I am wheeling about Santa Monica by the sea in a 2013 Fusion Hybrid with its 2.0-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine. It’s quiet, the combined horsepower is a perfectly solid 170 and the official fuel economy is a Ford-touted “best-in-class fuel economy of 47 mpg in city driving and 47 mpg on the highway.” Ford of Canada claims 4.0 litres/100 km city/4.1 highway.
The hybrid system operates in a seamless way. It’s impossible to detect the exact moment we transition from gas to electric and back and forth. There is nothing sluggish about the acceleration, the gas engine shuts down at stoplights to save fuel and, even at expressway speeds, the ride is quiet and controlled. This is not a boring “green” car, not at all.
Ford is, in fact, nearly desperate to grab the auto industry’s green mantel, which explains why this hybrid is shortly to be joined by the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. Ford says it will deliver more than 100 mpg – a so-called mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. That’s better than the Chevrolet Volt and the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model, Ford powertrain engineers happily point out.
Ford will also offer the Fusion with a 1.6-litre four-banger mated to an automatic and paired with an Auto Start-Stop system that shuts off engine power you’re stopped, restarting when you release the brake pedal. Fuel savings: 3.5 per cent.
After driving different Fusions with different powertrains (prices range from $22,499 to $29,999), several things are clear: first, this is a tight chassis with electric power steering that delivers plenty of feedback. Second, the exterior design is gorgeous. And third, the cabin looks expensive.
Ah, the cabin. The seats are fatly padded but not soft; they’re firm, like a European car. A higher centre console puts the touch-screen display within the driver’s eyeline, which is good. The cabin is rich with soft-to-touch surfaces. The tester cars were loaded with Ford’s MyFord Touch with Sync system and, despite what many cranky critics say, I have no trouble mastering the voice and touchscreen controls.
My first impressions are of a Fusion that feels tight and responsive from behind the wheel. It’s entertaining to drive and a pleasure to look at and live with. Ford is on to something here.