Test Drive: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Note: This is the auto that Ford gave to us to drive across country. In all we drove more than 3,200 miles from Dearborn, MI to San Francisco, CA. It was one heck of a test drive and we gave away some sweet road trip gear along the way. Missed those? Final contest here and here.

The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid is the latest to join a growing crop of hybrids that doesn’t look like a traditional hybrid. This Fusion hybrid looks almost identical to its non-hybrid counterparts, but easily gets great gas milage while sporting a look most will find acceptable. This hybrid might not get Prius-type mileage, but it’s also larger, more comfortable, equipped with equally impressive electronics, and doesn’t looks like a roller skate.

The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid isn’t a Prius or Insight killer and it never was meant to be. It doesn’t put up the same type of mileage and it can cost a bit more. This car isn’t geared to peeps who want everyone to know that they are hugging trees and saving whales, but rather the everyday man who needs the function of a mid-size car that gets great gas mileage. With a few small exceptions, like different fog light housings and a unique color option, the body is identical to the standard models, which is a good thing as it’s a looker.

fusiontailThe new Fusion body builds upon the styling cues of the original model but throws in an almost Japanese look. The taillights hint of a Subaru influence and the headlights are very Lexus-ish. The grill, however, is all Ford Fusion. Overall, the new style works well and it’s a great looking wannabe sport sedan.

Inside, many of the instruments come from the Ford parts bin with the notable exception of the LCD instrument cluster. Even over 3,200 miles in 8 days, the seats were comfy, supportive and showed their sporty side on PCH 1 in-between LA and San Francisco. My pregnant wife, who rode shotgun on the Detroit to San Francisco trip, found the seats to be sufficient with the aid of a small pillow.

centerThe center instrument column is the glaring exception of the good looking car though. It’s ugly and poorly designed. It’s overwhelming at times with poorly placed buttons and a strange sloping design. The car we drove across country didn’t have a GPS system so perhaps that option improves the look and function.

Now, the instrument cluster, which is the most innovative part of the car. Flanking the center-placed speedometer is two LCD screens that display all the necessary info about the automobile: fuel level, hybrid drive status, live MPG, odometer, everything really. These LCD screens work in real time and are very smooth in operation.

This design evolution is a welcome change from the traditional dial-type gauges, but the long term viability is still in question. These screens will probably cost dramatically more to replace than traditional analog gauges and low-cost neighborhood garages might not be able to do the work. Still, these screens are the best part of the car and you must watch the video walkthrough to fully appreciate their function.

Fuel economy is still the most important aspect of this automobile despite the sweet electronics and great styling. We drove this car from Detroit across the plains to South Dakota and then south to Denver. Over the next couple of days we traversed the Rocky Mountains and made our way to LA via Las Vegas. And then up to San Francisco by way of the winding Pacific Coast Highway 1. Over the 3,200 miles of semi-aggressive and fast highway driving, this 2010 Ford Fusion recorded 35.1 miles per gallon, which is slightly less than the EPA estimates of 41 in the city and 36 on the highway.

Many non-hybrid cars can get this type of fuel economy. Even my old 2000 Grand Prix can see similar mileage through carefully and thoughtful driving. We had many miles to travel to get from Detroit to San Francisco so let’s just say “carefully and thoughtful driving” wasn’t a top priority. I can truthfully say that anyone can get over 35 mpg in this mid-size car if I did. You can budget your fuel cost easily ’cause it’s that easy to get that mileage. Seriously, no matter how hard I pushed the car on PCH 1 or how fast I went across the vast emptiness that is South Dakota, this car got 35 mpg. Higher mileage could have easily been attained if the cruise was set at 65 mpg the entire trip, but that wouldn’t have been fun.

Similar hybrids are available from other manufacturers as well. Toyota sells a Camry hybrid, GM offers a hybrid Malibu, and even Nissan sells an Altama Hybrid. This Ford isn’t much different from the other options, which is a good thing as the other models are trend setters. The Fusion has great styling inside and out, a comfortable interior and as a plus, gets slightly better gas mileage than the other options. There isn’t much more that potential buyers could want out of this car.

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid: Highly recommended.