2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Base price: $27,270
As tested: $29,590
MPG: 41 city/36 highway
- Best hybrid vehicle yet
- First-rate driving and handling characteristics
- Excellent value
- Engine whine
By Jim Prueter
The best hybrid yet comes from Ford
Those of you who are regular readers of my auto features and vehicle reviews know that I am not the biggest fan of hybrid vehicles. I prefer my automotive driving to be more inspired and less about overpaying for a vehicle that engineers are still tinkering with.
To be honest, I just don’t see myself owning one, perhaps ever. I have plenty of reasons why, like it just being an automotive phase that will go away when the next best gimmick comes along. Remember back in the early 1960s, when Dr. Felix Wankel experimented with what became known as the Wankel rotary engine? Mazda briefly tried to sell vehicles with it before giving up, but surprisingly brought it back in the RX-8 a few years ago. But rotary never caught on like promised and, other than what seems like an experiment with Mazda, no one is using it.
Then in 1996, electric cars began to appear on Arizona and California roads. Built by General Motors, the EV1 was the first modern-day production electric vehicle from a major automaker. The lease-only EV1 eventually rolled out to a few other areas of the country but was discontinued in 1999 and disappeared completely in 2003 when the lease expired. GM is said to have crushed all the EV1s, except for a few for museum pieces. GM never did say why it ended production, but my guess is no demand and no profit.
A year later in Japan, in 1997, Toyota introduced Prius, the first gas-electric hybrid vehicle, which went on sale worldwide in 2001. More than half of the 1.2 million Priuses sold worldwide to date are in the U.S. market.
Unlike the Wankel or EV1, hybrids are gaining popularity — even though they only account for two percent of all new vehicles sold. Most manufacturers either have a hybrid model in their lineup or have one in development. But most experts still consider the future to be hydrogen-powered vehicles over gas-electric hybrids.
However, if I were to choose a hybrid as my personal vehicle the all-new 2010 Ford Fusion would be the one. It is, hands down, the best hybrid yet. Unless you want to consider the Lexus LS 600h with a base price of almost $107,000.
What makes the Fusion so much better than similar hybrid offerings like the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord or even the Prius, is how well Ford executes its hybrid system. Of all the hybrids we’ve driven, it’s the only one that doesn’t shake and shudder when the system transitions from electric to gasoline power and back to electric again. It’s virtually imperceptible; Camry, Altima, Prius and even the Lexus lack the refinement of the Fusion hybrid system.
That said, Fusion’s strength isn’t its gas mileage — rated at 41 mpg city and 36 highway — even though it is the best mileage of any mid-size family sedan on the market. It’s how enjoyable it is to drive, its high quality, well-equipped roomy interior, good looking exterior, and at a price that can be considered affordable for most buyers.
Outside, the 2010 Fusion gets updated with an attractive new grille, a domed hood and updated rear end and taillamps. Overall fit and finish are excellent.
Inside, most surfaces are devoid of hard plastic in favor of soft-touch materials that have a quality look and feel. Most notable is the instrument panel that Ford calls a “smart gauge” instrument cluster, with colorful display screens hybrid-related data indicating electric or gasoline mode and continuous bar graph readouts in 20-minute increments for fuel economy. There’s even a pictograph of a branch that grows leaves if you are driving in a judicious and responsible fuel-efficient manner — sort of an instant congratulations.
However, if you find you’re driving yourself nuts by feathering the gas pedal to milk every mile out of every drop of gas, and constantly watching the immediate feedback on the instrument panel, you can turn it off and still find out how well you did on your last trip. When shutting the vehicle off it automatically calculates the mileage of your most recent trip, regardless of how many miles you drove.
I averaged between 36 and 46 mpg during my weeklong testing in mostly urban and suburban driving.
A 2.5-liter 156-horsepower four-cylinder engine that runs on regular unleaded gas powers Fusion. The electric motor part of the hybrid engine is rated at 106 horsepower. Ford says the combined horsepower is 191. A continuously variable automatic transmission is the only choice available. One annoying drawback is a whine or whistle coming from the engine during acceleration. We aren’t sure if this is present in all Fusion hybrids or just the vehicle supplied to us.
The hybrid starts at $27,270, add $725 for destination charges. Standard equipment includes 17-inch aluminum wheels, keyless-entry keypad, power heated mirrors, eight-way power driver’s seat, power windows and locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with satellite radio and Synch voice-activated system.
Our tester included the rapid spec option package ($2,250), with power moonroof, 12-speaker Sony sound system, blind-spot traffic alert rearview mirror warning system, and rear backup camera.
Safety gear includes front, side and side-curtain airbags, advanced electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system and traction control. The 2010 Fusion earned a best five star rating in side impact crash tests for front seat occupants and four stars for rear seat occupants.
Overall, we really like the new Fusion hybrid and rank it as the best one yet. Ford says it will build about 20,000 Fusion hybrids for 2010, and an undisclosed number of the similar Mercury Milan hybrid.