March 13, 2014
2014 Ford Fusion Energi. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Haney Louka
I’ve had the Ford Fusion Energi for a few weeks now, so it’s time for an update on how one of the company’s most technologically advanced vehicles is faring. This is truly a winter for the record books; as I write this I have to look at the calendar to know it’s March – the return of the polar vortex is making sure thermometer readings and wind chill levels are still firmly planted in January.
When I first learned of the opportunity to drive this plug-in hybrid in winter, I thought the plugging-in part would be a no-brainer. After all, Winnipeggers are accustomed to plugging their cars in at night at this time of year. There are electrical outlets in parking lots everywhere, so provided the lot operator is okay with the idea of giving you what essentially amounts to free fuel, finding a place to plug in is relatively easy.
My parking garage at Portage Place in downtown Winnipeg is heated, so even though there’s no need to plug in a block heater, there are electrical outlets located throughout the garage. A conversation with the management at the parking garage revealed that a small handful of drivers have requested permission to charge their batteries during the day and it has been granted. I suppose if electrics and plug-ins become more common a change in policy would be required, but for now the battery gets topped up for free (or we’ll just say that it’s included in my monthly parking fee).
But let me tell you: there’s a massive difference between plugging your car in on the occasional cold night and connecting a plug-in hybrid to the grid at every available opportunity. And that’s the only way for owners to ensure the $6,000 premium over the price of a regular Fusion Hybrid (which in turn is $1,500 more than the gas-only version) was not spent in vain.
We’ll get more into how well the plug-in hybrid system performs in the next update; this one is about how the car performs day-to-day. After all, as plug-in hybrids and electrics go, this is one normal looking car and owners will expect it to behave just as a normal car does.
2014 Ford Fusion Energi trunk demo & 2014 Ford Fusion Energi interior full dash. Click image to enlarge
From a practicality standpoint, we’ve already touched on the first major difference – the size of the Fusion’s trunk. Its 232-litre volume is about one-third smaller than what you’ll find behind the back seat of a Chevrolet Spark. So the kids shared the rear passenger area with my daughter’s hockey equipment, including a bag that fits neatly in the hatch of my Volkswagen GTI with the rear seat up and the parcel shelf in place.
Aside from that, and the requisite penchant for always plugging the car in, living with the Energi is surprisingly normal. It’s normal to look at. Actually, it’s a pleasure to look at. The Fusion, even in its lowest trim, has the aura of a more expensive set of wheels. Of course, this Energi is a more expensive set of wheels. That it looks like a car half its price cannot be overlooked, but it gets my vote as the best looking of the current crop of plug-ins and electrics. Only the Volt comes close thanks to its high-tech design and unique body. And as mid-size sedan beauty pageants go, it’s a close battle at the top between this and the Mazda6.
Kids with hockey bag in the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi. Click image to enlarge
It would help if the Titanium trim had some differentiators from lesser models – the only giveaways are a subtle rear spoiler (which can be deleted) and chrome accents on the door handles. The big differentiator for the Energi is what looks at first glance like a second fuel filler door. Except this one is located on the driver’s side fender; a single touch allows it to spring out and rotate clockwise to reveal the SAE J1772 standard interface for charging the battery from the grid. There’s a blue LED ring around it that illuminates during charging and at the end of a drive to show the level of charge in four quadrants. It strikes me as a bit gimmicky but it’s subtle enough to be more cool than kitschy.
Inside there’s more standard Fusion fare, although the Titanium trim level ensures that this is an upscale cabin. The heated leather sport seats look great and are very comfortable, but I wish they were a little firmer for better support.