2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Things have come a long way since Ford first introduced a hybrid version of its popular Fusion sedan for the 2010 model year. Hybrids have become a lot more ubiquitous, for one thing - although you may not notice because these days all sorts of perfectly normal-looking cars have hybrid technology hiding under the sheetmetal.

The Fusion has actually been a bit of a trailblazer in this regard: visually it's nearly indistinguishable from the regular Fusion, and it really doesn't hit you over the head with its hybridity when you're driving it. Sure, there are some nifty dashboard displays if you want a little hybrid immersion, but other than that it's just a perfectly normal and thoroughly pleasant driving experience. Nor does the Fusion Hybrid cost an outrageous amount more then the conventionally-powered Fusion: priced starting at $31,549 including destination fees, the base Fusion Hybrid SE is only $5,500 more than the equivalent conventionally-powered Fusion SE, which starts at $26,049 destination in. Depending on how much you drive and the current cost of gas, that initial outlay could be recouped in fuel savings in as little as three or four years.

In order to help the Fusion Hybrid keep up with changing times and technological progress, Ford has completely redesigned the entire Fusion lineup for the 2013 model year, and at the same time completely revamped the Fusion Hybrid's underpinnings for greater efficiency.

The styling changes could hardly be missed: the new Fusion is, as Ford likes to put it, athletic and sleek looking. I'd argue that it looks a bit like an Aston Martin, which on the one hand is really rather a nice thought if you like the idea of your family sedan image getting a little mixed up with James Bond's $150,000-plus sports coupe, but on the other hand this might be a bad thing if it conjures in your mind a picture of gauche timeshare marketers wearing fake Gucci watches. Regardless, it really is a good-looking sedan.

The exterior dimensions are hardly changed from the previous generation car - it's just a smidgeon longer and wider, allowing it to be a bit taller while appearing, paradoxically, to sit lower. A nice trick that creates noticeably more interior space. The only concession the hybrid model makes over the conventionally powered Fusion is in the trunk, where the hybrid's battery forms a shelf at the aft end, reducing the available trunk space from 453 litres to a still very reasonable 339 litres.

On the subject of batteries, for 2013 the Fusion Hybrid gets a new lithium ion battery, which replaces the previous generation hybrid's nickel-metal hydride battery and gives the 2013 Fusion Hybrid a little more electric-only range and speed. The engine has also been changed up, with the previous-generation's 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine swapped for a smaller 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle engine, assisted by an electric drive motor to produce a total of 188 available horsepower. Behind the wheel the new setup doesn't seem to give up anything in performance, but it does help the Fusion Hybrid achieve better economy ratings than ever before, allowing Ford to lay claim to it being the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in Canada.

Certainly I managed very well in terms of fuel economy, averaging a little better than 7 L/100km (which is right in line with the average lifetime economy of 6.6 L/100km shown by the test car's computer) and using as little as 4.7 L/100km during one 20 km trip when I paid just a bit of extra attention to the hybrid driving coaches available on the dashboard display. These numbers aren't as good as the official 4.0 / 4.1 city/highway rating, but Transport Canada's ratings have always been rather optimistic, and let's face it, 6.6 L/100km is pretty impressive for a comfortable and surprisingly luxurious mid-sized sedan being driven in busy city traffic.

Did I just say "surprisingly luxurious?" Sure, but then my test car had the $2,100 SE Luxury package, so it had the leather-upholstered power seats (heated, of course), leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift, fog lamps, and auto-dimming exterior mirrors with memory. It also had the $700 Technology package, which adds a rearview camera and MyFord Touch screen, and the $800 voice-activated navigation system, among other options.

In standard trim the Fusion Hybrid SE gets cloth seating that's billed as eco-friendly rather than luxurious, but it's still nicely styled and detailed inside, with abundant use of soft-surface materials, brushed metal highlights and woodgrain trim that's beautiful, but doesn't really look like real wood so much as an artistic impression of wood.

Equipment in the standard-trim Fusion Hybrid SE includes dual-zone automatic climate control, speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, tilt and telescoping steering, automatic headlights, compass, exterior temperature sensor, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with auxiliary audio input and Sync MyFord voice activated interface, plus all the usual conveniences such as power door locks and power windows. Optional extras abound, including a Hybrid Appearance Package (with 18-inch wheels and a decklid spoiler), adaptive cruise control, moonroof, active park assist, rearview camera and more. The one thing I couldn't find on the options list (though I'll admit I found Ford's website a little baffling) was pushbutton start, which seems an odd omission in a hybrid in this market segment, and which I'd have expected to find included with my test car's Luxury package if it was indeed available.

In terms of the drive, the Fusion Hybrid doesn't disappoint. The handling is really very good, with reasonably decent feedback from the electric-assist power steering (Ford redesigned the suspension for 2013), and in normal circumstances the car is amply powerful and exceptionally quiet. It's no small praise to say that if you drive it like a normal car, it really does feel, well, like a normal car. It's just that any time you need to step on the brakes, that energy is recaptured to help you accelerate again, rather than lost forever as wasted heat. Drive a hybrid for a while and when you get behind the wheel of a conventional car, the idea of stepping on the brakes can be a bit horrifying ("Oh, such waste, such utter waste!"). I would note that the regenerative brakes feel absolutely normal driving in traffic, but when combined with the torque-rich launch capabilities of the electric drive motor it does take a little getting used to in tight quarters (such as when parking), requiring a more delicate touch on the brakes than might be expected if you are used to conventional cars.

Purely out of scientific curiosity I tried an acceleration run, which felt a little naughty in a car built for economy rather than speed, but the Fusion Hybrid moved out with surprising authority. The Atkinson engine definitely makes its presence known when you do this, roaring along with a growly intake note, but between it and the electric motor the Fusion Hybrid will scoot from 0-100 km/h in about 8.5 seconds. Perhaps not Aston Martin-quick, but then, who ever said the Fusion Hybrid was trying to be an Aston Martin?

What it is trying to be is a practical, appealing mid-size family sedan that offers significantly better fuel economy than your run-of-the-mill sedan, without any compromises in comfort or drivability. And in that, it succeeds admirably.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Hybrid, HEV, Ford, 2013, Fusion Hybrid, $30,000 - $39,999,

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