I've said a couple of things consistently in the 22 years I've been reviewing cars. One: The true value of a hybrid is in a larger car, where the fuel economy gains will be greater than they are in small cars. And two: A plug-in hybrid, done well, is a better alternative (and will be until range and charging issues are fully addressed everywhere in this country) for many people than a pure electric vehicle.
And really, the Ford Fusion Energi, doomed as it is (Ford is phasing out passenger sedans and the Fusion Energi may not see the 2021 model year), is the best of them.
If you're just getting into alternative vehicles, a plug-in hybrid is a car that has a rechargable battery that gives you a finite range on purely electric power. It then switches over to a hybrid system, combining a gasoline engine and an electric motor, which complement each other, and hand off to each other when the car knows one form of power is more efficient than the other.
If you are able to recharge before you use the pure electric range (26 miles in the 2019 Ford Fusion Energi), you never touch a drop of gas or emit any pollutants. But you won't be stranded if you can't recharge, because there's a gasoline tank and an engine that runs on it. And, because it's a hybrid, mixing in that electric motor, it gets more miles per gallon from that gasoline. So, compared to a pure gasoline vehicle, you're getting better mileage and polluting less.
Some of the PHEVs on the market are cars I like a lot: The brand-new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid is one. The Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid is another. As is the Chevrolet Volt (which has also been given a date for the executioner). The Toyota Prius Prime is very good, but its looks are an acquired taste.
Earlier this year, I gave a lukewarm review to the 2019 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. I took part of the blame, taking it on a long roadtrip that isn't the strong suit of any PHEV (recharging every 22-53 miles isn't practical for that kind of drive).
That 1,800 miles from my home in Folsom to and around Palm Springs for a week and then home required nine stops for fossil fuel. The culprits---an 11.3 gallon fuel tank, my insistence on never letting the tank go below a quarter full, and a 28.5 mile per gallon average on the highway while in hybrid gas-electric mode.
This time, it was a week in San Diego---roughly the same distance as Palm Springs---a similar amount of driving around in the area during the week my wife and I were there---and then home. Pretty much the same 1,800 miles as in the Outlander PHEV. But the Fusion only needed to be refueled three times.
How come? The Fusion carries two and a half gallons more fuel (14.0 gallons), but it also gets much better highway mileage. We saw a consistent 42.5 miles per gallon.
At 188 horsepower, the Fusion is no hot rod. If anything, it's a touch slow by modern standards at 8.5 seconds from 0 to 60. But it's adequate for merging and passing. It's quiet and comfortable for the long haul. The only real drawback is that the hybrid pack eats into trunk space. At 8.2 cubic feet, it's one of the smallest usable trunk spaces I've seen in some time (even the Mustang convertible manages 11.4).
The 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium has a base price of $36,595. For that money, you get the following standard equipment:
- Auto-dimming driver's side exterior mirror
- LED fog lamps
- Solar-tinted glass
- Headlamp courtesy delay
- Auto high-beam LED headlamps
- Heated, power, manually-folding exterior mirrors with turn signals and approach lamps
- Rear spoiler
- LED taillamps
- Tire inflator/sealant kit (there is no spare)
- Rain-sensing wipers
- 10-way power heated leather front seats
- Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go
- Ambient lighting
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror
- Dual-zone electronic climate control
- Rotary gear shift dial
- Two smart-charging USB ports
- Premium leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel
- 12-speaker audio system
- Blind spot information
- Intelligent access and pushbutton start
- Lane-keeping system
- Pre-collision assist
- Rearview camera
- Reverse sensing system
- Sync3 with MyFord
- Voice-activated navigation
The only extra-cost option on our tester was $1,095 for a power moonroof. So with $895 destination and delivery charge, the bottom line would have been $38,585. But wait! There's a Fusion Energi Discount, so the real bottom line is $36,585---ten bucks less than the base price.
That price is pretty much the average price for a new car in America. And the Fusion is way better than average. In fact, I think it's the best plug-in hybrid you can buy.