First Drive: 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Better than Prius?

Ford has redesigned and re-engineered the midsize Fusion for 2010. Now it included its second-generation gas-electric hybrid technology into the model mix. The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid is now officially America's most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan. Fusion Hybrid is certified at 41 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.  

Trim Choices

A volume player, the single Fusion Hybrid model is a fully equipped 4-door, 5-passenger sedan. Starting with the standard Fusion’s SEL trim means that nice features such as automatic dual-zone climate control and power seats are already in place. To these Ford has added a single 110-volt power point, 6-speaker sound and reverse sensing system as standard equipment. And in a fit of eco-marketing, the seat fabric is made from 100 percent post-industrial materials. A full suite of options is available, including voice-activated navigation with an 8-inch touch screen and satellite radio.

Under the Hood

An Atkinson cycle version of the newly developed 2.5-liter twin-cam, 4-valve-per-cylinder 4-cylinder gasoline engine is the Fusion Hybrid’s prime mover. It makes 156 horsepower and is coupled to a continuously variable automatic transmission. Electric power comes from a 106 horsepower AC motor, for a combined maximum output of 191 ponies and generous torque, all driven through the front tires.

A second starter/generator motor starts the gas engine and provides braking power, which is used to recharge the 275-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.

Because the gasoline engine is often not running — the Fusion Hybrid can reach an impressive 47 mph on battery power alone — the power steering and air conditioning are electrically powered. Furthermore, the gasoline engine and all computer controls are optimized to keep hot water on hand for the heater and defroster.

Inner Space

There is a generous spase inside for the passengers. A new dash, improved seat structures and upgraded materials are found throughout. The Hybrid does fix the rear seat to accommodate the battery pack and controller, so there is no pass-through capability.

An innovative LCD instrument cluster packs a library of powertrain information clearly and intuitively. Multiple menus both inform and subtly teach the finer points of hybrid driving, including a growing vine display to graphically underscore the instant and trip fuel-economy digital readouts. It sounds corny, but is actually fun.

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