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2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE Carey Russ Review

>2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE(select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE


Reviewed Vehicle: 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE

Looking for a midsize sedan? Ford has a Fusion for you -- regular gasoline in naturally-aspirated and turbocharged form, and gasoline-electric hybrids in self-contained and plug-in "Energi" form. (See specs for all trim level below this review)

This week's test car is the middle of the Fusion Hybrid line, the SE. Last year that trim level was entry, but to give customers more choice, a new entry S level is now offered. Above the SE is the premium Titanium. Other differences between 2013 and 2014 Fusion Hybrids? The usual changes to color choices -- and available inflatable rear seat belts. Think of those as "airbag lite" for the rear passengers, and no I'm not going to test one…

How can you tell a Hybrid from a regular Fusion? Other than the badging at the front edge of the front doors and on the rear of the trunk, and the standard alloy wheels, you can't. Ditto from the inside. Or when driving, for the most part.

Which is only right. Hybrids are increasingly mainstream, no longer just for early-adopter techies. The Fusion is a core product for Ford, and it's one of the more distinctive mass-market sedans made today. So why not make a hybrid version? And why stop with that -- the plug-in Energi can go further on electric power, with less use of gasoline. It has larger batteries, which can be recharged by plugging into an external power source as well as when driving. Batteries cost, though, so the regular Hybrid model is expected to be much more popular. With MSRP prices ranging from $26,270 for the S, through $27,280 for the SE, to $32,600 for the Titanium, the Fusion Hybrid is an affordable premium offering.

So if you want attention because you drive a hybrid… Sorry, that's so turn-of-the-century, and the techie status symbol today is a pure-electric Tesla. If you just want a comfortable midsize sedan that can easily get 40 mpg or better, and are leery of diesel, the Fusion Hybrid could be just what you're looking for. No, I didn't get the advertised 47 mpg (city, highway, and overall) -- but hybrid mileage is very closely tied to driving style and I don't believe in impeding traffic. I also live in a location where level ground is a rarity, and uphill and downhill don't always balance out. The 40-mpg average I did get was nothing to be ashamed of, and highway speeds around here tend to be a bit above the simulated 50 mph on level ground of the tests. Careful footwork showed my Fusion Hybrid to run in EV (electric vehicle) mode up to 70 mph or so; Ford claims it car run that way at speeds up to 85 mph. YMMV, as the saying goes, and don't expect that in the mountains. Transitions between power modes were mostly not noticeable.

Looks like a Fusion, drives like a regular car except for the longer distance between fuel stops, what's not to like?

APPEARANCE: There have been times and vehicles that have called Ford styling into question. The newest Fusion atones for those. It proves that international elegance can work for a middle-class American sedan -- and if you doubt that, take a look at the Ford Mondeo sold in Europe. Same! Obvious differences between the Hybrid and other Fusions? Other than badging, none. The Hybrid does have a near-complete undertray, all the better for reduced aerodynamic drag.

COMFORT: Here, too, differences from an equivalent internal combustion-only Fusion are minimal. No demerits for that. Materials and fit and finish are first class, with textured soft-touch surfaces and multiple trim varieties. Front seat comfort is very good, and the driver's seat is power-adjustable with three memory positions. The leather-rimmed steering wheel adjusts manually for both tilt and reach and has controls for audio, phone, information, and cruise control systems. Interestingly, there is a regular key here -- only the Titanium gets pushbutton start/stop. The SE does have the beyond-fully featured SmartGuageŽ with EcoGuide programmable instrument system. Power system readouts and controls for various safety and convenience systems are to the left of the central speedometer, with audio, phone, and navigation information displayed to its right, plus the "Efficiency Leaves" that show how fuel-efficient your driving is. Need help? Just select from the tutorials. Main entertainment, navigation, phone, and climate system controls are through the central touch screen, with climate also by means of real controls below that.

No sunroof here, but the rear seat has good head and leg room for the size class, and a comfortable back angle. Unusually for a hybrid, the rear seatback folds 60/40 for oversized cargo. Yes, hybrid batteries take their toll on interior and trunk space, but not by much. And the new Hybrid's lithium-ion battery pack is smaller than the old one's nickel-metal hydride pack. Total passenger volume is listed as 102.8 cubic feet, versus the regular Fusion's 118.8, with luggage space at 12 cubic feet vs. 16.

SAFETY: The Fusion is a world car, sold as the Mondeo in Europe and Asia, so it has to meet worldwide safety standards. Which can be conflicting. So plenty of computer modeling took place before anything was built, and even more testing afterwards. Ford expects it to get the highest ratings for crash-worthiness. Good road manners and fine antilock four-wheel disc brakes with the AdvanceTrac stability enhancement system help drivers to avoid accidents. Available technology including radar-based blind-spot and rear cross traffic monitoring, a lane-departure warning system, and adaptive cruise control are available, as is Active Park Assist, which automatically drives the car into parallel parking spots. All of these systems were on my test car.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The Hybrid uses the same fully-independent MacPherson strut / multilink suspension as other Fusion models. It's tuned softly, but with good damping, and so is comfortable if not sporty. That's not its mission in life, so no problem. The four-wheel antilock disc brakes work well, and here are supplemented by regenerative braking.

PERFORMANCE: Ford's hybrid system is a full series-parallel one, blending power from a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine with 141 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 129 lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm) and a 118-hp permanent-magnet synchronous AC traction motor via a computer-managed continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Maximum combined horsepower is 188; since an electric motor makes its maximum torque as soon as it begins to rotate, the motor's 177 lb-ft makes itself felt when it's needed, although the control software keeps things smooth, with no sudden surprises. Throttle response is more linear than in some other and older hybrids, and it's very hard to tell what combination of power is moving the car at any given time without glancing at the power display or the "EV" light. My 40-mpg average for the week was with a mix of city and highway driving, including some steep highway grades. That's nothing like the simulations used for EPA ratings…

CONCLUSIONS: Ford's Fusion Hybrid combines elegant looks, comfort, and good fuel economy.

2014 Ford Fusion SE Hybrid

Base Price			$ 27,280
Price As Tested			$ N/A
Engine Type			DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle
Engine Size			2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.
Horsepower			141 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			129 @ 4000 rpm
Electric Motor			Permanent-magnet AC synchronous
Horsepower			118 @ 6000
Torque				177 lb-ft
Maximum Combined Horsepower	188 hp
Transmission			CVT
Traction motor battery		Li-Ion
Wheelbase / Length		112.2 in. / 191.8 in.
Curb Weight			3668 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		19.5
Fuel Capacity			13.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P225/50 R17 93V m+s Michelin
				 Energy Saver A/S
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc,
				 plus regenerative braking
				ABS, ESC standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine and motor,
				  front-wheel drive

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		47 / 47 / 40
0 to 60 mph				est 9  sec