How Fuel-Efficient Is the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid?

ford fusion

The 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid has gotten lots of attention recently for going 1,445 miles on a single tank of gas—that's 81.5 mpg—in a hypermiling stunt. But how does the Fusion perform in the merely caffeinated world of normal driving? I decided to test the car's mileage myself.

Last week, I took to the clogged streets of Los Angeles to find out how well the Fusion holds up. Ford claims that the $28,000 car gets 41 mpg in town, 36 mpg on the highway, and 39 in combined driving. I drove a 10-mile route of hills, highways, and stoplight-littered roads, all the while doing my best to preserve fuel efficiency with smooth driving.

gauge Fuel efficiency is made relatively easy with the Fusion's LCD EcoGauge dashboard, which displays the average mpg and tells you whether the car is running as a hybrid or on pure battery power. A plant animation on the dashboard grows leaves when fuel efficiency is up, and becomes barren when a leadfoot hits the pedal. It's a slight distraction, but allows the driver to gauge fuel efficiency with a quick glance down at the dashboard. If it's too distracting, you can just shut it off. 

The car was both quiet and smooth during the test drive, with no vibrations when the gasoline engine came onboard to give the Fusion a boost. That's something few other hybrids can claim. In the end, my average fuel efficiency came out to 33 mpg—not up to Ford's predictions, but not terrible, either. One test-driving journalist in my group reached 43 mpg, proving that Ford's claims can be beat by non-professional drivers. And while most drivers aren't ever going to reach 81 mpg, the Fusion is fuel-efficient enough for the price to make it a worthwhile purchase.


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  • Matt

    At last, personally tested hybrid.. I'm tired of the official parameters and was looking for real life testings. By the way, I've met this growing leaves and trees feature in Honda hybrids. Is it going to be a popular trend of growing green plants? )
    follow me in

  • Brian Silver

    @Percy: You are wrong about the spoked wheels. Ford engineers found that if the space between spokes was small enough, there was no added advantage to having a completely smooth hub.

  • Tom Kelsey

    Glad I sparked so much conversation...actually Erin Scwhartz should be thanked for writing such a provocative article.

  • Percy Noggins

    There is a lot about this car that suggests that they are not trying. First, with a car, or any vehicle moving at speed, it is the air that is the enemy. The aerodynamics of this car have not taken advantage of lessons learned in the past. The wheels churn up the air and look at them - no smooth hubcaps, just your petrol-head alloys with faux spokes. Also, the rear wheels have to have covers over them like what Citroen cars of yesteryear had. With these very simple adaptations the coefficient of drag of this car could be made class leading - but Ford did not bother.
    I hear what people are saying dissing the hybrid due to the expense of batteries, but, in the built up environment, where every auto moves slower than my bicycle, isn't there a problem with having a motor chug-chugging away? It is plain illogical, battery/electric motor power makes more sense and you do not need tonnes of batteries to shift a car forward a few yards. There is no need to do 150+ miles on leccy power, just 5-10 miles.
    At some stage someone is going to have to produce a car that goes back to basics. That spare tyre weighs more than my bicycle, the toolkit too, as for those 20+ airbags, well they probably weigh a bit too. If I remember correctly it is Force=Mass*Acceleration and getting the mass down is important. It is time for auto manufacturers to toss out the crap, to make what is left out of something better than pig iron and learn from the art of bicycle manufacture.

  • Vance Dubberly

    I think it's really pathetic that my Honda CRX from 20 years ago got 10 mpg better than this piece of crap. Once I put synthetic oil, a K&N filter, and race plugs in it got almost 18 mpg better. It's like we aren't even trying. Yes I realize the CRX was a small two seater, but it's been 20 years. A mid size car should be able to get 40 mpg by now without being a hybrid. Sad... just sad.

  • michael metz

    don't forget to calculate in the energy cost of making a hybrids battery pack (about the equivalent of 10,000 miles worth of driving in a 30mpg car) and the fact that current battery technology requires they be replaced about every 7 years.

    now batteries get better every day, but throw 10,000 miles on your cars carbon footprint every 7 years? (plus the cost of replacement? ouch!)

    then there is the fact that the battery packs have to be actively cooled even when the car is off, to preserve the battery life, and to keep them from becoming unstable. This means more power use, i.e. a higher cost to run it.

    then you need to think about if you really want it to be green (and this is for Plug in Hybrids only) that the power you buy from the power company needs to be generated in a green method. this means your power will cost more...

    starting to seem like this hybrid idea isn't a good one...
    i wonder if this isn't all just a marketing ploy...
    get you to think your buying an environmental friendly car, get you to pay WAY more then necessary, when really if you had just bought a cheep commuter car, like a civic or corolla, or heck even a GEO Metro! (if you can find a good used one) you'd be getting easily 40 MPG (that is what my 8 year old 5 speed civic gets. beat that hybrid)

    be smart. do your research.
    don't just buy into there green washing marketing scheme.

