Last November, I found myself in the position of having a silver Fusion Hybrid, courtesy of Hertz. How so? Well, due to bad luck.
I was downtown at the county building, paying the last installment on my property tax. Job done, I waltzed out to the Town Car, happy that the city wouldn’t be getting any more money out of me until next year. It was spitting sleet, cold and crappy out. All I wanted to do was drive home, have some dinner and watch a little TV. Unfortunately, I turned left at the courthouse, went halfway down the block, and a car came out of the alley off to the right-right in front of me. Yep!
There was no oncoming traffic in the opposite lane, so I swerved to miss him, and for 1/16th of a second I thought I did, but no soap. Crunch! We both turned into a nearby parking lot and assessed the damage. The driver was extremely apologetic, so it was hard for me to really get ticked off, but my hands were shaking. Boy, nothing like an accident for a good old shot of adrenaline! But both cars were driveable, and after the police took a report and departed, we went our separate ways.
To make a long and probably boring story short, my car was approved to be repaired at Strieter Lincoln and I was extremely happy about that. Over the weekend I drove my 2004 Town Car Ultimate because I was paranoid (mostly unjustifiably) about driving the injured car. But I heard from the other driver’s insurance company, and the following week they approved a rental car for me. Although any type of car would have been fine with me, I figured I’d be getting some kind of subcompact: Versa, Fiesta, or Corolla. But I was pleasantly surprised to receive a 2017 Fusion SE Hybrid.
In approved rental-bland Silver Silvermist with Dark Black interior, it was nonetheless a nice car, comfortable and with surprisingly decent pep. Hot rod? No, but as this was only the second hybrid I’ve driven (#1 was the 2015 Lincoln MKZ 2.0H reviewed at RG last year) it drove rather nicely.
I was curious about the fuel economy, since I’d be driving it several weeks. Of course, the primary reason for getting a hybrid is the fuel economy (and smug virtue-signalling as well, but let’s not go there), so I wondered what the real-world figures would be. Back in 2013-14 my uncle had a then-new Fusion Hybrid, and despite primarily being driven around town and on Interstate 80 between Des Moines and Iowa City, the mileage was fairly lacking.
But it’s all relative, as his daily driver was a late-model Jetta TDI. And since I daily drive a 2000 Town Car, I was pretty sure it would be significantly better than my usual weekly fuel consumption. Unless there was something terribly wrong with the Fusion, anyway!
Although I have to confess, it was highly entertaining to step on it and watch the little eco-leaves fly off, like Dorothy and her house in The Wizard of Oz. Cue evil laugh: Muhahahahaha!
When I got the car from Hertz, it had a full tank of gas. A week later, I was averaging 44 mpg and still had half of a tank. Not bad.
There were irritations, however. One thing I definitely did NOT like about this Fusion rental, was that there was no window tint at the top of the windshield, and the severe rake meant I was squinting all the way into the office most mornings. This problem was compounded by the dinky sun visors. My 18-year old Lincoln had larger visors, and nifty auxilary visors that folded out to cover an even larger area. But the Fusion? Nope! Not cool, Ford. I…I cahn’t see! Seriously: who decided to omit the windshield tinting on all new cars? It seems to have started in the mid 2000s and now no cars seem to have them. WHY!?
Overall though, the car was totally fine for my needs. The seats were comfortable, the car had decent pickup and acceleration and there was plenty of room as well. It was also pretty much invisible in traffic, with its “I have no imagination” silver paint.
But said decent pickup is relative. About halfway through my rental period, I decided to get the Ultimate out one morning, just for a change of pace. Holy cow, it’s a rocket compared to my rent-a-Fusion! I’d forgotten about that; I hadn’t driven a V8 in about two weeks…
One thing I did not care for was the cave-like black interior. Now, this isn’t the car’s fault, and you can get a nice light tan interior on these, which would be my preference. Actually, a Fusion Titanium in Ruby Red metallic with Ceramic leather interior would be pretty damn nice…
But rental fleets just want the basics, as you might have guessed. Color? Heck, they don’t want color! Customers don’t want color! Just make sure it’s black, white or silver, so they can get a decent trade-in and the dealer can move it off their floorplan quickly once it becomes a program car. You know the drill. At least it was somewhat lightened up with light gray pillar covers and headlining. I’ve just always preferred light interiors in my cars. They seem cheerier, and in our typical scorching Midwest summers, they cool down much faster after sitting in the parking lot at the office all day.
