While Toyota and Honda have laid claim on most of the lofty fuel economy figures in the 40-mpg and above range in recent years, Ford now has serious bragging rights in its 2010 Fusion Hybrid.
The 2010 Fusion Hybrid slots closely behind the 2010 Toyota Prius and 2010 Honda Insight and Civic Hybrid in Combined miles per gallon and actually rates above the two Hondas in City driving—meaning at 41 mpg it's to the best of our knowledge the second-most fuel-efficient 2010 model in City driving.
What makes the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid all the more respectable is that it's a roomy mid-size sedan.
TheCarConnection.com just drove a 2010 Fusion Hybrid for a week and reports that the 41-mpg rating is entirely achievable—while, within reason, driving it just as you would any other sedan.
Most hybrids will more reliably return their posted fuel economy figures if you're willing to sacrifice comfort (by turning off the climate control) or learn to drive in a specific, erratic albeit slow, way that's tough to maintain, especially if you're in traffic. Over a week and about 160 miles of driving—most of it in relatively short errands—we made no effort to drive gently or 'game the system,' averaging nearly 40 mpg in the Fusion Hybrid. That's much better than the 34 or so we've managed in comparable conditions a few years ago in the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which has roughly the same weight, hybrid system, and engine size.
Admittedly, it's a bit lower than the 53 miles per gallon we averaged in a Toyota Prius over 140 miles and the 45-mpg average we saw in the Honda Insight over about 200 miles. The weather was quite a bit cooler this past week when driving the Fusion Hybrid than it had been earlier this summer when drove both the Insight and Prius back to back, but to be fair the Fusion's air conditioning was on a lot less than in the other two.
Taking the Fusion Hybrid on a familiar 38-mile loop that includes a mix of suburban stoplights, low-speed urban driving, and about a ten-mile stint on the Interstate, I quite strictly followed the green EV range bar just to the left of the speedometer. Quite possibly the best, most useful gauge we've seen on a hybrid vehicle yet, the flexible bar shows at any moment how much more throttle you have in EV range before the gasoline engine kicks on. This time watching this carefully, driving gently, and trying to keep the gasoline engine off as much as possible—and applying some tricks we've learned from the Prius, like "pulse and glide," I averaged nearly 50 mpg (49.6 to be exact).
Of note to families and occasional road-trippers is that the 2010 Fusion Hybrid is a much more substantial car than the Prius, with a supple, settled ride, a roomy back seat, and great roadholding at Interstate speeds. The steering is well weighted and isn't at all discouraging when the road turns curvy. However at about 3,720 pounds the Hybrid is more than 400 pounds heavier than a base Fusion S four-cylinder (heavier than the V-6, too), so it doesn't feel quite as frisky as the non-hybrid versions. It's still reasonably quick, with 0-60 times happening in the 8.5-second range according to several independent tests.
The two sources—a 156-horsepower, 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and a 106-hp AC motor—seamlessly deliver power to the front wheels through a planetary gear set and continuously variable automatic, making 191 hp altogether.
Ford has done an excellent job with refinement for this hybrid powertrain. If you have the sound system turned up even a bit and you aren't looking at the gauges, it's easy to miss exactly when the gasoline engine starts up and when you're cruising on electric power alone. In the 2010 Toyota Prius, the Camry Hybrid, and even the new 2010 Lexus HS 250h, the gasoline engine creates more of a physical disruption when it starts; and even when you accelerate the Fusion Hybrid quickly the engine is a little coarse but still well isolated.
The verdict, emphasizing powertrain here, is that most drivers are bound to see great mileage figures from the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and it feels just as refined, smooth, and responsive as a non-hybrid sedan. The hybrid system might not be as easy to 'game' for those high-mpg numbers, but it's better optimized for the way people drive in the real world. Drive it like any car and you're likely to approach—if not exceed—40 mpg.
Tomorrow we'll bring you the rest of our thoughts on the Fusion Hybrid—with more on the features, the value equation, plus details on the great display panel and some picks and pans regarding the cabin of this mid-size, high-mileage sedan.