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2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid – Road Test

Last year I drove the Ford Fusion SEL and was considerably impressed by it – so much so, that I recommended it to my brother-in-law when he was looking at buying a new vehicle. He loved it so much he bought one.

I’ve driven a number of hybrids over the years, but never the Fusion. I liked the regular 4-cylinder version, so I grabbed the keys to the hybrid to see if it was any better. One thing it for sure, they are quite different.

First Impressions
Getting behind the wheel, I don’t remember the other Fusion having such a large steering wheel – maybe I’d just been driving a truck before the last Fusion, but this time it really stood out as being bigger than necessary. The seats are covered in a synthetic cloth material, not the usual material you expect in a car like this, but what you’d expect to see in the Fiesta for example. The seat cushion was less than firm – more like what you’d get in an older Lincoln. Maybe Ford are going with a more luxurious ride with the hybrid – I don’t know, but I wasn’t very enamoured with it. I adjusted the power lumbar as far as it would go and it just barely stuck out enough to let me know it was there. Without the lumbar adjustment, this seat would have been painful to say the least. I was also surprised to find out the front seats aren’t heated – that’s something that’s come to be the norm in recent years, so not having them actually stands out!

So, we’ve got a huge steering wheel, squishy seats and a mediocre lumbar adjustment.. surely it has to get better than this.

I turn the key… nothing. Huh? What’s wrong? … Oh yeah – it a hybrid – there’s no engine to fire up! It’s been a while, but you forget little nuances like that when you’re constantly jumping from one car to the next. The first positive is that the Fusion hybrid actually has a key to start the car instead of a button. So many cars are going to push-button start it’s no longer a novelty – PLUS with a hybrid, you’re forever pushing the button to try and switch it off, but it stays on! Push it again and it starts up again! Arrgh. The key solves so many frustrations – good job Ford!

I look at the dash and there’s a little light that says the car is ready to go. After I adjust my mirrors and the power seat to my satisfaction I take my foot off the brake and move off silently. The steering is extremely light – completely disconnected from the front tires – it takes a bit of getting used to. Some may like the steering like that, but personally I really hate it – I mean really, really HATE it! Over the course of the week I had the Fusion, I never got used to it and to be honest this would make or break the purchase for me. You have to pay attention all the time – otherwise you’re changing lanes without realizing it. If Ford is trying to force people to put down their phones and stop texting while driving then this is the perfect way to do it.

The over-boosted steering is perfectly complemented by the over-boosted brakes. Hybrids use re-generative braking to re-charge the battery, and usually the brake feels is somewhat odd and detached. Well, these hybrids brakes are nothing like that – they are very close to regular cars’ brakes – just over-boosted to the point that you touch them and the binders come on instantly. The first couple of times I used them I had flashbacks to driving my dad’s 1973 Pontiac. After a few minutes however, it isn’t an issue and you get used to them. (When I got back into my own vehicle the following week it felt like my brakes had failed – and the pedal was fighting against my foot).

The instrumentation and dashboard layout is different from the regular Fusion. This particular vehicle had a Sat-Nav, so it takes up a lot of the centre console are. The controls for the climate and audio systems can be operated using the large touch screen or the buttons located below it. I didn’t like the array of tiny buttons that took so much time to focus on while driving, but I was very happy to find out that it was quick and easy to make any adjustments using the touch screen, and that’s where I ended up going – each time I needed to make an adjustment to the audio or the HVAC system. I have to wonder why they’d even bother with buttons when the touch screen handles so many more adjustments and so quickly too.

The gauge cluster is on either side of the speedometer and is completely black until you start the car, whereupon it comes alive with a ton of information.

I try my best to judge a car on its own merits whenever possible and that goes as far as knowing as little as possible about it before I actually drive it – including price and options. Having driven the Fusion SEL 4-cylinder, I had a good idea what the price of the hybrid would be… WRONG! Fortunately I wasn’t drinking anything when I saw the price or it would have ended up all over the place.

When I drove the SEL, I asked as many people as possible what they thought the price was, and inevitably they got it wrong – way wrong. Everyone over-guessed the price of the car by several thousand dollars – and in two cases they were off by $20,000! That’s a good thing. Well the hybrid went in the opposite direction – everyone under-guessed by $5,000 or more. That’s not such a good thing. In fact, as I write this, Ford have a special deal right now on the Fusion and it’s almost ½ the price of the hybrid!

