Landstuhl, Germany – As we’ve observed previously, Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s ‘One Ford’ initiative would seem, at least from a U.S. perspective, to have fully taken hold. With Fiesta, Focus and (Mondeo-based) Fusion all closely matching their global siblings, and the imminent introduction of a full-size Transit van and refreshed Transit Connect, Ford’s U.S. lineup increasingly looks more like Europe’s than, say, Indiana’s. And a recently sampling of Ford’s new Fusion SE Hybrid (in Ford’s press fleet) and a 2013 Ford Galaxy (from a German rental fleet) served to highlight both the similarities of same, via the Fusion, and dissimilarities, supplied in cubic quantities by the most-surprising-of-the-two Galaxy. To channel a time-worn phrase in a Ford overview, this isn’t your father’s Galaxie…it’s Europe’s.
First up, and driven in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, was the Fusion SE Hybrid. Unlike Toyota’s Prius, and very much like Toyota’s Camry, there’s little to differentiate – at least outwardly – the Fusion Hybrid from its simpler, more conventional Ford siblings. The instrument panel enjoys a few hybrid-specific mods (a SmartGauge with EcoGuide), and the weight gain necessitated by the hybrid’s battery pack is evident while making quick in-town maneuvers, but for all intents and purposes what you see outwardly in your run-of-the-mill Fusion is what you’ll get with this run-of-the-electric-mill hybrid.
Of course, as has been exhaustively documented here and elsewhere, what you obtain with this newest Fusion is ganz gut (Landstuhl kicking in…). An aerodynamically-sculpted 4-door with Aston-like face has more in common with 4-door coupes (like VW’s Passat CC) than it has with Fusion’s 3-box predecessor. Behind the Bond-esque front fascia is an aggressively raked windshield, tightly drawn greenhouse and a C-Pillar blending almost seamlessly with the rear deck. Although I personal prefer a more upright windscreen and easier access to a rear seat, one can’t argue (although I suppose we are) with the end result: A seductive shape with comfortable accommodation for four and – in a pinch – adequate seating for five.
The Fusion’s platform is also appealing. A 2.0 liter DOHC four (smaller than its 2.5 liter predecessor) producing 141 horsepower is augmented by the hybrid drivetrain, producing a total of 188 horsepower. More notable is the 177 lb-ft of torque generated by the electric motor independently of its 4-cylinder companion. Driving through an eCVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the Fusion’s off-the-line response is good, you can travel up to 62 miles per hour on electric power alone, and the trans displays few of the CVT peculiarities we’ve seen from other OEMs.
On the road, the all-independent suspension exhibits commendable control and comfort, the Fusion’s electric power assist is reasonably communicative, and the high speed cruising capability is everything you’d want in a sedan having ‘family’ as its primary mission. With the added weight of the hybrid drivetrain there isn’t the entertainment factor we enjoyed with the Fusion’s 1.6 liter EcoBoost and 6-speed manual drivetrain, but then, we’re probably not buying a Fusion for track days.
We might, however, buy it for carrying luggage, and here the battery pack rears its semi-ugly head. While the pack doesn’t prevent lowering of the rear seats for longer loads, the intrusive aspect of the ‘pack’ does make the loading of large suitcases more problematic than it should/could/would be without it. We won’t – again – buy a Fusion for the long, family-packed road trip, but we do go to the airport, and just two large bags required more loading creativity than should have been necessary. The bags went in, but were I not totally anal regarding departure times we might have missed the plane.
Of course, you do buy a hybrid for enhanced efficiency, and here we have no complaints. In some 600 miles of everything driving – stop-and-go, freeway and ‘everything’ in-between – the Fusion averaged just over 39 miles per gallon. And while short of the advertised 47/47/47 (whose symmetry I absolutely love), almost forty in real world driving is commendable. And while over $30K for a midsize sedan is a lot (in our view) to invest, the investment will provide a payback over a number of years. If asked to buy, hold or sell a Fusion, we’d say buy.