Motoring: Fusion Hybrid delivers fuel savings without the sacrifice

The Fusion’s new, sleeker silhouette, sweeping character lines and thin roof pillars create an athletic profile.

With a wide stance and sweeping profile

Let’s begin this Ford Fusion review with a few words about its big brother.

I’ve always liked the full-size Taurus, in particular the asphalt-ripping SHO model, but when the all-new Fusion launched in the fall of 2012, I was smitten.

Ford took the wraps off a redesigned mid-size sedan that, inside, is slightly roomier than the Taurus and on the outside, even more fetching.

The Fusion’s new, sleeker silhouette, sweeping character lines and thin roof pillars create an athletic profile. And its slit projector headlamps and wide grille with horizontal chrome strakes is a welcome nod to Aston Martin—one the Fusion wears well.

Fast forward to this summer.

Having just handed back the keys from both these vehicles following a week with each, I’m scratching my head as to why I’d choose a Taurus over a Fusion. Unless there’s a pressing need for the Taurus’s 569 litre, golf-bag-swallowing trunk, I can’t think of it.

My purpose here, however, is not a shootout between both vehicles, but simply to note that Fusion has checked all the right boxes in providing comfortable and fuel-efficient five-passenger transport. The lineup begins with an entry model in the low $20K range, and can climb close to $40K depending on your need for performance, fuel economy, amenities and driver tech.

There are many ways to order a Fusion, combining three trim levels (S, SE and Titanium) and numerous engine options: a 2.5-litre normally aspirated four cylinder, 1.6-litre turbo four, 2.0-litre turbo four, 2.0-litre regular hybrid, and plug-in hybrid.

My tester for the week was the SE Hybrid, which at $29,999 is nearly five grand more than the mid-pack SE, minus the battery. That may seem a big jump in price when the difference between the Titanium Hybrid and Titanium non-hybrid is only $1,400. But the latter comes with all-wheel-drive and is powered by the 2.0-litre Ecoboost, which is a step up from the SE’s 2.5-litre engine.

Other than receiving dual-zone climate control and eco-friendly cloth seating, the SE Hybrid is similarly equipped to its gas-only sibling. Standard features include power windows and locks, 10-way power driver’s seat, tilt/telescopic steering with cruise and audio controls, three 12-volt powerpoints, automatic headlamps, solar tinted windows, 17-inch aluminum wheels, six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system, SYNC voice-activated communications and infotainment system and a dual LCD “SmartGauge.”

This twin display is noteworthy in providing a user-friendly way to let you know when you’re being naughty or nice. To the left is the Brake Coach, which measures braking efficiency each time you apply the binders. Hit them hard and you’ll get a failing grade; apply them gently and gradually, and you’ll score in the nineties.

Use the same discretion with the go pedal, and you’ll also be rewarded—with “efficiency leaves.” This display of vines and leaves will grow when you’re driving efficiently, and shed its foliage when you don’t.

Like all press vehicles, my tester came with a few extras. These included an $800 appearance package that offered 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel and grippy charcoal fabric with red contrast stitching. Also on board were heated front seats ($600) and a few tech items like reverse sensing system ($400), rearview camera on 8-inch monitor ($700), and navigation ($700).

And if you want even more goodies, there’s adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection with cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, rear parking sensors, auto high beams and more.

Overall, even the SE interior has a premium look with plenty of soft touch materials, piano black appliqués, metallic and chrome accents and a modern flat-panel centre console with touch-sensitive controls.

In rear, passengers will find plenty of headroom and legroom, and separate ventilation with 12-volt and 110-volt power outlets below.

The 60/40 seats fold flush to a raised deck in the trunk, under which you’ll find the battery pack. But unlike most hybrids, it doesn’t eat up a lot of space, as the Fusion’s cargo capacity is still a cavernous 453 litres.

Driving dynamics were also a pleasant surprise. You would expect barely a whiff of sportiness in a car that by its intent discourages spirited driving, yet the Fusion Hybrid offers not only responsive steering, but a taut ride that’s a pleasure in the corners.

And although this is no sports sedan, the car’s 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle four cylinder (141 hp, 129 lb/ft, 188 hp system total), paired with the instantaneous torque of the electric motor, provides plenty of punch off the line, and when you need it for highway passing.

The Fusion’s predecessor had a 2.5-litre engine and a few more horses, but the new electric motor is more powerful than the one it replaces, allowing the 2013 to run on electric-only up to 100 km/h for short distances.

One area where Ford deserves a big ‘thumbs up’ is in their hybrid system’s ability to transition seamlessly between gas, gas/electric and electric-only modes. Other than the tiniest shudder when the petrol engine kicks in—less than I’ve experienced in cars costing thousands more—I’d be hard pressed to detect these shifts without the real-time graphic display.

Fuel economy, however, didn’t live up to Transport Canada’s rating of 4.0L/100 km combined. Mind you, I’ve also given up on the tooth fairy.

These tests are done on a dynamometer and seldom come close to real-world results, which in my case was 6.2L/100 km of combined city/highway driving. For a relatively large sedan—and taking into account my driving style —this was pretty darned good.

There’s still more to say about this vehicle, but sales figures speak for themselves. Year-to-date, as of July, Ford had moved 13,347 Fusions, which includes 729 hybrids.

These are big numbers, and suggest as I did in my last review, that the Fusion, built on an all-new global chassis, has knocked it out of the park in terms of styling and technology.

I would also add that in the Hybrid version, Ford offers a ‘green’ alternative that delivers all of the above, and with few sacrifices—other than your time at the fuel pump.

Ford Fusion Hybrid SE 2013

Body Style: mid-size sedan

Drive Method: front-engine, front wheel drive

Engine: 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle inline four cylinder with electric motor (combined 188 hp)

Transmission: electronically-controlled, continuously variable transmission

Ev Mode Top Speed: 100 km/h

Cargo: 453 litres

Fuel Economy: 4.0L/100km (city/hwy/comb); as tested 6.2L/100km (city/hwy/comb)

Price: SE Hybrid $29,999 (see web site for packages and stand-alone options, as well as latest offers)



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