2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
May 30, 2018

The six-year-old 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid remains a handsome, comfortable mid-size sedan with good fuel efficiency and a plug-in hybrid option, but competitors now boast higher EPA ratings.

The 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Fusion Energi are now in their sixth model year, older than any competing mid-size sedans with high-efficiency hybrid or plug-in versions. Mildly refreshed last year, the Fusion remains a good-looking sedan with a comfortable and stylish interior. The hybrid Fusion has four trim levels: the base S, the mid-level SE, the premium Titanium, and the top-of-the-line Platinum. The plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi comes in SE, Titanium, or Platinum trim levels.

We give the Fusion Hybrid and Energi an overall score of 7.5, adding points for a still-handsome design, rewarding handling, a pleasant and high-quality interior, and active-safety systems updated to stay competitive. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Newer competitors, however, simply outdo the hybrid Fords’ EPA ratings for fuel economy, electric range, or both. Those include hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and in particular a new 52-mpg Toyota Camry this year. Competitors for the Fusion Energi include plug-in hybrid models of the Sonata and Optima, a Honda Clarity Plug-In coming this year, and the smaller Chevrolet Volt hatchback.

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The hybrid Fusion may still return higher ratings than conventional mid-size sedans, but buyers who prioritize low fuel costs or electric range over all else now can do considerably better than the Fusion hybrid pair. Prices also can add up quickly for buyers who tick the option boxes on the Fusion order form; the best value may be the base hybrid that starts at around $27,000 before discounts, which have been ample for mid-size sedans of late.

For more details on the versions of the Fusion sedan with gasoline engines, see our full review of the 2018 Ford Fusion lineup.

7

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Styling

The 2018 Ford Fusion design is no longer way out in front, but racy lines and a stylish, well-made interior still exceed the average.

Six years after the Ford Fusion sedan launched, its racy fastback shape has held up well. Most competitors, in fact, have adopted a version of the same profile, making the Fusion a trailblazer. (The same shape is offered in Europe as a hatchback, but not in North America.)

We give the Fusion 7 out of 10 points for its design, adding one point for its still-handsome exterior and another for an interior that’s lasted well and still feels more expensive than it is. The rest of the segment has come much of the way toward catching up with the Fusion, but it’s still a desirable design. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The large oblong grille opening was widened and made crisper last year, with LED headlights inside chevron-shaped running lights. The shape is sensitive to color, though: light colors give the impression of thickness through the middle, whereas dark tones play up the sporty lines.

The interior will be familiar to owners of recent Fords, with a mix of black or two-tone soft-touch materials and the matte silver accents now found in many vehicles. The hybrid and plug-in hybrid Fusions have an all-glass cluster of instruments that drivers can configure to show the data and graphic displays they prefer.

Radio settings and climate controls remain as conventional knobs, thankfully, though other controls have capacitive touch-sensitive buttons that require some training to use and can prove frustrating. The earlier, much-reviled voice input system called MyFordTouch was replaced two years ago by a simpler, quicker, more functional Sync 3 interface, and complaints have died down.

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7

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Performance

The 2018 hybrid Ford Fusions are enjoyable to drive, with recent tweaks to driving feel and some of the best roadholding among mid-size sedans.

The 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi share the same 2.0-liter inline-4 engine, paired to a two-motor hybrid system that replaces a transmission. Lithium-ion battery packs are located in the trunk, with the larger pack of the Energi plug-in hybrid cutting into cargo volume. But you might never know from the outside that either one isn’t a conventional Fusion unless you look closely.

We rate the hybrid Fusions at 7 out of 10 possible points for their performance. They’re smooth and relatively powerful, and the cars remain rewarding to drive, with handling and roadholding closer to that of a sport sedan than the bland, beige mid-size sedans of yore. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Both models updated their software last year that boosted fuel economy and range, but also gave the cars better response and a more conventional driving feel behind the wheel. The engine responses now correspond more closely to the car’s changes in road speed, reducing the disconnect between engine note and speed typical of earlier hybrids.

The hybrid Fusions are somewhat less lithe in corners and heavier feeling than the lightest and most agile of the gasoline Fusions, but they still hold the road well and corner predictably and fairly flat. Our one complaint is rather low-geared steering, which requires more shuffling on twisty roads than we had expected. Brake blending is excellent; Ford and Toyota have the most experience in combining regenerative and friction braking of any hybrid makers, and it shows in largely seamless transitions.

The Energi plug-in hybrid, rated this year at 22 miles of electric range, will recharge a depleted battery in 3 to 4 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charging station, or about 7 hours on a household plug. The onboard charger runs at 3.3 kilowatts, slower than newer plug-in hybrids, but still acceptable for a majority of uses. The cover over the charging port on the left-front fender is pretty much the only distinguishing feature of an Energi against a Hybrid, unless you read the badges carefully.

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7

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Comfort & Quality

Again, competitors are now much closer, but the hybrid 2018 Ford Fusions remain comfortable, quiet, and enjoyable to travel in.

