By Allen Penticoff
The 2013 Ford Fusion (sticker price of $29,890) was named “Green Car of the Year” by Green Car Journal. Is there good reason? The short answer is y
Since Ford Motor Co. introduced the Fusion to its lineup in 2005 (2006 model year), it has garnered many awards and much praise. Car and Driver magazine said, “It’s not your father’s Taurus.” Accordingly, sales have been brisk. Indeed, for this particular review I stopped by Fairway Ford in Freeport, Ill., to test the 2013 Fusion Hybrid, and found that the sales manager, Phil Vittorio, was on vacation, so took some photos of the Fusion Hybrid and its striking sister, the Lincoln MKZ and planned to return another day to drive the car. Well, it got sold in the meantime. So, this review involves driving a standard, non-hybrid Fusion, with the experience of my recently driving the Ford C-Max hybrid, which has the same 2.0-liter engine, drivetrain and lithium-ion battery pack.
First up is the styling change for 2013. The third version of the Fusion has really hit a sweet spot for styling. The front end and grill remind me of an Aston Martin DB7 (of James Bond fame). The body is also a bit wider and longer and nicely sculpted. Mid-sized sedans are still a very popular body style, and the Fusion competes head-to-head with the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Other reviews have given the Fusion a slight nod in preference over these other two strong competitors — particularly in the hybrid version.
I found the Fusion immediately comfortable, although the dark interior was a bit claustrophobic for me, with the A-pillar (the one to your left in front of the driver) and B-pillar a bit intrusive — but this is typical of the modern car in general, so it can’t be considered a complaint. The fabric and finish were first rate. The electric adjusted driver’s seat was comfortable, and nothing annoyed my knees during the drive. There is a sleek center counsel that widens as it blends into the dashboard — where an 8-inch display screen resides. Later, I’d use this display screen to adjust the climate control. Knobs and buttons are lacking, except on the steering wheel, where buttons adjust many things including the instrument displays. In our case, the display gave us no miles to empty, so Phil and I headed off to the nearest gas station to add a few gallons to the tank. The instruments featured an analog speedometer flanked, but changeable digital displays.
While Phil was pumping gas, I played with the soft-touch LED lights in the overhead console. The new Fusion has so many electronic things with the Ford Sync and MyFord Touch and various options, it is totally in keeping with the modern gizmos. These gizmos include backup camera (which I found worked quite well in not backing into my own vehicle), blind spot traffic monitoring and cross rear-traffic monitoring — both of which aid in an age-old problem of seeing where all those other vehicles are. Of course, it can be had with a navigation display, which on the large screen makes it easy to follow directions. When sync’d with a cell phone, it can automatically call 911 in an accident as well. I would need to take a class about how all these things work.
I took the Fusion on a quick drive through Woodside Drive in Freeport, a curvy street lined with doctors’ homes and plenty of bumps. The Fusion handled the combination bump and curve quite well. The ride is “sporty,” not luxurious. It reportedly handles much like sporty performance cars. The engine had a bit of buzz to it, but not an offensive amount. When operating in hybrid mode, it can travel quite a ways on electric power alone. Although not available in the Midwest yet, there is a plug-in hybrid version of the Fusion that will travel as an electric car for many miles (e-range not yet rated). Ford hopes to attain 100 mpge with it — to beat out the Chevy Volt and plug-in Prius as the most efficient car in America. Acceleration is good, and the regenerative brakes, as always, take a bit of getting accustomed to (I’ll be doing a Mr. Green Car report on these brakes soon).
As for fuel economy, the Fusion Hybrid gets EPA rated 47 mpg city and 47 mpg highway. This is remarkable fuel economy for a mid-size car. The Ford C-Max hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ hybrid (sticker price of $37,920) get similar mileage. But Consumer Reports has been investigating complaints that this mileage is not attainable. Phil Vittorio defends the Ford hybrid package saying that his experience is that the drivers stomp on the gas to go — then mash on the brakes to stop. He says you will not see the rated fuel economy driving like this. Driven gently, he has personally experienced the rated mpg, and better.
Phil is right, but the caveat is that if you drive a hybrid like it needs to be driven to get the best fuel economy, other drivers are not going to be very happy with you. I suggest you drive normally so as not to be a hazard on the street, and take your lumps with fuel economy reductions — it is still going to be quite good — more than 40 mpg, and drive gently and efficiently when conditions allow. If you are driving any of the three Ford mid-sized hybrid vehicles, a little extra time behind the wheel won’t be a bother — they are a comfy place to be.