2014 Ford Fusion hybrid review: Best midsize hybrid in a crowded field
The Ford Fusion Hybrid nicely balances fuel economy, passenger comfort, and big car technology in a midsize sedan with few compromises. The lithium-ion batteries don’t steal much trunk space and fuel economy is 40 mpg or better. Few midsize cars — hybrid or not — offer lane departure warning, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, and automated parallel parking. Ford Sync will be a challenge initially but can be mastered if you do one important thing: read the manual.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid’s overall excellence earns our ExtremeTech Editors’ Choice award, for the car category of midsize hybrids (one size bigger than the Toyota Prius). Feel free to disagree in the comments section. In response to comments not yet posted: Yes, we know you won’t get the 47-47-47 mpg EPA claimed by Ford but 41 mpg isn’t bad … yes the list price is higher than the competition but dealer prices are competitive … and you really can make Sync work.
Democratizing technology with affordable options
Ford has the industry’s widest array of affordable driver assist technology. Cool tech doesn’t do most people much good when it’s on a $ 50,000 car. The most impressive Ford Fusion tech is adaptive cruise control (ACC) that has been $ 2000-$ 2500 on high-end cars. On the Fusion and other Fords, ACC runs $ 1000. Set the maximum speed as with traditional cruise control, and then adaptive cruise control paces the car in front, slowing and accelerating as needed. To make it affordable, Ford’s ACC only works above 20 mph where stop-and-go adaptive cruise control (also: full-range ACC) goes down to a full stop and then back up to speed.
Do you need ACC? No. Does it help on long trips? Absolutely, especially in heavy traffic and late in the day when your attention isn’t 100%. If you can’t stand the car driving for you, ACC doesn’t cost you anything if you take a pass, and still it’s available for other buyers. Live and let live. ACC is rare on compact and midsize cars.
The optical ACC system on the Subaru Forester, called EyeSight, has the potential to drive the cost down to $ 500 and the same device can do pedestrian detection and lane departure warning. (The best-car-you’ll ever-drive, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, uses both optical and radar sensors for adaptive cruise, pedestrian detection, city safety braking, and knocking down low-flying drones.) The smaller Toyota Prius offers ACC in part because some buyers had the ability and desire to spend well into the thirties on a small car that suited their lifestyles.
The Fusion also offers lane departure warning (LDW) and blind spot detection (BSD). Ford calls it Blind Spot Information System, as in ignorance is BLIS for drivers who don’t turn their heads to check traffic behind and to the sides. The same sensors used for BLIS also provide rear cross-traffic alerts (CTA) that warn of traffic coming from the side as you back out of a parking spot.
Ford’s last cool tech offering is active parking assist. Drive slowly along a street and the car finds open spaces. You do the simple stuff — put the car in reverse, apply throttle and brakes — while the car does the tough part of steering into the space.
Hybrid engine with few compromises for a sedan
“Where’d my trunk space go?” That’s the question a new hybrid sedan owner asks when seeing the big battery pack up against the rear seatback, stealing as much half the available space. By switching to lithium-ion batteries, there’s less trunk space lost (four cubic feet out of 16) and the rear seats fold flat, allowing a pass-through so you can take the 55-inch flat panel TV home with you instead of paying for delivery. What’s left is still awkwardly shaped, which is typical in all hybrids except SUVs that raise the entire load floor an inch or two.
Most hybrid buyers are looking for high mpg first, performance second. No surprise. For its second-generation Fusion Hybrid, Ford tweaked the drivetrain with a new Atkinson-cycle engine that extracts more power from gasoline and used a new constantly variable transmission (CVT). Engine and electric motor generate 188 hp combined, powering the front wheels.
Next page: Mileage and driving the Fusion hybrid…
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