The biggest news about the 2010 Ford Fusion-a more thorough than usual mid-cycle refresh of a car introduced in 2006-is the addition of a full hybrid version. The Fusion Hybrid uses an evolution of the powertrain in the Escape Hybrid, and it promises to be the most fuel-efficient mid-size hybrid sedan, besting the hybrid versions of the Chevy Malibu, Saturn Aura, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry, while falling short of smaller fuel-sippers like the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius.
Final EPA numbers are now in, and the Fusion’s 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway figures top the list of mid-size hybrids, an impressive performance. See the list below, with the Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid added for comparison purposes: [See comparison below:]
Like the hybrid Escape, the Fusion uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, modified to run on the more efficient-but somewhat less powerful-Atkinson cycle. The Fusion, however, has its own specific continuously variable automatic transmission, its own electric motor, and its own nickel metal hydride battery pack. The system’s total combined power output is 191 hp, which is enough to provide decent acceleration. Ford says the Fusion Hybrid is able to run in engine-off, pure-EV mode at speeds up to 47 mph, but that doesn’t mean the engine only starts up once you reach 48 mph. Trying to accelerate to 47 mph in EV mode would take an eternity (and likely enrage the line of drivers behind you). In truth, engine assistance is needed for all but the most glacial acceleration. But the fuel frugal needn’t worry too much that they’re slurping the world’s oil reserves, since Ford’s hybrid system engineers advise that the most economical driving is done by accelerating normally-using the gasoline engine-then backing out of the throttle, getting the car quickly into EV mode. Under those circumstances, yes, you can go as fast as 47 mph without aid of the gasoline engine, depending on the batteries’ state of charge. That is, until you encounter an uphill grade.
In order to help would-be hyper-milers, the Fusion Hybrid has its own unique instrument cluster, in which the speedometer is flanked with several LCD color displays that help the driver keep tabs on the unique powertrain and monitor his all-important mpg. One can select from four different settings (called inform, enlighten, engage, and empower) to choose how much info is displayed. The most advanced setting not only shows when you’re in EV mode but also how close you are to the threshold, whereby you’ll slip out of it and wake the engine. This works far better than a simple EV indicator to help you maximize EV time (and hence fuel economy). For those who do well, another part of the display shows an image of a vine, which grows a bit larger after every three-minute segment in which you’re driving efficiently. Stomping on the gas should cause it to wither and die, but that doesn’t happen.
Caught up in the novel man-machine interfaces, what you may not notice immediately is how well the underlying mechanicals work. The gasoline engine, for instance, starts up and shuts down with only the very faintest shudder. The regenerative brakes and electric power steering (the latter shared with all 2010 Fusions save the Sport model) both convincingly emulate their more conventional counterparts. The steering has a commendable level of resistance-avoiding the disconnected and overboosted feel of most electrically assisted systems; and the brakes simply stop the car without calling attention to themselves (which is pretty much what you want from brakes), unlike the hard-to-modulate brakes in some other hybrids. The Hybrid is also exceptionally quiet on the highway, thanks to the additional sound deadening measures undertaken for the entire 2010 Fusion lineup.
Of course the Hybrid also shares the 2010 Fusion’s nicer interior, tighter turning circle, and new slate of high-tech options. Among the latter are a blind-spot warning system (borrowed from Volvo), a rear-view camera, Sync, and navigation that uses Ford’s excellent new interface.
Within the Fusion family the Hybrid is its own trim level, perched just above the well-equipped SEL. The base price for the Hybrid is $27,995, which is a significant premium above the SEL and also nearly $2000 more than a Camry hybrid. But the Fusion Hybrid is actually a better car, and it offers a compelling combination of exceptional economy, acceptable performance, and a high degree of livability.
2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Price: $27,995 (base)
2.5-liter DOHC I-4
Power: 156 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 136 lb-ft @ 2250 rpm
Type: 400v permanent magnet AC motor
Power: 106 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 166 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Type: 275v Nickel-Metal Hydride
Output: 35 hp
System Total Power: 191 hp
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Fuel Economy: 41/36 mpg (city/highway)
Wheels, Tires: 17-inch aluminum, 225/50VR17
Curb Weight: 3720 lb