Test Drive: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford?s certainly on a roll these days ? profitable, not bailed out in any way, and with a stable full of exciting products that people want to buy. Ford just garnered two prestigious awards at the Detroit Auto Show for its innovative Transit Connect utility vehicle and for the Fusion Hybrid sedan.

The Transit Connect is a car-based delivery van ? an idea long popular in Mexico and Europe and everywhere else in the world. The Transit Connect is finding a niche in America as a family vehicle, perhaps as a cooler replacement for the late, unlamented Minivan market segment?

But the more important of the two awards, and the car most applicable to the Portland market, is the Fusion hybrid. I went to Ford?s launch of the Fusion Hybrid last year and I was able to spend a week driving the Fusion Hybrid over the Christmas holiday. I am happy to say that I joined the majority of automotive pundits in proclaiming the Fusion Hybrid the Car of the Year.

The fact of the matter is, the Fusion Hybrid fills an automotive need that we have in Portland. I love small cars, EVs, and hybrids generally. I like cars that are forward-looking, with a green streak ?? whether we?re talking about an old 50 MPG Geo Metro or a new Nissan Leaf with the latest in EV technology.

But not everyone can meet their needs with a small car. There are many among us with larger families, clients to haul around, or other needs that make a larger car a requirement. We can?t all drive a Prius.

So here comes Ford with the Fusion Hybrid. It?s a mid-size four-door sedan, and really quite unremarkable from the outside, as such things go. You could see a million Fusions drive by and never notice them. Like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or Nissan Altima, it?s just part of the automotive landscape.

But then Ford did something special. They designed the Fusion Hybrid to really work right. The Fusion Hybrid has Ford?s standard 2.5-liter gasoline engine, mated to an electric motor and battery pack for a fairly standard hybrid arrangement, but they have advanced the hybrid technology to the point that the drivetrain works seamlessly, delivering an honest 40 MPG from the kind of sedan that used to get 15-18 MPG just a few years ago.

What?s more, the Fusion is fun to drive. The suspension is taut and responsive, the hybrid drivetrain delivers acceleration like a big V6, and the interior is comfortable with all modern conveniences. I have to single out the dash for praise ? it?s a nice bright video screen with several display modes. You get a nice little graphic of a vine (transplanted southerners will recognize it as Kudzu, I think) that grows leaves and stems as your mileage improves, and you also get good data feedback on your state of charge and fuel usage.

I drove the Fusion Hybrid everywhere for a week in the winter, and enjoyed the car mightily the whole way. It?s got zone climate control, a nice stereo, cruise, power everything, eco-friendly cloth seats, 4-wheel disc brakes, and a 6-speed continuously variable transmission. The Fusion has a large trunk, plenty of space to carry 5 adults, and the whole week-long experience didn?t use up more than half a tank of gas.

Best of all, the Fusion Hybrid costs just $27,270, which is a great deal for a fully-featured sedan in this range. When fuel prices take their next spike this coming summer, you?ll be glad you traded in your old ride for a Fusion Hybrid.

The bottom line is that there are good reasons everyone who studies the automobile industry has named the Ford Fusion Hybrid the Car of the Year. If you need a bigger sedan but you want to go green, you need to test-drive this car.

[Rating:9.5/10]

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