Ford Fusion Hybrid is Cheapest Hybrid Over the Long Haul?

Staff - CAP staff
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A key question most new car buyers are asking these days is, "Should I consider a hybrid?" While the environmental benefits seem obvious, in order to sway popular opinion and then the majority of consumers over to the HEV camp, there have to be real savings in store. Therefore one question remains. Do the fuel savings promised add up to a lower cost over the lifespan of ownership when compared to the initial price increase needed to step up to a hybrid.

The San Francisco Chronicle attempts to answer this question by listing seven popular hybrid models and estimating how long it will take to pay off the increase in initial price over the same model vehicle equipped with a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE). The seven cars on the list include the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Mercury Milan Hybrid (a fraternal twin to the Fusion that's not available in Canada), Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid, Toyota Prius (the environmental poster child of autodom), and Nissan Altima Hybrid, listed in order of their breakeven duration.

The winner, according to the Chronicle, is the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and by a significant margin, yet 5.6 years is still longer than most people will keep their car. Still, for some its breakeven point will be reasonable enough to justify purchase given the feel-good environmental benefits. And when compared against the Nissan Altima Hybrid, at 21 years, it's a stroll in the park.

How did the Chronicle come up with their numbers? They took an average yearly fuel cost of $1,587 at current US pump prices, and due to higher than average hybrid fuel savings estimated a $326 savings per year for Nissan Altima Hybrid owners. An approximate $6,000 initial price savings over the base Altima results in the 21-year turnaround.

The Toyota Prius is better, but not by much according to the San Francisco newspaper. Its breakeven point is estimated at 20 years, but to be fair to the iconic Toyota and to draw a big question mark over the Chronicle's report, they compared it to the Toyota Yaris hatchback, a subcompact model that's cheapest in the Toyota lineup, when the Prius is EPA-rated as a midsize vehicle and likely should have been compared to the much more expensive Camry, also available as a hybrid as noted above.

Another point that this report fails to cover is the numerous feature upgrades that hybrid models include as standard equipment, items designed to make hybrids more appealing to consumers. Amongst these enhancements are powertrains with better performance than the base trim levels of the same model, and sometimes even stronger acceleration than the top-line ICE model in the conventional range. If that Yaris, or more accurately the aforementioned Altima Hybrid were to be compared to a model stocked with equivalent features, first and foremost being an automatic (often an efficient continuously variable transmission more commonly known as a CVT) gearbox, as well as more power, it's breakeven point would come much sooner. Then add features like power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry or even proximity sensing keyless entry with push buttons start, air conditioning and sometimes automatic climate control, disc brakes with ABS all-round, traction and stability control, side curtain airbags, premium cloth interiors, top-lines stereos, and the list in some cases goes on and on, the breakeven points would be much more reasonable.

What does this mean to you? Hybrid vehicles are much less expensive to own than the San Francisco Chronicle's report calculates, and while their attempt to shed some light on overall cost of ownership is valiant, it's clearly inaccurate. Would the Ford Fusion still cost less to own than a Prius? Based on the Chronicles calculation when compared to a similarly sized Camry with basically the same features, a Prius would pay itself off quicker due to both being midsize models, the Prius getting better fuel economy and priced approximately $3,500 less. Do the math, and you'll see that the Prius bests the third place Camry Hybrid, debunking the Chronicle report.

So, is a hybrid a good financial bet? They have certainly improved over the years now that a bevy of competitors vie for your attention and dollars, and the technology has proven to be reliable and longevity good. Any financial gain through fuel economy is difficult to ascertain or quantify, but Canada's significantly higher fuel prices reduce the breakeven points dramatically. While we can't say that all hybrids will pay for themselves before the term of your ownership expires, the real-world results are certainly more palatable than the San Francisco Chronicle's lopsided report.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Civic Hybrid, Prius, Camry Hybrid, Altima Hybrid, Malibu Hybrid, Fusion Hybrid, Milan Hybrid, Hybrid,

Organizations: Toyota, Altima

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