How in the hell did we get another Hybrid? Especially by-chance right after reviewing a Prius? Apparently, the stars have aligned in such a way that we given the chance test another one. Here goes nothing.
This was a fresh car for me in more ways that one. It was my first time with a Ford Fusion and first time with a Ford Hybrid. Being a fan of most things Toyota, I was really eager to see how it held it’s own against the regular gas-only Camry and how the hybrid tech compared to that of the Prius. There has been much fanfare about the current Fusion since the heavy 2013 redesign. Delivered to us was a 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid in Titanium trim. It was Lightening Blue with Ebony interior trim. Cool! Price as tested was roughly $35K with came with many bells and whistles.
Initial impression was that the car actually seemed pretty big. From the high belt-line to the look of the 18-inch wheels, it feels like a large vehicle. Yet, the car was not that much different in size from it’s competitors. Although it must have seemed big for some, given that a couple of the wheels had curb-rash. Damn auto journalists! The styling of the car was still striking with the large chrome grill and slippery shape of the roof, all the way to the almost-integrated rear wing. Inside was a black leather interior with large touchscreen Sync infotainment system, and a very fancy looking gauge cluster.
Most importantly, does it give you the desire to put your right foot down? Not hardly. First off, it’s a hybrid. The idea here to be fuel efficient. Secondly, it just didn’t feel like it wanted you to. The engine is Ford’s 2.0 Liter “Atkinson” mated with a hybrid/CVT drivetrain. Driving the car around town at low speeds was just fine. If you added pressure to the pedal though, you were met with a buzzy sensation from the engine and somewhat odd engine note. In usual CVT form, the sensation of speed just seemed to be missing. The car does built speed (0-60 is 8.5 seconds per Ford) but the slower Prius somehow felt faster. Could it have been due to the perceived size of the car? Was it the CVT messing with my head? I’m not sure, but to those who are likely to buy the car for economy’s sake, it’s likely to not matter.
Handling was also a mixed bag. The car was nice and steady on the highway, but rough road surface or “sharper” bumps seemed a little off-putting to the car’s suspension. It was not as soft as the gas-only Camry’s and far from the rolley-polley suspension on the Prius. It just had this rubbery feeling to it; a feeling that the suspension is being dulled by tires with a little too much pressure (even though I set them to 35psi), or dampeners/shocks that were not well-matched to the car. Basically, the ride was neither harsh or smooth. The Fusion did better in corners than I expected, but make no mistake, it’s not a corner-carver. Brakes were hybrid normal. A little touchy in lighter use with good pressure and reaction under heavier braking.
The interior of the car was another area of contrast. Some things were nicely thought out, others less so. When you sit in the driver’s seat the first thing that greets you is a very nice instrument cluster. Most of the functions on the dash were controlled by very sensible buttons on the steering wheel. There is an LCD screen on the left that monitors various aspects of vehicle status. I used this screen mostly for keeping track of the battery state of charge, fuel use, and engine RPM. There is another LCD screen on the right that you can use for infotainment, or to see how well you were using the hybrid drive. In this case I used it mostly for media after the novelty of the hybrid use wore off. The efficiency screen features “Efficiency Leaves” that grow or fall off a plant depending on how you drive. Lets just say that my usual driving style did not do well for plant growth. After you shut the car off, the screen would display, “Thanks for driving a hybrid.” If Ford were that thankful, why not plant a tree each time someone bought one of their fuel efficient cars? Between these two LCD screens was a lonely analog speedometer. I thought it odd that there was that much info in the cluster displayed by LCD that they couldn’t have just done the same with the speedo. The poor needle looked lonely there. A remnant of another time.
Other than the cluster, the inside of the car felt fairly plain. Sync-Sony infotainment system was great to use, but for some reason this model lacked the navigation function. You could control the functions from the screen or via the buttons below on the console. The sound quality from the stereo was excellent. Choosing gears was done so with a rotary knob and the parking brake was electronic as well. The cup holders are lit at their base when the headlights were turned on either manually or automatically. Comfort was decent, although the Ford seems to over-style seats that offer just-normal support. Same for those riding in the rear, the Fusion provides decent comfort with good legroom.
The real disappointment with the Fusion though? The trunk. Granted I have not seen trunks in hybrids other than a Prius, but the Fusion’s trunk had much of it’s space awkwardly occupied by the hybrid tech. While the Prius had a somewhat higher trunk floor, the Fusion had it’s cargo space taken away from the sides. Don’t fret though, golfers, there is still room for your bag.
Ultimately, I just felt disappointed that I didn’t come to like the Fusion Hybrid as much as I thought I would. It just seemed like Ford tried very reasonably to build a nice hybrid sedan, but it felt as though it was a little pieced-together. Will, our Editor-in-Chief, owned a Fusion with the same Ecoboost found in the Focus ST and was a little surprised when I mentioned how disappointed I was in the car. Perhaps there is more research and development needed for the Fusion Hybrid, or perhaps these type of cars are just not up our alley. Either way, if you’re looking to spend $35,000 on a new mid-size sedan, but would like to put your right foot down and smile, there is a very nice Kia Optima SX Turbo waiting for you on a lot somewhere. If you’re driven by being efficient though, perhaps there is a Prius out there calling your name with a lower price tag. You could use that money saved to buy better suspension bits for it and still have some left over. Or, for 25K more, gimme that Ecoboost F-150 I just reviewed all day long!