camera, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and lane-departure and lane-keeping assist are options. So is active park assist, which steers the car into a parallel parking space while the driver controls the brake and throttle.
Other features offered include a navigation system; a rear spoiler and 18-inch wheels; leather seats; a sunroof; remote start; parking sensors; and a technology package with the rearview camera and an 8-inch LCD screen for MyFord Touch.
The 2013 Fusion Hybrid arrives at dealerships this fall, priced from $27,995, and immediately positions itself as the most desirable hybrid on the market short of the Fisker Karma.
The 2013 Fusion Energi is expected to arrive by the end of the year. Along with its larger lithium-ion battery pack, it gets a 3.3-kilowatt charger and an external door for the charging port, and a base priceof about $40,000. Ford predicts its EPA figures will settle in at above 100 MPGe--above the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, and higher than the Chevrolet Volt.For more on the gas-only version of this sedan, see The Car Connection's review of the 2013 Ford Fusion.