Guys: Although I’m not quite ready to cruise into docility – I really hanker for a Chevrolet Camaro convertible – the sensible side of me says performance and mileage in my next car. I have come down to three hybrids: Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. I like the looks of all three, and I do want all the bells and whistles as I’m a technology freak. So it’s one more car, fully loaded. Can you compare the three and give me your best? – Mark, Cobourg, Ont.
Cato: Mark, you seem like a lively guy with a bouncing sense of humour and a taste for adventure. And that’s why your story brings a tear to my eye. Why on earth are you giving up on yourself? If you long for a Camaro ragtop, get one. Settle for a hybrid sedan when you’ve become as docile as my friend Vaughan over here.
Vaughan: I own a convertible, Cato; furthermore, you are confusing docile with sensible and responsible.
Mark knows that a gasoline-electric hybrid can also be a performance car. It’s the nature of electric motors and battery power. There’s a real snap to any of the three hybrids Mark is considering because the electric assist comes on so fast, in fact instantly.
Cato: But you can’t go topless in any one of these hybrids.
Look, Vaughan, Mark can live his last energetic years to the fullest behind the wheel of a Camaro ragtop for $35,460 minus any discounts he can squeeze out of General Motors and the dealer – I’d estimate a couple of grand, at least. That’s for a Camaro with a 323-horsepower V-6, a nicely insulated power top, six-speed manual, 18-inch wheels. …
Let’s not have Mark wheeling into the home, staggering around his assisted-living residence, mourning a lost opportunity to live life with some energy and exuberance before his world became as predictable and restrained as the life of a retired pro athlete – card games, golf outing, Dancing with the Stars. …
Vaughan: The Amazing Cato: part gearhead, part psychiatrist.
Look, that 2013 Ford Fusion is an excellent mid-size car design. You could spend $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 more for a luxury sedan and fail to buy a design as compelling. Ford’s designs used to look like whatever a midwest focus group told them to do. Then the North American design house was first taken over by that daring Brit, Peter Horbury, who previously headed design at Volvo, and now North American design at Ford is run by the Scot, Murray Callum.
Cato: Here, I agree with you, Vaughan. What Horbury started, Callum – whose brother runs design at Jaguar, by the way – has driven forward by doubling down on daring, luscious looks. I have not seen a better-looking four-door this year than the new Fusion.
Ford’s third-generation hybrid system is excellent, too. The Fusion Hybrid ($29,999) is the most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan in North America: 4.0 litres/100 km in the city, 4.1 on the highway – which is better than the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the two South Korean hybrids, too.
Vaughan: You have been raving about Ford’s new hybrid for weeks now, Cato.
Cato: With good reason. The hybrid part operates seamlessly; it’s impossible to detect the exact moment you 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.
Vaughan: So this is not a boring “green” car at all? So then explain your Camaro rant? No, don’t.
Let’s move along to the Sonata Hybrid ($28,999). The combined output here is 206 horsepower and, while Ford’s Fusion Hybrid achieves better fuel economy, it’s not bad here with the Hyundai.
The design of the Sonata is handsome, too, and the hybrid system – while not going into endless and dull detail – is simple and elegant. We sat through a detailed briefing by Hyundai’s hybrid engineers and they were justifiably pleased with themselves.
Cato: If you like the Sonata Hybrid, at least the technology, you simply must like the $30,595 Optima Hybrid’s technology story equally well. Because the two hybrid systems are completely identical, right down to the 206-hp combined output.
Where the Kia differs is in the look of the sheet metal and the incentives in play. I see at least a $3,000 factory discount on the Kia. If Mark votes against the Fusion, he should get the Optima and take that money off the table.
Vaughan: I vote to steer Mark to a Kia store where he’ll find the best bargains.
Cato: As usual, you are governed by your “F” chromosome – F for frugal.
Ford’s Fusion Hybrid is now the standard for mid-market gasoline-electric cars.
HOW THEY COMPARE
|2012 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid||2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid||2012 Kia Optima Hybrid|
Track, front (mm)
|2.4-litre four-cylinder/electric motor/lithium polymer batter pack||2.0-litre four-cylinder/electric motor/lithium ion batery pack||2.4-litre four-cylinder/electric motor/lithium polymer batter pack|
|206/195 lb-ft||188 hp||206/195 lb-ft|
|Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive||Front-wheel drive|
|six-speed automatic||CVT||six-speed automatic|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|5.7 city/4.8 highway||4.0 city/4.1 highway||5.8 city/5.1 highway|
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.