Ford Fusion Energi

Styling

The complete redesign last year of the Ford Fusion line-up catapulted the model to many critics’ top choice for midsize sedan. Its sharp looks are characterized by a wide stance, Aston Martin-like front fascia, and a sloping roofline in the back. Moreover, starting with the 2013 Fusion—and continuing with the 2014 models—it is offered with gas, hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.

While the handsome exterior design of the Fusion has won nearly universal praise, some say that the cabin design looks boring, Spartan and monochromatic, particularly in black. Others see it as elegant understated styling.

With a combined city/highway EPA-certified rating of 100 MPGe, the Ford Fusion Energi is a very efficient full-size sedan. But so are competing models —such as the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, Chevy Volt, and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. The deciding factor is likely to be looks.

In that regard, the Fusion’s design provides a compelling alternative to the nerdy shape of the Prius, while its roomy albeit bland interior provides generous space for five passengers—beating the Volt’s four-seat configuration. That might make it a toss-up with its closest competitor, the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, with a final decision based on the personal tastes of any particular buyer. The decision is between the slightly more sporty and muscular Fusion and the solid but sedate Honda Accord.

Performance

With its full-size proportions, and weighing just less than 4,000 pounds, the Fusion Energi is not a zippy darty little electric car. That's not its raison d'être. Instead, this plug-in hybrid, when driving in pure electric mode, glides sedately through city streets, providing a compliant and pleasant cruising experience.

Plenty of oomph is available from the 88-kW electric motor, especially for urban routes. Those all-electric miles are zero emissions, smooth, and exceptionally quiet. Noise-cancellation technology helps keep the decibel level to a minimum.

When more power is required, it can be found from Ford's 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, assisted by the electric motor. When working in combination, the two power sources produce palpable results—a jump in total horsepower output to 188 ponies. There is little rumble or vibration to indicate when the gas engine swings into action—yet power is evident by capable highway on-ramp and passing maneuvers.

Of course, by choosing the EV Now mode, you can restrain the use of power from the gasoline engine in favor of all-electric driving for about 20 miles of driving after a full charge.

Efficiency/Range

The EPA certifies the Fusion Energi to deliver 108 MPGe in city driving; 92 MPGe on the highway; and a combined 100 MPGe. That’s good enough to make it the second most efficient sedan in America—behind the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid (with its combined 115 MPGe official rating).

For comparison, the Chevrolet Volt delivers a combined MPGe rating of 98, and the Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid is rated at a combined 95 MPGe. All of these relatively large plug-in hybrid cars are extraordinarily efficient, and the difference between them amounts to a few gallons per year (as well as a number of cheap kilowatt-hours of electricity).

Perhaps the most important metric for understanding the relative efficiency of different plug in hybrids is all-electric range—because staying on battery power is the key to the most efficient driving. The Fusion Energi, according to the EPA, is good for 21 miles of driving purely on its battery pack—and an impressive 620 miles of total range.

Total driving range is also determined by the level of efficiency after the battery pack is depleted—in other words, the type of repeated long-distance driving by those who commute long distances on a daily basis.

After the pack is drained, the Fusion Energi manages to deliver 44 miles per gallon in the city; 41 mpg on the highway; and a combined city/highway rating of 43 mpg. That’s quite good for a vehicle as big and roomy as the Fusion. (For reference, the Toyota Prius gets a combined 50 mpg after its battery is depleted, while the Chevy Volt has an official EPA rating of just 37 mpg.)

In our test drives, trips in the Fusion Energi that started all-electric for the first 20 miles or so, but continued on for another 50 or miles, registered around 75 mpg. Over a few days of driving that tallied nearly 230 miles, the vehicle averaged 55 mpg. (As usual, your mileage may vary.)

Ford Fusion Energi

Charging

A complete empty-to-full charge time for the Fusion Energi should be about 2.5 hours with a 240-volt source, and overnight from a standard household outlet. There’s a strong argument for saving the money on special EV charging equipment, and managing with a trickle charge from 110-volts.

