By Sami Haj-Assaad
Jan 28, 2013
Photos by Sami Haj-Assaad
It’s easy to lose yourself in the Ford Fusion. At the first glimpse of its simply stunning front end, and sleek side profile, you may immediately forget what brand name is on the front of the car and what engine is under the hood.
1. 2013 Ford Fusion is the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants of the same car.
2. The Fusion Hybrid has new all-new lithium-ion batteries which are lighter and more powerful than previous batteries.
3. It can now go up to 62 mph on battery power alone.
4. With an EPA rated 47 mpg in city and highway driving, we averaged 39 mpg.
However, after spending a week with the Ford Fusion Hybrid, there are a few areas that can bring you right back to reality, be it flimsy interior trim, a buzzy engine or the worse than expected fuel economy.
ALL-NEW HYBRID ENGINE
The new for 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is in hot pursuit of becoming the most fuel efficient mid-sized sedan, picking up the pace right where the last model left off. However, the new Fusion uses a smaller gasoline engine, and lighter, more powerful lithium-ion battery. Total output is down slightly from the old model, but isn’t noticeable by any means, thanks to the equally slight change in weight.
Still, 188 total horsepower feels peppy and responsive, unlike other hybrids on the market including the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. Of course a major difference between this car and the Korean vehicles lies with the transmission. Ford, like Toyota, has opted to use a CVT transmission to ensure smooth operation and transition of the two modes of power delivery. The result is acceptable for everyday driving with the Fusion switching seamlessly between gas and electric operation, and with power delivery being smooth and predictable. Furthermore, the updated hybrid powertrain allows the gas engine to shut off at higher speeds, meaning short cruises on the highway can use very little gas. However, like any other CVT, there is a definite rubber band effect when it comes to putting your foot down, and high-speed passing produces a ton of noise which penetrates into the cabin from the little 2.0-liter engine.
Braking is also crude, with face-deforming deceleration present from the first tap of the pedal. This same behavior was noticed in the Ford C-Max Hybrid that we drove a while back, but when the vehicle made the move to a plug-in hybrid, engineers smoothed out the braking feel considerably. It’s a shame that the same issue still plagues the Fusion Hybrid, but just like the C-Max hybrid, maybe there is hope for future models.
A HYBRID YOU’LL WANT TO DRIVE
On-road manners of the Fusion Hybrid are wonderful, featuring superb handling, steering feel and feedback. It’s sporty and far from the floaty, disconnected feel found in the Toyota Camry Hybrid. The way that the Fusion behaves isn’t crashy or uncomfortable, and gives the impression of handling like a much smaller vehicle.
Somehow the overall size of the Fusion is well hidden. It has ample space to accommodate passengers and even riding in the back seat isn’t as bothersome as the sloping roofline would indicate. The one area of complaint would be with the trunk, which has awkward proportions due to the hybrid technology residing in the rear of the vehicle. This robs four cubic feet from the regular Fusion, which is noticeable. The rear seats do fold down, giving some added cargo hauling capability to the hybrid.
PLENTY OF TECH
Our Fusion tester came outfitted with the polarizing MyFord Touch system. As usual, the speed of the unit was questionable, but voice recognition and ease-of-use was solid. It’s worth noting that MyFord Touch’s approach to having four static shortcuts to the phone, climate, navigation and in each corners of the screen is great once you get used to it.
Additionally, the two customizable color LCD screens which sandwich the speedometer are a great touch that really showcase the Fusion’s modern mentality. Since it’s a hybrid, Ford adds a bit more information, detailing the vehicle’s fuel-efficiency and drive mode. It’s now visually clear when the car is operating on EV power or not thanks to the tweaked EcoGuide setup. Another nice touch is the summary of your trip when you put the car in park and turn off the ignition, which details your driving habits and fuel consumption.
The Fusion is available with a slew of high-tech safety and convenience gadgets, like adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, active-park assist and lane-keep assist. Our tester was fairly bare-bones, and aside from the appearance package, which added sexy 18-inch wheels and a rear-decklid spoiler, came with MyFord Touch and a rear-view camera with (redundant) parking sensors. Our tester didn’t feature leather seating, perhaps opting to continue a theme of eco-friendliness. The cloth seats do feature sporty-looking red stitching and still have a heat function, a useful addition in the middle of winter. Our modestly equipped tester, with the extra cost paint-job doesn’t break the bank at $31,375, which isn’t too far from the $27,200 base price. Of course, at $37,475, a fully loaded model is priced for the amount of tech and convenience features included.
QUESTIONABLE BUILD QUALITY
Despite a hum-drum interior, the cabin doesn’t really detract from the overall presence of the car. It does strike you as a much more expensive and serious vehicle, with aggressive lines that highlight the front-end’s Aston Martin-like looks, and an overall design that makes the mid-sized sedan look down-right tough. It’s incredible to imagine that the Fusion once looked so bland and uninspiring, and that now, mid-sized sedans are receiving the love of designers. And it’s working, with bystanders and other motorists taking notice of Fusion.
But it very much is a Ford, and the evidence of its domestic origin is in the details. Build quality issues were found throughout our tester, even at just 1,600 miles young. Plastic interior bits were loose and rattled; the sunglasses holder was stuck up and needed extra encouragement to fold down; and a plastic panel behind one of the rear door handles popped off with no provocation. Even the hood prop was found to not be attached to anything.
NOWHERE NEAR 47-MPG
These nagging issues might be isolated. They’re also not our major concern. The biggest problem we had with the Fusion was its fuel economy. After a week of driving in various conditions and with different driving styles, we were far off the EPA rated 47 mpg. Our best consumption number was 39 mpg, which is exactly on par with what the last generation Fusion hybrid earned in the combined EPA cycle. The numbers aren’t bad, but the expectations were set much higher. In comparison, the EPA rated numbers for the Toyota Camry sit right around 40 mpg, and are achievable in real world driving.
Overall, the Fusion Hybrid is a great change of pace from what Ford has been offering, with a newer hybrid system and drastically better styling. Issues like brake feel, engine noise and build quality do all need to be addressed, but the real issue in recommending it remains its inability to come close to the claimed 47 mpg rating.
It’s certainly better looking and more engaging to drive than a Camry Hybrid, just don’t expect to save any money a the pump.
source: AutoGuideTags: auto car