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2014 Ford Fusion Energi (Plug-in Hybrid) Review By Steve Purdy

2014 Ford Fusion Energi

By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

Serious hybrid and electric vehicles continue to be a tiny fraction of the overall vehicle market and will probably continue to be for some time to come. Cars like the Volt extended-range electric and this week’s Fusion Energi gas/electric plug-in hybrid have their place in the market and make some sense for some motorists, mostly city dwellers, who do not drive more than a few dozen miles a day. It helps to have a zealous environmental dedication to justify buying this car.

The ultimate customer for the 5-passenger Fusion Energi is someone who can drive mostly on the (rated) 21 miles of electric power, minimally getting into the need for gas engine supplement. I doubt not that the 100-mpg is reasonable in those circumstances. In fact, like some Volt drivers, you might go weeks or even months without buying gas if your daily trips fit this scenario. Like the Volt, though, in addition using just electricity for some driving you can drive as far as you like relying on the gasoline engine.

Unfortunately, our week with the Fusion Energi included a 500-mile round trip to Chicago - not its forte. We managed just 33 mpg while it is rated at 43 mpg combined highway/city. That’s not bad for a very nice mid-size sedan but many can do better on these longer drives - 4-cylinder turbo competitors like Sonata and Optima or normally-aspirated mid-sized sedans like Mazda6 or base Honda Accord.

The EPA uses a complex formula (accounting for electricity costs and other variables) to calculate the mpg “equivalent” (mpg-e) for certain electrics and hybrids and they’ve rated the Energi at 100 mpg. A full recharge using 110-volt source will take about 7 hours and with 220 about 2 hours.

From the outside you wouldn’t know you were looking at a plug-in hybrid if not for the badge on the rear and the little round access port (looks like a gas filler cover) on the left front fender. The Fusion’s engaging exterior style has been likened to an Aston Martin (formerly a Ford product) and for good reason, at least from the front view. The simple but stylish front fascia nicely mimics recent Astons while the rear view seems rather plain with high, wrap-around taillights and short deck. The low roof and steeply tapered C-pillar follow the mid-size sedan trend of coupe-like aesthetics. I found the low roofline did not limit easy ingress and egress like I’ve experienced with some similarly shaped sedans.

Inside, we find the Fusion Energi comfortable with a good-size cabin and modern, slightly edgy design. It feels airy and open though the actual interior volume is about the same as the competition. Materials, fit and finish are good but well short of luxurious. Practicality, function and simplicity are favored over aesthetics. The complex electronic instrument cluster can scroll though a variety of screens from simple and conventional to something that might challenge an engineer. A new owner might take months to explore it all. But, those who love this kind of challenge will love this system.

Powering the Fusion Energi is a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine mated to a CVT and a substantial lithium-ion battery pack feeding an electric motor. Total output is around 195 horsepower and power goes to the front wheels only. All-wheel drive is not offered. Acceleration is excellent when accessing both power sources with a zero to 60-mph time of about 8 seconds. On gentle throttle and when operating in electric-only mode acceleration feels one increment less than tepid.

One big disadvantage of this car is the lack of trunk space. The battery pack uses up most of it leaving just enough room for one good size suitcase standing on its side and a couple small soft bags. My son called it a 5-passenger car with a 1-passenger trunk. The rear seatbacks fold down revealing a small slot above the batteries big enough to slide a Monopoly game into. This would not be a car for two couples to do an overnight road trip unless they were exceptionally light packers. I did not measure or experiment but it appeared that golf clubs, even a Sunday bag, would not fit in that limited trunk.

This Fusion Energi SE shows a base price of $38,700 on the sticker and with a variety of options we’re looking at $44,620 on the bottom line. (Ford’s official Web site shows a base price of $34,700 reflecting a recent change is pricing structure according to our contacts at the company.) That’s still a rather steep price to be sure but you’re paying for lots of battery power and lots of advanced ultra-green technology. Compared to the Volt it is a good value particularly since it is considerably larger. And compared to the Prius V it is much nicer.

Our test car came loaded with active park assist, reverse sensing system, adaptive cruise control, navigation, rear view camera, push button start, rear inflatable seat belts and the $1,140 Driver Assist Package which included a lane-keeping system and cross traffic alert. Within the first 50 miles I had to turn off the lane-keeping function because I found it just too annoying. Every time I changed lanes on busy I-94 the steering wheel pushed back against my move. And, the adaptive cruise control just would not adjust to what I felt to be a reasonable distance. Even though I turned it off, the adaptive mode kept defaulting back causing me to have to turn it off again. Some folks like these systems. I’m not a fan.

Purely by the numbers Fusion Energi will not make economic sense for very many buyers. Include that intangible element of wanting to make a quiet statement about environmental concern and it then might make some sense. We say “quiet” because few folks will know you’re driving this ultra-high-mileage car unless you tell them. But you’ll know, of course.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved