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September 13, 2014

2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE

by Mark Savage

Plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi touts impressive fuel economyIMG_0862

Ford’s midsize sedan, Fusion, has been well received both because of its high-end somewhat sporty looks and its driving characteristics. Fusion may prove to be Ford’s biggest hit since the Taurus was new.

Fusion melds, or should we say, fuses the looks of an Aston Martin or Jaguar’s upscale sporty nose with the tail and profile of a sleek Mazda6 to create a good-looking family sedan that can make any suburbanite proud of his or her nod to trendy car fashions. Gone is the look-alike (nose at least) mid-size sedan.

Add in that Ford has gone all in on hybrids, including this hot “sunset” (metallic deep orange) Fusion Energi SE, and you’ve got a trendy family hauler. It’s economical to drive, if not to buy. While a gasoline-only powered Fusion can be had in the mid-$20,000 price range, the Energi, a plug-in hybrid, starts at $35 grand and change. The tested SE lists at $38,700. Add in a $795 delivery charge and just two options and the test car hit $40,585.

I’ll make this point just once. You don’t buy a hybrid to save money, but to help the environment.

Sure, you’ll save each week on fillups. I got 45.2 mpg and shelled out just a bit more than $20 for 300+ miles of driving in a week. EPA estimates put the car at 43 mpg in all gasoline-powered mode and 88 when combining gas and electric, with a full plug-in charge at night. I didn’t plug in each night, but got about 20 miles of electrical charge for each plug in and registered 111 mpg in a day with the charge and driving about 10 miles beyond it. While the car is charged it shows you getting 999.9 mpg. Cool, while it lasts!

Like the Ford C-Max Energi I drove about a year ago, this one is easy to charge. Unload the special charging cable from the trunk, plug it into a regular 120-volt electrical outlet in a garage and then the cable’s pistol grip into the round outlet on the driver’s side front fender. A little cap rotates, after a tap, to reveal the outlet. About 7-8 hours later you have the 20-mile charge. Using a 220-volt outlet (like your dryer would use) will charge the vehicle in just a couple hours, Ford says.

IMG_0865If you run out of electric charge, a 2.0-liter gasoline powered engine fires up seamlessly and you just keep on going, but now getting in the 40-50 mpg range. Obviously an Energi is most useful to folks driving a 20-mile, or less, roundtrip to work or errands each day.

Like other Fusions though, the Energi is an easy pleasant driver.

Handling is good, fairly responsive, and better than most mid-size sedans. The car corners well and is easy to park, but with a heavier feeling wheel than many of today’s mid-size cars offer.

Ride is Fusion’s strongest performance feature, the car easily handling most bumps and potholes and well insulating the occupants over uneven railroad crossings.

When the electric motor is running the car is whisper quiet inside. Once the 4-cylinder gas engine kicks in, there’s more groan upon moderate to heavy acceleration. Acceleration also is lackluster no matter whether it’s gas or electric powering the front-drive sedan. Hurried motorists will duck out from behind you from time to time as you ease up to highway speeds.

An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission helps Fusion get up to speed smoothly though.

Braking is good from four-wheel discs and the car coasts well as the electric motor’s batteries recharge during that process and during braking. A gauge on the dash tells you how efficiently you’re recharging the batteries with braking. It’s pretty easy to get in the 90% range if you lightly apply the brakes as you coast to a stoplight. I frequently hit 100%.

Inside?

The center stack is mostly touchscreen controls and touch points on a flat surface. Sometimes they work, sometimes they require several touches.

The center stack is mostly touchscreen controls and touch points on a flat surface. Sometimes they work, sometimes they require several touches.

I’m not a huge fan of Ford’s new dash designs that are heavy on touch-activated controls. Fusion’s dash is attractive enough, the SE featuring mostly pewter-look trim with small amounts of fake wood on the dash, center stack and doors. A glossy black trim graces the console.

The main gauge pod looks fine and the manual tilt/telescope steering wheel includes four arrow control pads on each hub to adjust the screens you see in that pod. All worked fine, although you’re safest to set all gauge selections before you put the car in motion.

There’s also the requisite large touchscreen radio and navigation screen. It works well and the touches there are simple as its buttons are reasonably sized. I like that Ford also puts modest sized knobs below the screen for radio volume and tuning.

But the flat touch-activated controls for the climate controls, some radio functions and defrost systems can be tricky. Not a problem so much in summer, except that you must be precise in exactly where you touch on the flat center stack’s surface. But past experience has shown me those touch-activated buttons rarely work when you’re wearing gloves. That can be a concern in Wisconsin where gloves can be needed up to six months each year.

Here's the main gauges, with emphasis on those side readouts you can change.

Here’s the main gauges, with emphasis on those side readouts you can change.

Fusion’s interior is quiet though and pleasant to ride in. Seats in the test car were black leather with gray stitching and the front buckets were well formed. Bottom cushions are mildly contoured but the seat backs are more seriously bolstered to help keep you in place during tight turns. The driver’s seat also is powered and there’s a power lumbar support and three memory setting also up on the driver’s door.

Sadly the passenger’s seat in this $40,000 car is manual and sits way too low. Both men and women passengers complained, immediately when sitting in the seat that they wanted it much higher. Their view and their comfort was compromised. Back seat room and comfort is good though, so be sure your regular front seat passengers are happy with the low-rider position before buying a Fusion.

Note that you also may be using that rear seat for luggage if you are taking a trip. The trunk is just 8.2 cubic feet, due to the hybrid battery system that takes up much of the normally generous Fusion trunk. A couple small soft-sided bags, or groceries, will fit in the trunk as it’s wide, but narrow in depth.

The test car added just two options, a reverse sensing system for $295 and the navigation system for $795. I thought nav was getting to be standard on up-level cars, which the Energi is, at least by price.

A few other points to ponder. There’s no sunroof here, but the sun visors slide. There’s also an inside trunk and fuel-door release along with automatic lights and fog lights. The Energi is started with a key, which folds down into a quite large key fob. Fusion also has a large open console area in front of the console-mounted shifter and a big padded storage box/armrest between the front seats. In addition, the driver’s seat powers back once the car’s ignition is turned off, making for easier vehicle exits.

This is the cap that rotates to the side so you can plug in the Energi for an overnight charge.

This is the cap that rotates to the side so you can plug in the Energi for an overnight charge.

Fusion comes in many different models, including four engine choices, all 4-cylinders, three of them turbocharged for power, but better fuel economy. A standard hybrid model also is available.

So if you like the styling, a buyer has many options with a wide range of pricing. The Energi models are near the top.

Stats: 2014 Ford Fusion Energi SE

Hits: Excellent gas mileage and sporty looks. Good handling and ride with comfortable seats, attractive dash and gauges, plus easy plug-in hybrid system.

Misses: Extremely small trunk, lackluster acceleration and the passenger’s seat sits much too low. Touch controls for climate, radio and defrost systems can be tricky in winter.

Made in: Hermosillo, Mexico

Engine: 2.0-liter IVCT I4 HEV, 188 hp

Transmission: ECVT

Weight: 3,913 lbs.

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 191.8 in.

Cargo: 8.2 cu.ft.

MPG: 43/88 (gas only/electric & gas, EPA)

MPG: 45.2 (tested)

Base Price: $38,700

Dealer’s Price: $32,836

Major Options:

Reverse sensing system $295

Navigation, $795

Delivery: $795

Test vehicle: $40,585

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

 

 

 

 

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