Fri10312014

On The Road

An alternative hybrid Ford Fusion gives Toyota's Prius a run for the money

The 2012 Ford Fusion will be capable of driving up to 47 mph in full-electric mode.

Over the past few months, we’ve discussed several current and prospective hybrid automobiles. This month we drove the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid for a week.

Because this model won’t change much for 2012, we’d like to give you our impressions, having lived with it for a week, and discuss the few changes we can expect on the 2012 model for sale this fall.

Two changes stand out as far as the numbers go. First, the 2012 Fusion will be capable of driving up to 47 mph in full-electric mode, which means that on most short hops, you won’t engage the gasoline engine. Second, the car is capable of driving 700 miles on a fill-up, so you won’t be spending much time at the gas station.

One other standout feature: As with the rest of the Ford lineup, the electronic interface uses the SYNC system, which is still the benchmark in the field. It automatically recognizes any of several smartphones as soon as that family member gets in the car, providing full use of the phone directory in hands-free mode, connecting easily with MP3 and iPod music files and storing an extensive music library in the vehicle’s audio system.

We were really taken with the driving experience on this automobile. The hybrid operation would be completely unnoticeable if it weren’t for the little green vine growing on the instrument cluster as we maintained an economical driving style. More than that, the acceleration and braking behavior was as smooth and refined as anything we’ve enjoyed on much larger and more luxurious sedans.

We couldn’t help compare the specs on the 2012 Fusion with the new Prius V that will debut at approximately the same time. It looks as if the two will be close to one another in pricing, and they’re both larger than the standard Prius.

The Fusion is a few inches longer than the Prius V but has a standard sedan body that gives up a little cargo space to the Prius V, while offering almost exactly the same passenger space. On the other hand, the Fusion offers more than twice the net horsepower of the Prius V (191 horsepower compared with the Prius V’s 98 horsepower), while giving up only 3 mpg in fuel efficiency.

The front-wheel-drive Fusion has a base price of $28,100. Add the navigation system, rear camera and Sony 12-speaker audio system, and the price jumps to $34,900.

The bottom line: We might opt for the Prius V if we had a large family and did a lot of shopping. But if it were just the two of us, enjoying driving for its own sake as well as a means to an end, we would more likely opt for the Fusion.

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