Before we get too confused, I’d like to make just one thing clear: we’re not talking about the UK Ford Fusion here – the Fiesta on stilts that’s driven only by OAPs. No, this is the US Ford Fusion, the large four-door saloon, and we’re testing it in hybrid guise.
Shouldn’t it look a bit more, well, futuristic?
Admittedly the Toyota Prius’s styling feels more radical and perhaps more in keeping with the cutting-edge tech within, but then looking ordinary is probably part of the point here: the Fusion isn’t attempting to attract early adopters, it’s trying to convince traditional families that a hybrid can work for them, too. Still, it does look a bit plain, like a 1990s Aussie Ford Falcon with a Saab-like mask grafted to the front.
What’s it like inside?
It’s very comfortable (especially with our car’s optional leather seats) and spacious both in the front and the back, and most of the plastics have that feel-good squish, not the unyieldingly brittle surfaces we’ve previously experienced in Ford’s US products.
Shame that the auto gearstick moves from P to D with such a cheap-feeling snick, and that the hybrid system cripples the boot: it’s already disappointingly small, then you realise that the hybrid system’s sandwiched up against the rear seats, so you can’t drop them – we failed to get a medium-sized adult mountain bike in there, and we removed both its wheels and seat!
How does it drive?
Very well. It’s amazing, actually, how different the Fusion feels compared with UK Fords. The DNA is just completely unrelated, yet, just as our Fords work brilliantly on our roads, so this Ford works brilliantly in the US. The Fusion is more of a relaxed, Merc-like experience than its sporty-but-supple Brit cousins. The steering is nicely weighted and progressive if slow, the chassis very supple if a tad rolly, the responses of the throttle and brake pedals somewhat sleepy. But in California’s 25mph zones and on the lazy rolls and coarse surfaces of its freeways it is perfectly judged.
Is the hybrid bit any good?
Yes, it’s excellent. You can sit at a standstill with the air con and stereo blasting and the engine will remain resolutely inactive – take note, Prius. Better, it will trickle through stop/start traffic in electric power too, though we never came close to managing the claimed 47mph on battery alone. All in, we averaged 39.5mpg – not bad for a 5-series-sized saloon with 156bhp, or 191bhp with the electric motor included. Pleasingly, it also came close to matching Ford’s own claims: our 32.9 US mpg not being too far away from the 41/36mpg city/highway rating.
The pitiful boot and bland styling we’ve mentioned. Other than that, the engine generally goes unnoticed, the 2.5-litre four-pot and CVT transmission combo can all get a bit thrashy when you really put your foot down. Also, the optional blind-spot indicators in the side mirrors are a little hyper-active (even triggering on empty single lane country roads!), as are the reversing sensors. Rear headroom could be more generous. Oh yes, and the dashboard’s welcome procedure takes far too long, the dials remaining dark several seconds after you’ve turned the key – it wouldn’t be a problem if the engine jumped to life, but it doesn’t, so it just feels – briefly – like a regular car with a completely flat battery.
The Fusion is a very different product to UK Fords, but it’s adeptly targeted to the needs of its domestic market: it’s comfortable, nice to drive in a relaxed kind of way and the hybrid system works better than a Toyota Prius’s. A few shortfalls can’t hide that. We just wish it looked better (big brother Flex looks so confident in comparison) and had a larger boot.
Will the tech come to the UK? Not likely in this Mondeo-sized segment – Ford Europe seems perfectly happy with its highly efficient diesels.