Another irritant was the ‘infotainment’ applications. Keep in mind I have two “pre-infotainment” Town Cars; they just have radios. So I don’t give a flying fig about connecting my phone with the car. Yet the Fusion thought it prudent to remind me that NO PHONE IS FOUND KLOCKAU! every fricking time I drove the car. If I drove it for more than 15-20 minutes, it sought to remind me yet again: HEY YOU! HEY YOU HAVEN’T PAIRED YOUR PHONE YET! WHY THE HELL NOT! ARE YOU A LUDDITE? DO YOU NOT HAVE A SMARTPHONE?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DRIVING? NO ONE DRIVES ANYMORE! NOW PAIR YOUR PHONE DAMMIT, THERE ARE FUNNY CAT VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE AND YOU’RE MISSING THEM RIGHT NOW!
I did not appreciate this. And although I leafed through the owner’s manual, looking for a way to put a stake through the heart of this stupid little reminder, I found no solution. I did, however, enjoy the satellite radio, especially the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s channels!
Overall though, and irritating radio reminders notwithstanding, the Fusion helm was fairly well laid out. A console shift lever has been eliminated and replaced with a rotary knob, which I got used to fairly quickly. The first couple of days though, I kept moving my arm up for the nonexistent column shift, a consequence of my owning two Panthers.
The gauges are highly versatile, you can select from a myriad of gauges, fuel-efficiency icons and other forms of operational data in the two displays flanking the speedometer. A must in our smartphone-obsessed society these days, I guess.
As a midsize domestic (well, tangentially domestic, as it’s Hecho en Mexico), it performs its job just fine. I went out to dinner one evening with my parents and my sister, and the four of us fit in the car with plenty of room. The back seat, though certainly not as commodious as when we go out to a supper club in my Town Car, is perfectly fine. So many new cars sacrifice the back seat for front seat room these days, for the typical single-person-and-perhaps-a-dog drivers commonly seen on the roads.
One thing I liked was the good-sized cubby in the center console. It was housing an iPass should I have some urge to travel to Chicago or whatnot, but I didn’t. I did take it up to the lake though, and on the two-lane highways of Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin, it was pretty nice. Good handling, stable. Of course the coarseness of that four-cylinder engine indeed made its presence known. It was more forgivable on the Ford than on the hybrid Lincoln MKZ I drove last year, but it was still somewhat irritating.
I mean really. It is 2018. Unless it is a dirt-cheap, bottom tier car like a Fiesta, Yaris, Forte or Fit, a noisy engine in this day and age is a little embarrassing, especially on a mid-range midsize car. Ford, either smooth it out or add a lot more sound insulation. Said noise was partially mitigated if you took it easy throttle-wise and let the electric motor do its thing. But still. It’s a 2017 Ford, not a ’71 Datsun, for Pete’s sake.
Overall, this was a fairly nice car. If you take the tribe to Disney World this summer and rent one, you’ll probably have zero issues. Unlike some other midsizers like the Camry, with good lines but a face only a mother could love, and the Malibu with its upside-down grille, the Ford is an attractive car. No goofy grille, no comic-book taillamps, just clean lines and a pleasing nose. The basic bones are nice, but if I was plunking down my own cash I’d rather have a CPO Lincoln MKZ than a new Ford, as the MKZ interior is much nicer inside, with wood and leather and whatnot, and more quiet due to the extra sound insulation Lincoln adds. But if you have an interest in one of these, I’d say it’s worth a look. Or at least a test drive!