Ford say the Fusion Hybrid can run on battery power only “EV” mode (Electric Vehicle) at speeds up to 75 km/h, but the best I could do was around 40 km/h before the engine kicked in. Like just about all other hybrids, the Fusion comes with a CVT (Continuously Variable automatic Transmission). If you’ve never driven one before, you think there’s an animal under the car being murdered when you stomp on the go pedal, and there are no discernable shift-points like a traditional transmission. Once you get used to the odd noises (or don’t stomp on the gas), a CVT is actually a very good transmission. My wife has one in her car and I’ve really grown to love it – especially when going up hills – there’s no lag. The only downside to a CVT is the lack of kick-down when you bury the throttle… nothing happens for a while and then it kicks in, so you actually have to plan over-taking manoeuvres using your calendar.

The driver’s seat is 8-way power-adjustable with manual lumbar support adjustment. The front passenger gets by with a 2-way manually adjustable seat. With the lumbar adjustment all the way out, the driver’s seat was quite good, but a little bit more would have been great. The trunk is huge and nicely shaped for maximum storage. The rear seats are comfortable and I heard no complaints from our rear-seat passengers. Leg, knee and hip room is very good, with headroom more than acceptable, even for taller people.

The audio system included the much-maligned Sync system and unfortunately, you’re stuck with it unless you go with the base model, because it’s standard across the Fusion line up. I’ve had the opportunity to interface with this in the past, and to be honest I can’t see what use this system serves in the automotive landscape. My wife plugged in a USB drive loaded with mp3 songs and it said it didn’t recognize the files – you’re kidding me right – I have to change everything into a Windows Media file (WMA)??!!! She pressed the enter button and the mp3 songs started to play… go figure!  However, you have no control over how you want them played or displayed on the screen and pressing the >>I button sends it into the next random track. Unless you label the songs just right (no numbers at the beginning) the system is useless. She tried using a different batch of songs without numbers and it worked reasonably well. On a more positive note, the AM/FM single-disc CD/mp3/WMA player with satellite radio offers outstanding sound and is better than I’ve heard in many high-end cars such as Audi.

The Conclusion
Other than the stupid Sync system, there is a lot to love about the Fusion. The regular 4-cylinder Fusion is rated at 9.0 L/100 kms city and 6.0 L/100 kms highway (Hybrid – 4.6 L/100 kms city, 5.4 L/100 kms highway). The hybrid will certainly save you a tonne of fuel in and around the city/town, but not so much if you’re doing a lot of highway driving. I did a lot of driving on 2-lane highways (80 km/h), city/town driving and on major highways at speeds around 120 km/h, so I ran the full gamut of driving in Ontario. The on-board computer rated my driving at a constant 6.6 L/100 kms even though I was trying to be somewhat conservative and get the best fuel economy possible. My actual fuel usage was 6.6 L/100 kms, so the computer was on the mark, but the question is: Why buy a hybrid if the 4-cylinder version gives you the same fuel numbers? My brother-in-law averages between 6 & 6.6 L/100 kms on the highway in his car – with the regular Fusion costing $15-20,000 less – why would you buy the hybrid?

Perfect-sized four-door family car

Too expensive
No heated seats – at this price-point?!
Over-boosted steering and brakes

Immediate Competition (Hybrid):
Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry & Prius

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
For more information visit: www.Ford.ca

Powertrain:            2.5 L iVCT Atkinson-cycle I-4 with Permanent-Magnet AC-synchronous electric motor; eCVT automatic transmission; FWD
Horsepower:          Net 191 (Engine: 156 @ 6,000 rpm / Electric motor: 40 hp)
Torque lb-ft:          N/A
0-100 kph:             7.8 seconds

Cargo Capacity:     334 litres (11.8 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:     N/A

Fuel Consumption:
City: 4.6 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 5.4 L/100 kms
I averaged 6.6 L/100 kms. (I averaged 9.0 L/100 kms over the course of 2 weeks with the regular 4-cylinder version)

Pricing for the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid (Options: Metallic Paint – $300; Vision Group – $1,300; Moon & Tune Package – $1,200; Block Heater – $80; Remote Start – $300; Navigation System – $2,100)
Base Price: $34,199
As Tested: $39,479
Destination & Delivery: $1,450

The warranty is a Basic 3 years/60,000 kms that includes a 5 year/100,000 kms Powertrain warranty. Roadside Assistance is also 5 years/100,000 kms.

Copyright © 2012 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text: Iain Shankland / Images: Iain Shankland

Also Published at: Flagworld.com