New & Used Ford Fusion Hybrid: In Depth
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The Ford Fusion Hybrid is a gas-electric version of the automaker's popular mid-size sedan. It comes in two models: the Fusion Hybrid, which doesn't plug in to offer electric-only driving, and the Fusion Energi, which does plug in, adding to the Fusion's green credentials and boosting its overall fuel efficiency.
Rivals for the Fusion Hybrid include the Toyota Camry Hybrid, the first in this segment, which just underwent a refresh for 2015; the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which now also comes in plug-in hybrid form; the Kia Optima Hybrid; and the Chevrolet Volt.
MORE: Read our 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid review
The new Ford Fusion Hybrid
Today's Fusion Hybrid emerged in the 2013 model year. It and its Energi companion are by far the most fuel-efficient in the Fusion sedan range.
The cars share powertrains with the compact C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi hatchbacks, which are sold only as hybrids—unlike the Fusion lineup, whose five different drivetrain options include three gas-only versions.
The two hybrid cars look almost identical to the gas models, with just badging and minor trim differences, as well as the extra charge port ahead of the driver's door on the Energi model. They provide better gas mileage ratings for budget-conscious shoppers who want to save at the pump.
The hybrids are more expensive, too. There is a small initial investment required to step up to either hybrid model, and they come standard with many of the features that are optional on gas-powered Fusions, which further drives up the base price.
The two hybrid models of the sleek, fastback Fusion are both fitted with a smaller 2.0-liter gasoline engine and a slightly revised version of Ford's two-motor hybrid system, which together produce a peak power of 188 horsepower. A new lithium-ion battery pack—smaller and lighter than the previous nickel-metal hydride pack used from 2010 to 2012—takes up less room in the trunk. This powertrain is shared with the Ford C-Max Hybrid compact hybrid hatchback, the company's first dedicated hybrid (there's no gasoline-only version) and its first direct competitor for the Toyota Prius.
While the 2013 and 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid models were originally rated at 47 mpg combined (47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway), in June 2014 Ford lowered the ratings to 42 mpg combined (44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway) after discovering errors in test measurements and calculations for aerodynamic drag. Ford agreed with the federal government to lower the ratings and send a check for the increased gasoline costs to all owners of 2013 and 2014 Fusion Hybrids, along with those of five other Ford and Lincoln models whose ratings were reduced at the same time.
The changes followed reports by numerous outlets, led by the prestigious Consumer Reports, that failed to achieve anything like the 47-mpg combined number. While it lauded the new Fusion Hybrid, the consumer magazine and most other reviews rarely got above 41 mpg for the Fusion Hybrid, some seeing as low as 36 mpg. The discrepancy is especially jarring because the first generation of Fusion Hybrids were widely acknowledged to deliver on their combined 39-mpg rating. The new, lower ratings still beat those for the latest Toyota Camry Hybrid (41 or 40 mpg, depending on model), as well as the most recent Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (38 or 37 mpg, again depending on model). The Honda Accord Hybrid, however, outdoes all of those cars at 47 mpg combined. The current Fusion Energi is rated at 38 mpg combined, and 88 MPGe, the miles per gallon equivalent to calculate mileage on the electric equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline.
Otherwise, the new Ford Fusion lineup has received high marks from our reviewers for its "handsome, even stunning looks," generous interior space, and its taut roadholding. Dislikes included only average rear-seat headroom and the profusion of shiny plastic trim in the cabin.
The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid was rolled out only to selected Ford dealers that have been certified to sell plug-in cars. It's one of two Energi plug-in hybrid models—the other being the C-Max five-door hatchback—that share a virtually identical powertrain. The Fusion Energi shares the engine and hybrid system of the hybrid Fusion, but it has a larger lithium-ion battery pack in the trunk, along with a charging port on the fender. Its major difference is that you can plug it into the wall to recharge it, which will give you up to 15 miles of all-electric range, versus the Hybrid's 1 mile or so, after which the Fusion Energi reverts to being a conventional hybrid.
Only minor changes have been made through the 2016 model year. A refresh to the Fusion Hybrids and the entire Fusion lineup is expected for the 2017 model year. Changes are likely to focus on the exterior styling, interior layout, and technology offerings; we expect the number of standard and optional active-safety items will increase. The hybrid powertrain could see some tweaks but will probably be largely the same as what is offered today.
Fusion Hybrid history
That first-generation Ford Fusion Hybrid launched in 2010, and was a well-engineered, quiet, responsive hybrid sedan that looked "normal" and yet delivered remarkably high gas-mileage numbers. It also earned excellent safety ratings—like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick—which the latest 2013 model also earned. That first Fusion Hybrid four-door sedan was Ford's second hybrid model, following the now-departed Escape Hybrid. The first-generation Fusion Hybrid hit the market in spring 2009 as a 2010 model—based on the updated 2010 version of the Fusion that had originally launched way back in 2005.
The 2010-2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid used a 2.5-liter engine paired to Ford's two-motor hybrid system, with a total overall peak power of 191 hp and a combined EPA gas-mileage rating of 39 mpg (41 mpg city, 46 mpg highway—better than the Camry Hybrid's at the time, which was 34 mpg combined. The Fusion Hybrid as well as that of the Nissan Altima Hybrid, also 34 mpg (that model is now on hiatus). It was sold as a well equipped model, containing many of the luxury features fitted to the high-end Fusion SEL model. On the road, it was quiet, responsive, and delivered 40 mpg or better in real-world usage—leading to rave reviews for this first full hybrid U.S. sedan.