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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ford Fusion Hybrid - Fusion Energi

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, test drive, Catskill Mountains, NY, Mar 2013

The Ford Fusion mid-size sedan, entirely redesigned for the 2013 model year, offers a wide array of powertrains--five altogether. Two of those stand out as by far the 'greenest' options for buyers who want maximum fuel efficiency: the Fusion Hybrid and its sister car, the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid (not yet available in all states). Both models have the same sleek, sporty, stylish design as conventional gasoline Fusions, but they give Ford a distinctive selling point in the hard-fought market for mid-size sedans.

The new Fusion competes with a broad array of models from other makers, but there are fewer hybrid offerings in the segment. The best-known may be the Toyota Camry Hybrid--the first car in its class to offer a hybrid option--which was redesigned for 2012. Then there is the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, launched in 2011 and revised in 2013 to make its powertrain smoother, more powerful, and more fuel-efficient. The Kia Optima Hybrid shares the Sonata's hybrid system as well, and the Honda Accord Hybrid will arrive as a 2014 model during the second half of 2013.

Honda has already introduced an Accord Plug-In Hybrid, also a 2014 model, though its availability is limited to California and a few other early markets. That model competes head-to-head with the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, though the Ford's Energi model has a longer all-electric range as rated by the EPA.

The two hybrid models of the sleek, fastback 2013 Fusion are both fitted with a smaller 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a slightly revised version of Ford's two-motor hybrid system, which together produce a peak power of 188 hp. A new lithium-ion battery pack--smaller and lighter than the previous nickel-metal hydride pack used from 2010 to 2012--takes up less room in the trunk. This powertrain is shared with the Ford C-Max Hybrid compact hybrid hatchback, the company's first dedicated hybrid (there's no gasoline-only version) and its first direct competitor for the Toyota Prius.

The EPA rates the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid at 47 mpg combined (and 47 mpg on both city and highway cycles as well). Once again, as it did in the previous generation, the Fusion Hybrid's scores a higher combined rating than that for the latest Toyota Camry Hybrid (41 mpg). It also bests the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, launched for 2011, which comes in at 37 mpg. The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid hasn't yet been rated.

But now that the tests are published and real-world customers are starting to share their experiences, the latest Fusion Hybrid's actual efficiency is starting to come into question. Numerous outlets, led by the prestigious Consumer Reports
, have failed to achieve anything like the rated 47 mpg combined number. While it lauded the new Fusion Hybrid, the consumer magazine--and most other reviews--rarely got above 41 mpg for the Fusion Hybrid, some going as low as 36 mpg. The discrepancy is especially jarring because the first generation of Fusion Hybrids were widely acknowledged to deliver on their combined 39-mpg rating. The EPA said in December 2012 it will look into the matter.
Otherwise, the new 2013 Ford Fusion lineup has received high marks from our reviewers for its "handsome, even stunning looks," generous interior space, and its taut roadholding. Dislikes included only average rear-seat headroom and the profusion of shiny plastic trim in the cabin.

The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid which will be rolled out to selected Ford dealers that have been certified to sell plug-in cars, it's one of two Energi plug-in hybrid models--the other being the C-Max five-door hatchback--which share a virtually identical powertrain. The Fusion Energi shares the engine and hybrid system of the hybrid Fusion, but it has a larger lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk--along with a charging port on the fender. Its major difference is that you can plug it into the wall to recharge it--which will give you up to 15 miles of all-electric range, versus the Hybrid's 1 mile or so--after which the Fusion Energi reverts to being a conventional hybrid.

For drivers or families who make lots of short trips and have time to plug in between them, the new Fusion Energi offers the potential to drive on electricity alone for a high proportion of around-town driving. In general, grid power costs only half as much per mile--perhaps less, depending on your local power prices--as does burning gasoline, even in a 47-mpg car like the Fusion Hybrid. Still, expects sales of the Energi model to be just a small fraction of its Fusion Hybrid sales, as the plug-in will be more expensive (although the company hasn't yet said how much).

The EPA has rated the Fusion Energi model at 100 MPGe on the combined cycle, which stands for Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, when running in electric mode. That's more efficient than not only the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (at 95 MPGe), but also than the Chevrolet Volt's 98 MPGe. The measure gives the number of miles a plug-in car can drive electrically on the energy content that's contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.

Ford has priced the 2013 Fusion Hybrid more aggressively than in the past, starting at $27,995, representing a smaller boost over the price of comparable gasoline Fusions than for the previous generation, which ran from 2010 through 2012.

The first-generation Ford Fusion Hybrid launched in 2010, and was a well-engineered, quiet, responsive hybrid sedan that looked "normal" and yet delivered remarkably high gas-mileage numbers. It also earned excellent safety ratings--like the IIHS' Top Safety Pick--which the latest 2013 model also earned. That first Fusion Hybrid four-door sedan was Ford's second hybrid model, following the now-departed Escape Hybrid. The first-generation Fusion Hybrid hit the market in spring 2009 as a 2010 model--based on the updated 2010 version of the Fusion that had originally launched way back in 2005.

The 2010-2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid used a 2.5-liter engine paired to Ford's two-motor hybrid system, with a total overall peak power of 191 horsepower and a combined EPA gas-mileage rating of 39 mpg (41 mpg city, 46 mpg highway)--better than the Camry Hybrid's at the time, which was 34 mpg combined, as well as that of the Nissan Altima Hybrid, also (34 mpg (that model is now on hiatus). It was sold as a well equipped model, containing many of the luxury features fitted to the high-end Fusion SEL model. On the road, it was quiet, responsive, and delivered 40 mpg or better in real-world usage--leading to rave reviews for this first full hybrid U.S. sedan.

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