  • Doug Perrenoud

    Tom - The more correct comparator vehicles are the Fusion SE automatic at $21,420 vs. the Fusion Hybrid for $27,270, for a difference of $5,850. You can reduce that by the $1,700 tax credit to get a present cost difference of $5,150. Note that with the Hybrid, you get alloy wheels ilo steel, a 6 disc CD changer vs. single CD, and knee airbags. There are probably other additional amenities, but those are the ones clearly called out on the Ford website.

    I would also assert that the "new" EPA figures are reasonably accurate, and even if they are optimistic, the difference between the mileage numbers for the hybrid vs. non-hybrid is probably reasonable.

    Steve, there are a couple of problems with your numbers. For one thing, your calculations are based on imperial gallons, which are 20% larger than U.S. gallons. The other problem is that you are not comparing similar sized vehicles. The Fusion would be a Large car in Europe. The similar sized Mondeo "petrol" vehicle gets 30 Imperial mpg or approximately 25 US mpg.
    Or you can look at the Honda Accord at 32 Imperial mpg or 26 US mpg
    Granted, diesel vehicles are available in Europe which get around 25% better fuel economy than the gas versions, but the US is a different environment. Diesel fuel is sold at about the same price as gas over here, and as Tom's analysis points out, with gas prices here so cheap, people just aren't willing to pay a premium for the perceived "hassle" of buying, owning, and fueling a diesel.

    As to Honda's pricing strategy on their Insight hybrid, it's just that, a pricing strategy. The true cost of a hybrid is still significantly higher than a non-hybrid; figure $4Kfor batteries and another $3-5K for the motor, modified transmission, and electronics. And don't forget that manufacturers eventually have to recover their development costs, which run well into the billions for this technology. Don't fool yourself, every hybrid ever sold has been heavily subsidized by the manufacturer, and they will continue to be for years to come.

  • Brian Silver

    @Tom Kelsey: to elaborate on one point that I made briefly above, your comparison of the hybrid and non-hybrid versions of the 2010 Fusion was flawed because of another factor -- that the hybrid has some more bells and whistles on it than the basic fusion. If you read Edmunds, you will see this statement: "the Fusion Hybrid is essentially a well-equipped Fusion SEL." So if you want to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the relative value of the two models, you shouldn't assume the non-hybrid base price is $19,000 and the hybrid is $27,000 (note even that is $8000 difference, not $9000). You should compare the hybrid at $27,000 with the nonhybrid SEL's sticker of $24,000. Of course, a dealer might discount, perhaps more so for the nonhybrid which is not in as scarce supply. But the point is that your statistical analysis came up with a 24 year time to recover the difference in purchase price, assuming a $9,000 difference between the two models -- IOW, roughly three times the difference and hence three times as long as it would likely take to recover the difference as would actually be the case (so it would be 8 years, not 24 years). And furthermore, as I pointed out, you made very unrealistic assumptions about pump prices, which, if you were to correct would reduce that cost recovery time by quite a bit more.

  • Steve Gorton

    Interesting to read the hype and comments about mpg.

    In the UK the actual figures quoted would be paltry although I appreciate with Hummers and other "environmentally irresponsible" vehicles (IMHO) it is an advance for the US.

    Bearing in mind the differences between US and UK gallons for something of the Fusion size we would expect and achieve well over 50 mpg. That said we pay something around $1.60 per litre for fuel and thus much more expensive which is probablya driver for economy in theUK and Europe

    Whilst there isn't a hybrid version available the quoted overall consumption is 62.8mpg for the diesel engine and 42.8 to 45.6 mpg for the petrol versions.

    In avery competitive market segment Toyota Auris diesel 55mpg to 60 mpg depending on model whilst petrol 48.7 and many other marques similarly so.

    With Obama's view on the environment perhaps Ford are not yet doing enough and perhaps commentators would want to really push for something much more economical to get in line with the market.

    GM's bankruptcy seems to be one sign of that perhaps?

  • Tom Kelsey

    Okay so the gist of the comments is that gas prices are going to rise, which they undoubtedly will. What I'd STILL like to see Detroit do is come up with a model like the Honda Insight, which offers Hybrid Technology for about the same price as a base Civic...not the price of a fully-loaded Accord. Ford is doing the right thing, but they're still trying to milk every penny of profit out of their so-called "breakthrough" as they possibly can...just like they (and GM and Chrysler) tried to milk huge profits out of their gas-guzzling trucks and big SUVs. I was just trying to illustrate the point that Hybrid technology still carries a significant premium, and any carmaker that wants to survive ought to get it through their thick heads that people can't and won't pay huge markups to get it, especially when the Japanese offer it to us at a much more "worthwhile" price.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    @Tom Thanks for calculating that. I'm don't think that it's fair to say that gas prices will remain at their current level, though, as developing nations rapidly increase their vehicle use and oil reserves dwindle. Think about how wildly gas prices have changed just over the past few years based on speculation about supply threats. What if just one of those threats came to fruition? I wouldn't be surprised to see prices jump dramatically in the next few years.

  • NoahRobischon

    @Tom Excellent point about the savings. In the end, you're saving just a few hundred bucks by going Hybrid versus the money saved by going with a cheaper Fusion that is not Hybrid. Thanks for doing the math. On the other hand, I think going for break even is a stretch in any vehicle.

