As a general rule, gas-electric hybrid cars and trucks are not fun; their very nature precludes it. Hybrids are made to maximize conservation at the expense of stimulation. The thrill of driving one is seeing the mpg indicator creep higher, rather than the speedometer.
Certainly that's true of the Toyota Prius, which loudly proclaims its mission without any endearing aesthetic quality. But a fuel-sipper doesn't have to look ugly to be efficient; you could opt for the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
Seriously. Take a good look. I'll wait.
See what I mean? It's so beautiful, you'd never guess that it's a hybrid.
Redesigned last year, the Fusion's face wears a grille that bears more than a passing resemblance to the one used by Aston Martin. It fronts a sleek, athletic body that's a bit more unique. Taken together, the car is about as fetching as you can expect a mainstream midsize sedan to be.
Perhaps its most beautiful feature is its EPA rating: 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway. My 310-mile test drive yielded a very respectable 43 mpg, which is better than most conventional compact cars.
As you may know, a gas-electric hybrid pairs a gas engine with one or more electric motors. By having electricity do some of the chores, the car or truck burns less gas. As a concept, it's more than 100 years old. As a realistic transportation solution, it's about 15 years old. And it works seamlessly in the Fusion Hybrid.
Ford combines a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 118-horsepower electric motor and funnels the power through a continuously variable automatic transmission to the front wheels. Horsepower is rated at 188. That's not enough to make the Fusion a speed demon, but the car proves lively enough to slug it out in the worst suburban street warfare.
That said, you'll notice a hum from the gas engine when it comes on; it's just enough to let you know what's happening under the hood. And, as with other Ford hybrid models, you'll be coached into driving conservatively. A screen to the right of the speedometer displays a diagram of a plant. The more leaves appear, the more efficiently you're driving.
But efficiency has not changed the Fusion's impressive agility. The Hybrid's handling is every bit as good as the standard Fusion. The car has a solid feel, and the steering seems perfectly weighted. Body roll is kept to a minimum when tackling corners, and braking isn't as grabby as on other hybrids. It is a very willing dance partner, even for car enthusiasts.
While dancing, you'll find the cabin's decor is starkly modern, with a quality feel that will satisfy most shoppers. Offered in S, SE and Titanium trim levels, the Fusion's interior is fairly roomy, with good room up front and adequate room in the rear. But the car's arched roof line, which does much for its sporty looks, compromises rear seat headroom. It also requires care when entering or exiting the rear or else you'll knock your noggin.
Opting for the Hybrid also means living with an oddly shaped trunk that's noticeably smaller than that of the standard Fusion. Much of the missing space is taken up by the hybrid battery pack.
But none of this is enough to rob the car of its basic goodness.
There's little doubt that the Ford Fusion Hybrid is the perfect, um, fusion of fuel economy, enjoyable handling and striking looks.
It makes saving fuel easy on the eyes as well as the wallet. Conserving fuel rarely looks this beautiful.
2014 FORD FUSION HYBRID:
–Engine: DOHC 2.0-liter four-cylinder
–Motor: Permanent magnet AC synchronous
–Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
–Length: 191.8 inches
–Weight: 3,668 pounds
–Cargo space: 12 cubic feet
–Towing: Not recommended
–EPA rating (city/highway): 47/47 mpg
–Fuel consumption: 43 mpg
–Fuel type: Regular
–NHTSA safety rating: Five stars
–Base price, base model: $26,270
–Base price, test model: $27,200
–As tested, including destination charge: $35,855
ABOUT THE WRITER
Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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