SANTA MONICA, CA -- We're traveling down the storied Sunset Blvd. en route to the Pacific Coast Highway. To our left trundles a Toyota Prius, while directly behind us follows a lovely graphite Aston Martin DB9. Such is California.
As for us, we're piloting a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid that could be a result of an unholy alliance between the two.
Ford's justifiably proud of the new Fusion, not only have they produced a midsize sedan that easily could have sprung from one of the premium European design studios, but they can now boast the best mileage in the segment -- better than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid -- in fact, only the aforementioned Prius can top it for fuel economy.
Other than a set of multispoke aluminum wheels exclusive to the Hybrid, there's little externally to differentiate the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid it from its conventionally powered brethren.
Running gear, the same powertrain as in the recently introduced C-Max, includes a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle 4 that puts out 141 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque in tandem with an electric motor rated at 118 hp and 117 lb-ft. Mated to an electronic CVT, the 2013 Fusion Hybrid claims 4.0L/100km city, and 4.1 highway.
Over a 22 kilometre route along the Santa Monica coastline, we achieved just over 5.0L, encouraged by a dash display that sprouts virtual greenery as a reward for frugal driving habits. The Hybrid reportedly can travel up to 100km/hr on electric power alone -- heavy traffic on the short drive route prevented us from validating that claim, but we did achieve some seamless switching back and forth from gasoline to electric power.
During the presentation, Ford emphasized the amount of work that went in to making the transitions as smooth as possible, and there's no detectable shudder or vibration.
Drive characteristics of the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid are pretty much the same as the gasoline varieties we sampled -- other than the inherent grabbiness and whine of the regenerative braking, the Fusion Hybrid is engaging and enjoyable to drive. McPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension provide a firm, composed ride with a decidedly European flavour.
Under-body cladding and dynamic grill shutters help make the Hybrid more aerodynamically slippery, while an active noise cancellation system helps negate the four cylinder's inherent buzziness.
Ford claims they benchmarked Audi for perceived cabin quality, but while materials and craftsmanship are good, overall, the interior doesn't live up to the promise of its gorgeous exterior. Our tester came with recycled plastic cloth upholstery, but there's an optional leather upgrade.
Aside from the Eco "coaching" hybrid displays, there's the same optional MyFord Touch offered in the conventional 2013 Ford Fusion. Although it's been upgraded to be more "user-friendly," the lack of tactile button-feel can be confusing. We found ourselves accidentally changing the music channel while accessing the Nav system due to an errant flick of a finger.
The lithium-ion battery in the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid does limit the overall cargo space, reducing trunk capacity from 454 litres to 340 litres.
Priced at $29,999, the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid will arrive in Canadian showrooms later this month, with Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid to be introduced next year.
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