  • Brian Silver

    Tom, your calculations are correct but your assumptions are questionable. In particular, you assume the 33 mpg result is correct, and you assume that the average price of gasoline over the life of the car will be $2.50. As the recession lifts, that price is likely to rise (it's about $2.40 now where I live). It's easy to envision it rising to $3.00 or more even by the end of this year.

    While nobody can accurately forecast the future, a more reasonable approach in your calculations would be to "bracket" the estimates by lower and upper bounds using different assumptions. For this exercise I'm going to accept your $9,000 difference in the price of a hybrid vs. nonhybrid 2010 fusion, even though the standard configuration of the hybrid has a few more bells and whistles than the standard configuration of the nonhybrid.

    But let's change the mpg assumption for the hybrid to 36 (you could even set it at 39 to see how it would work with the EPA's "city" estimate). And let's move the price of gasoline up to $3, $3.50, or $4 per gallon.

    At the upper bound of $4 and 36 mpg, recovering the $9,000 price difference would take 12.3 years, not the 24.5 years in your estimate. Still a significant difference but only half of your original estimate based on the most favorable assumptions for your argument ($2.50 per gallon, 33 mpg for the hybrid).

    If you were to believe the difference in the quality of the build or the standard extras on the typical hybrid and nonhybrid Fusions is less than $9,000, then the "recovery" of the cost difference would be less. And if you were to order that Fusion Hybrid today, you could get a $1,700 tax credit. If you did that, and then your initial assumption of a $9,000 difference would already be unreasonable. With that discount, while using a $4 per gallon and 36 mpg assumption of the hybrid, you would recover the $7,300 difference in cost in 10.0 years. And if you make a further adjustment for the bells and whistles aspect that I mentioned, it would take even less time.

    Is it worth it to buy the Fusion hybrid under these assumptions (which I'm not insisting anybody has to accept)? Maybe not to you. But for me it's right at the point where I would buy the Fusion hybrid now, while trading in what little value is left in the car that I have now driven into the ground.

  • Michael Lerch

    While some driving styles and commuting routes can save money by purchasing a higher-priced vehicle, higher-mpg vehicle, to me it's not about saving money in the long run. Instead, it's about increasing security in the long run by reducing our dependence on foreign fuel.

    But I have a bigger question: in 2000 I bought a Chevy Prizm (really a Chevy-built Toyota Corolla) that got 41 mpg on the highway. 90k miles later, I still get 39 or so on a full highway trip with the AC turned on, and regularly get 32-35 in mixed driving. And forget less than 20K, this car was less than 15K for the base trimline, and only around 17k with the sunroof and tilt wheel. This car is NOT a hybrid. And they stopped making it in 2002.

    Why did they stop making this car? A low-priced non-hybrid that gets 35+ mpg would be a HUGE seller in the market today, and they already know how to make it, because they were making it just a few years ago!

  • David Arthur

    The 1,445 mile hypermilling stunt might have been an obvious publicity ploy by Ford, but I am still happy to see an American car maker with a viable fuel efficient product.

    As for Tom Kelsey's debunking of the term "worthwhile purchase," he is overlooking the likelihood of gas price increases far above his $2.50 current average. Nearly every economist on record has stated that current petroleum prices are artificially deflated due to the soft world economy. Early in the coming recovery, we will see higher gas prices. The only real unknowns are just how high those prices will go and how fast.

    In addition, it is important to remember that not all consumers are most concerned about first costs in their buying decisions. Ecological ethics in daily purchasing habits are becoming an increasingly important motivator as well.

    Dave Arthur

  • Tom Kelsey

    While I endorse Ms. Schwartz's desire to promote the Ford Fusion Hybrid, and compliment her on a well-written article, I take exception to the last line, which calls the $28,000 Fusion a "worthwhile purchase." Let's just do a little quick math. A standard Fusion costs a little more than $19,000 and gets 22-25 mpg. For the added $9,000 you can get an ACTUAL 33 mpg with the Hybrid (let's not confuse ourselves with the artifical EPA numbers). And I'm not calculating the interest cost on the purchase either, just to keep it an apples-to-apples comparison. Let's further assume you drive 15,000 mile per year. At 25 mpg you would consume 600 gallons of fuel (notice I'm using the higher of the two numbers and I'm using the artifically high EPA numbers not the actual fuel economy which is undoubtedly lower). At a cost of $2.50 per gallon (a reasonable average for the current marketplace) you will spend $1500 on fuel. Now at 33 mpg you would only consume 454 gallons, at a cost of $1135 - a $365 savings or $1 per day less. That means you would have to drive the Hybrid for 9000 DAYS to break even. That's more than 24.5 years! Of course if you drove more miles per year you would break even quicker...less miles and you'd be talking a whole new generation before you saw any actual "worth" in pure financial terms. I don't dispute that hybrid technology is good for the environment and great for the conscience of the buyer and these "worthwhile" matters are more difficult to quantify. But please Ms. Schwartz, don't overlook the actual cost of driving, which is grossly distorted in your article.