2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid is the North American Car of the Year

January 16, 2009/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS NEW ON WHEELS BY BILL VISNIC

If you want the best hybrid for making sure others know you’re driving a hybrid, you buy the space-shippy Toyota Prius. If you want the best hybrid to help you forget you’re driving a hybrid, you go with the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid was just named the 2010 North American Car of the Year by a jury vote of 49 automotive journalists. This all-new hybrid sedan has won a string of other awards for its fuel economy and driving performance.
Ford’s hybrid sedan looks and drives like a conventional car, yet delivers the kind of fuel economy that might cause you to forget how those silly gas pumps work.
We think the best part of driving a hybrid is not knowing it, and the 2010 Fusion Hybrid mostly excels in that duty. In terms of sheer, pleasurable “driveability,” Ford’s second-generation hybrid system smacks down just about every competing hybrid.
With the Fusion Hybrid, the power flow is exceptionally fluid; you rarely know which combination of gasoline engine and electric motor is propelling the car. The continuously variable automatic transmission (common to most “full” hybrids) can get loud if you ask for all of the combined gasoline-electric 191 horsepower but doesn’t annoy with the dentist-drill-in-overdrive blare of most hybrids. The brakes don’t give a wishy-washy reply when you ask for a crisp stop.
Those intending to buy a hybrid want to know the gas-pump-cheating potential, of course, and the 2010 Fusion Hybrid gets out there with big numbers: 41 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.
That’s serious business for a midsize, 5-passenger sedan stuffed with every safety and comfort feature you can name. We drove the Fusion Hybrid with a test price of $31,940 during a snowy week in January — conditions that couldn’t be much worse for fuel economy and are particularly unfriendly to hybrids, which generate the best economy by leaving the gasoline engine off as much as possible. Engineers say the Fusion Hybrid can drive on electric power alone at speeds up to 47 mph in ideal conditions.
With a mix of a long highway trip combined with plenty of around-town runs, we averaged about 31 mpg.

The wintry conditions probably sapped 3 or 4 mpg from its “real” combined economy. We thought all those nickel-metal-hydride batteries in the bank made the Fusion Hybrid feel pudgy to steer, but it actually weighs less than the noticeably smaller Lexus HS 250h hybrid.
Thanks to an effective refreshening at the front and rear for all Fusion models for 2010, the Fusion Hybrid shares the sharp and svelte appearance that helped make the Fusion one of the nation’s 10 best-selling models last year.
Inside, Ford proudly points out the Fusion Hybrid’s standard seats are covered with an “eco-friendly” cloth (our car had optional leather), but the large-grain plastics for broad areas of the dash and the unyielding feel to the door panels and armrests suggest by look and feel that Ford specified a little too much petrochemical-based materials in other important areas of the Fusion Hybrid’s interior.
The big-grain plastics make a jarring juxtaposition with the rest of the Fusion Hybrid’s technology-intensive interior. The stuff doesn’t seem to fit with the gorgeous graphics oozing from the twin SmartGauge screens that straddle the large, conventional speedometer. Or the marvelous functionality of Ford’s Sync hands-free connectivity system for phones, iPods and the like. Or a car that carries a price that’s plenty ambitious for the segment, hybrid or no.
Much has been made of the SmartGauge’s presentation of all manner of economy-enhancing information, particularly the leafy display that grows greener and denser the more economically you drive, but vivid and clever as they are, the screens are a little too small to deliver meaningful info at a glance.
The 2010 Ford Fusion doesn’t necessarily do anything a lot of hybrids don’t also do — it just does them better. There are hybrids that offer superior economy and there are hybrids with a more unique appearance. The Fusion Hybrid is the seminal choice, however, for those who want a hybrid’s efficiency but would prefer not to deal with hybrid quirks. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters

 SPECIFICATIONS
2010 FORD FUSION HYBRID
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $27,270 (as tested: $31,940)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 16-valve DOHC I-4
DISPLACEMENT_________________ 2.5-liter
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 156 at 6,000 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 136 at 2,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ continuously variable automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 107.4 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 190.6 in.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,720 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 17 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 41 mpg city, 36 mpg highway
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010

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