One of the chief benefits of a plug-in hybrid, versus a pure electric vehicle, is the relatively quick recharge time of its smaller battery pack. Of course, you can't go as far purely on electricity, but if you are able to plug-in at various times of the day to quickly fill up, then you can enjoy many of the benefits of an EV, without having to consider the demands and wait times for charging a larger pack. The Fusion Energi’s battery pack is less than one-third the size of the Nissan LEAF’s pack. At the same time, you will never have range anxiety, because there is a gas engine on board.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The cabin of the Ford Fusion is comfortable and roomy, even in the backseat. Cloth seats are standard on the base Ford Fusion, and eco-friendly cloth with leather trim is available on higher trim levels. At all levels, the quality of materials is considered upscale.

While the no-plug Fusion has a deep spacious trunk—measuring 16 feet—the copious cargo room is unfortunately diminished in the Energi version in order to accommodate the battery pack. This reduces the trunk space to 8.2 cubic feet. The resulting odd dimensions leave room for about two carry-on suitcases and little else.

Safety

The 2014 Fusion earned a “top safety pick” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That is based on “Good” readings—the highest score—in front, side, rear, and roof strength tests. The only test in which the Fusion received an “acceptable” was the “Small Overlap Front Test.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Fusion an overall rating of five stars. It earned five stars in the frontal crash, and four stars respectively inside crash and rollover evaluations.

The long list of safety features in the Fusion they include: driver air bag; passenger air bag; side head air bag; rear head air bag; side air bag; 4-wheel ABS; 4-wheel disc brakes; brake assist; electronic stability control; child safety locks; and traction control.

Ford Fusion Energi

Price

The starting suggested base price for the Ford Fusion Energi is $34,700. Delivery charges add $825 to the sticker. The top trim Fusion Energi Titanium is priced at $36,500.

The entire Fusion Energi lineup is be eligible for a federal tax credit of an estimated $3,750, which will drop the effective price of the base SE Luxury trim Fusion Energi down to the $30,000 range. (Additional perks are available in California and other states.)

No matter how you slice it, the Fusion Energi will be a few thousand dollars more than the top-of-the-line gas-powered Fusion.

Yet, before the discounts, the Fusion Energi is priced a few hundred dollars less than its most direct competitor, the Chevrolet Volt. But it's the after-discount price that makes the Volt seem like a bargain. For example, if you factor in the Volt's $7,500 federal tax credit, it can be bought for an effective price in the high $20,000s. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid starts out cheaper then these other plug-in hybrids, but only qualifies for a $2,500 tax credit.

Of course, the Fusion Energi has a fifth seat—whereas the Volt is a four-seater. Plug-in buyers might also consider the relative cost and benefits of the Fusion Energi versus the slightly cheaper Ford C-Max Energi, a five-seat plug-in hybrid that's smaller than the Fusion Energi.

As of July 2014, Ford's website indicates that a 24-month lease of the Fusion Energi is available four $288 a month, with $4,486 due at signing.

Comparisons of Similar Cars

To summarize the main points of comparison between the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, its style is perhaps the biggest difference from models such as the Chevy Volt, Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and the Ford C-Max wagon-like car. If you are in the market for an affordable athletic well-designed midsize sedan, it's hard to beat the Fusion.

Yet, if you can live with four seats rather than five, and you want to push the envelope of all-electric driving in a plug-in hybrid, then the Chevy volt might be your car. Similarly, if cargo space is a premium, and you are less inclined to care about how often the car shifts from electric to gas—focusing instead on overall efficiency–than the Prius with plug (and hatchback) might be the best choice. Devoted Honda fans should give the Accord plug-in hybrid a look, despite its higher price tag.

Purchase Process

Start the process of buying a Fusion Energi by visiting a local dealership, or clicking to the Ford website, where you can request a quote or search inventory.

Ford has been repeatedly criticized for promoting the availability of its plug-in cars, but not supporting its EV efforts at the dealership level. Local dealerships, even in markets where EVs are popular, are often not informed about plug-in cars. Sales staff has not been ready to demonstrate and sell the vehicles. This announcement from Ford about the growth of certified dealers suggest that the company is getting better prepared.

What's involved in the certification process? According to Ford: "Certification means the dealerships have met the automaker’s guidelines for dealers selling electric vehicles—including installation of at least two on-site charging stations (one in the service area and the other located in the customer area) and participation in highly specialized training in the field of electric vehicles."

Ford claims the increase in EV Certified dealers, and nationwide availability for its plug-ins, is a result of "increased demand for the company’s electrified vehicles."

Ford Fusion Energi specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $35500
Est. tax credit: $3700
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 21 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 7 kWh
Charging rate: 3.3 kW


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