The 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi offer competitive interior room, but the front seats are a better place to spend time than the rears. Last year, a rotary drive selector knob opened up space on the console for more storage, with cupholders that Ford says are easier to reach and more ergonomic.

Seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, and the base Hybrid uses a synthetic fabric made from recycled fibers. While the wheel wells push front-seat riders’ feet toward the center, 6-foot-tall adults will be happy up front. In the rear, however, the seats are comfortable but the descending fastback roofline impinges on head room, especially when the car is fitted with the optional sunroof. The ride is firm and controlled, but we noticed little jarring or thumping.

We rate the hybrid Fusions at 7 out of 10 points for comfort and quality, adding one point each for comfortable seats and smooth, quiet operation on the road. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Ford has done good work in keeping engine noise isolated and ensuring a quiet cabin even when maximum power is asked for. In particular, there’s very little noise from the low-rolling-resistance tires, often something competitors struggle with. Some of the hush is due to Ford's active noise cancellation, which dispatches anti-noise to the door speakers to cancel out frequencies that make the car sound as if it’s straining. Once again, other mid-size hybrid sedans have caught up to Ford or come close, but the Fusion remains at the top of the heap for smoothness and interior quiet.

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7

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Safety

The 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid has stayed competitive in safety ratings, though some active-safety systems remain optional.

The 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid isn’t separately rated, but the Fusion sedan line overall gets good—if not the very highest—safety ratings. We give it 7 out of 10 possible points, adding one for its IIHS Top Safety Pick designation and another for a five-star overall rating from the NHTSA. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

A rearview camera was made standard last year on all Fusion models.

The IIHS dubs the Fusion a Top Safety Pick when equipped with optional automatic emergency braking (though it doesn’t add the “+” denoting the best active-safety systems as standard equipment). It also gives the mid-size Ford its top rating of "Good" in every test category.

The NHTSA gives the Fusion Hybrid specifically five stars overall and five stars in its side-crash test, though only four stars in frontal crash and rollover protection. The federal agency does not rate the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, however.

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7

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Features

The 2018 Ford Fusion is no longer a standout in features among mid-size sedans, but its active-safety options are extensive.

Like many Fords, the Fusion Hybrid and its plug-in hybrid Energi sibling come in several trim levels. Hybrid models are offered as the base S, the mid-level SE, the premium Titanium, and the top-of-the-line Platinum trim that was added last year. Plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi models offer SE, Titanium, and Platinum versions.

When it launched, the Fusion offered more features as standard equipment than competitors. That advantage has lessened somewhat, and so we’ve dropped our Features rating to 7 points out of a possible 10, giving the hybrid Fusion an extra point for good equipment even in the base Fusion Hybrid S model and another for its extensive array of active-safety systems—which, unfortunately, remain optional. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The base Fusion Hybrid S starts around $27,000 with delivery, and the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi below $35,000. But buyers should note that while discounts are likely higher now than in previous years, the optional equipment adds up quickly, and the top-of-the-line Fusion Energi Platinum costs more than $40,000.

The Fusion continues with an array of options split among the various trim levels and standalone equipment, including standards like leather seats, various 18-inch alloy wheels, remote starting, and that space-consuming sunroof.

The real upgrade came last year, when Ford added a suite of electronic active-safety systems that’s among the most comprehensive in the mid-size sedan category. Those include active lane control, replacing the earlier lane-departure warning; adaptive cruise control that works from highway speeds down to a full stop and back up; automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection; driver alerts for drowsiness; and a park-assist system that not only parallel-parks but will take the Fusion into perpendicular spaces too.

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9

2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Fuel Economy

In absolute terms, the 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Energi are very fuel-efficient, but they’re less so than competing hybrid mid-size sedans.

The 2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid is now toward the bottom of the pack in EPA ratings among mid-size hybrid sedans, and the arrival this year of a new Camry Hybrid underscores its lack of competitiveness. It still rates 9 out of 10 points for fuel economy, but buyers seeking the very highest-rated gas mileage among mid-size sedans have better options. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The front-wheel-drive Fusion Hybrid is EPA-rated at 43 mpg city, 41 highway, 42 combined. The combined figure for the 2018 Camry Hybrid, on the other hand, is 52 mpg. While the amount of gasoline saved is less than 70 gallons a year over 15,000 miles, the Fusion Hybrid is now one of the less fuel-efficient mid-size sedans; it’s also outranked by hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Malibu (47 mpg combined), Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima.

Similarly, the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid is rated at 42 mpg when running in hybrid mode, and 22 miles of electric range and 97 MPGe when operating on battery power. That’s still just below the 99 MPGe and 27 miles of electric range for the new Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, though better than its 40-mpg combined rating. Nor can the Fusion Energi touch the 53 miles of range of the smaller Chevrolet Volt hatchback.

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7.3
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 7
Features 7
Fuel Economy 9
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