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Ten Days In A Hybrid — Ford’s Fusion Energi Is A Winner

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Beauty and the beast -- your humble narrator with the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid at the outset of the 2013 Fall Tech Tour

Beauty and the beast — your humble narrator with the Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid at the outset of the 2013 Fall Tech Tour

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DEARBORN (WWJ) – It’s long, it’s low-slung, it stole its front end from James Bond. Its only drawbacks? The price tag and the tiny little trunk.

That’s the Ford Fusion Energi I drove for 10 days on the 2013 Fall Tech Tour of Michigan universities.

The car has a lovely, simple interior that reminded me of German sedans in its relative austerity — black leather seats, black piano-style wood trim (that could be a decent quality fake, I suppose), dark gray plastics textured to look like leather. Ahead of you, a single dial for speed, flanked by 4-inch or so screens with dozens of choices for display, from Ford’s environmental leaves (drive sedately, you get a rain forest, tromp the accelerator and it’s suddenly October as the leaves fall) to mileage, battery, range, direction and more.

On the center console is an eight-inch video screen with the by-now-familiar MyFordTouch quadrants for phone, entertainment system, navigation and climate control. Lots of reviewers have called this system glitchy. I never had a single problem, although I’ve been using it for years on my personal cars, so maybe I’m just accustomed to it. My Sync and MyFordTouch systems have always performed flawlessly except for an occasional hearing problem on the part of the machine to spoken commands.

The combination of the 114-hp four-cylinder engine and the 118-hp electric motor produces plenty of zip when you want to shake the leaves off the dashboard, both off the line and for those 50-to-70-mph passing excursions on two-lane roads. Handling is flawless. The brakes, which regenerate power to the battery when the pedal is pressed lightly, are a little grabby and take some getting used to. (But I guarantee you will feel like an idiot when driving a conventional car after driving a hybrid with regenerative braking. You remember all the energy you’re just wasting as heat.) The Sony premium sound system is a joy.

Recharging the battery pack to its full 20-mile capacity in electric mode only takes about three hours on 220-volt current, about seven hours on household 110. So if you have a place to plug in at home and at work and an average commute, you will use zero gas going to work and back.

But the drawbacks — like I said, the trunk is really small, like Chevy Sonic small, because half or more of the trunk is taken up by the giant battery pack. Everything’s a tradeoff — in the Chevy Volt, they put the batteries in the center “hump” where a rear wheel drive car’s driveshaft would go — and eliminated the center third seat in the back. And the Volt’s hatchback trunk is small, too. But the Fusion Energi’s trunk? We’re talking five bags of groceries, or two small suitcases, or one set of golf clubs. On a 10 day trip I had stuff in the back seat the whole time — had to.

And then there’s the price, north of $39,000 for the luxo Titanium trim level that I drove. Sure, you may get a federal or state electric car rebate, but that’s still a lot of scratch for a Fusion, when a base Fusion S stickers for $22,000, and a decently equipped SE will set you back $25,000. It’s going to take you a lot of electric trips to make back $14,000. But I know, some hybrid buyers just buy for the statement and the pride. This is certainly a car you can be proud of, but it comes at a price.

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