Corporate policy dictates if I am driving more than X miles, I need to rent a car to do it in. The next couple of days I am commuting to OKC for a field install (~120 miles) so… rental car time.

Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive the 2017 Fusion Hybrid so much that they sold a bunch of them to Enterprise and then the guy at Enterprise rented me one after failing to shade up-sell me to an A4, and my company paid for the whole thing.

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Because of the amount of crap I’m carrying with me, I opted for a “full size” vehicle, which turned out to be a Ford Fusion Hybrid. I declined the A4 they offered, failing to mention it cost more than double what I was allowed to pay. I also declined the Nissan Altima because that CVT was made by some evil, car hating cultists.

Anyway, the Ford Fusion seems like an alright car and I’ve never driven a hybrid so… that seemed like a good idea.

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After doing the usual walkaround and noting the dings, I hopped in the driver’s seat, hit the start button and…. Nothing happened. Right. Hybrid. What actually happened was a little icon of a car with some arrows lit up to indicate the car was “ready to drive”.

OK.

After suffering at the hands of a 2017 S60 loaner with terribad stop-start, rolling around in a car running full electric is a disconcerting experience. I’ve had the car for two days now and I’m still not really used to it.

First impressions were OK. The car was surprisingly small on the inside, but well equipped and quiet. The more I drove it though, the more I found to dislike.

Controls – C+

The dashboard and gauges look nice, but overall I just found them too busy. Too many buttons for too few functions. Also while you do get a volume and tune knob, which I am very thankful for, the fan speed is controlled by a button, which I found odd. Overall it reminds me of the system in my 2013 C30, but worse.

Things aren’t much better in the gauge cluster either. While there is a large, real speedometer dead center, it is flanked by two screens that allow the user to display a dizzying amount of information. Being an engineer, I dig this. That said, at best it is distracting. There are so many options and so much information more than once I found myself out of lane while I was staring at my EV ratio.

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Eventually I found a system called “braking coach” which tells you how much energy was recaptured when you come to a stop. Problem being it doesn’t provide any actual coaching and the information is dubious at best. Also, continuing the trend, I found it distracting as I wanted to see it, but also should have been paying attention to like… driving. Later, I found the “Coach” screen on the other side of the speedo, which was pretty unhappy with my all highway driving.

Another nitpick (and it is that) is the battery meter is front and center, right there next to the fuel gauge. While this is all well and good in an all-electric or even a plug-in hybrid, I’m unsure of the point in this Ford, as all it succeeded in doing was making me nervous. The gauge was never full, which makes sense, and fluctuated between 25% and 75% as I drove. For whatever reason, this just caused anxiety about something I had no control over.

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Lastly, this suffers from an odd array of digital nannies, many of which don’t make sense. For example, I waiting until I was on a clear stretch of highway before deciding to pair my phone with the car’s bluetooth. “TOO BAD!” said the woman in the dash. This feature was disabled for my protection. “Screw you!” I say to the woman. “What if I had a passenger doing it?! You don’t know!” She didn’t listen.

Highway - C+

This thing is good at eating up miles, that is for sure. The interior is quiet and the cruise control competent. Also, side benefit, being it looks a lot like a cop car in white people got out of my way. This made the drive very pleasant.

It did develop some odd rattles at random points, but hitting whatever panel was making the noise usually stopped it. Not a great sign for a car that just tipped over 8,000 miles.

Economy – B+

Being a hybrid, I immediately had visions of 45 MPG and 600 miles between tanks. The reality is a bit disappointing, but not unexpected. On the highway it did about 32 MPG initially, averaging out to 34 towards the end of my piloting. Not bad for a big(ish) vehicle going about 80MPH. That said, its gas powered equivalent is rated at 34 highway, so I’m not sure the batteries the back are doing any good in this scenario.

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Yes, I know pure highway driving is where hybrids really fail to be better than their gas counterparts. Stop and go highway and city driving I got much better mileage, probably closer to 40 MPG. Good but not great.

Handling – B-

I actually liked the steering. It was heavy and reasonably responsive. A little terrifying when you take a cloverleaf too fast, but overall fine.

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Braking was a different story. The one time I had to do an emergency stop the brakes snatched and grabbed as I switched between regenerative braking and just braking, or at least that is what I assume was happening. In practice I had to do a lot of pedal modulation as the braking power switched between too little and too much. Terrifying when you’re trying to not hit the guy in front of you while also trying not to be hit from behind.

All other braking situations it was fine, if a little grabby. That said, I think emergencies are when you want your brakes to be rock solid…

Power – C

This one is a little hard to put my finger on. Upon first hitting the gas, my immediate feeling was that of disappointment. You can only read so many articles about the buckets of electric torque delivered by electric cars and hybrids before you think maybe they’re right.

At least on this car, they’re a bit off.

Really very off.

The power is tepid at best and the fly-by-wire throttle is frustratingly inconsistent. The ONLY way to accelerate quickly is at 100% throttle. If you’re at 80%, you get a burst of speed that tapers off as some gas saving PID kicks in and mutes your input.

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Once I found the screen that shows how much power is delivered by gas and electric power plants, this became easier to quantify. It also became apparent how little the electric motor actually does. In really only kicks in off of stops and on sudden acceleration, then just goes “couldn’t be bothered” and cuts out. I guess this is the most efficient way of doing things

That said, I do wonder if maybe it had good acceleration and a different problem: no feel. Seriously, this car is so muted, quiet, and disengaged from the act of driving maybe I was doing 0-60 in 3 seconds and just didn’t notice….

Also yes, it is a CVT.

Overall

It was a forgettable car. Not scary terrible like a Mitsubishi Mirage and not surprisingly good like some random Dodge I rented a while back.

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The one thing that has stuck with me is by the end I was constantly changing my driving style to better please the car. This is… odd. After only two days it overwrote 15 years of driving habits. I have since gone back to my heavy footed, high revving ways, but for a while there I was a one of those people…