By Brady Holt
In this space, we’ve praised a series of plug-in hybrids – vehicles whose electric battery can recharge off the grid, yet also have a gasoline engine that can keep you running after you’ve used up that electric charge.
All of them offer the many benefits of all-electric vehicles during short commutes, yet without the “range anxiety” that keeps them tethered close to a power outlet. And while they cost more than gas-only vehicles or even conventional gas-electric hybrids, federal tax credits help offset or eliminate the price premium.
An early plug-in hybrid was the Ford Fusion Energi, which debuted in 2013. The Energi is a plug-in hybrid version of the Fusion, a stylish, upscale and fun-to-drive midsize sedan. It started out with a range of up to 20 miles per charge, and averaged 38 miles per gallon once you used up your plug-in range.
Ford updated the Fusion Energi for 2017, boosting those figures to 22 mpc and 42 mpg, These are the figures quoted for the tested 2018 model, which proved roughly accurate during the weeklong test – improving in both lower-speed conditions compared to those of open highway. Another update for 2019 is bumping the range to 26 mpc, while improving the energy efficiency of the all-electric operation.
Ford has also updated all Fusion models over the years with crisp, well-executed, fully-featured infotainment systems. Now called Sync 3, this model replaces an infamously fussy generation called MyFord Touch.
In this increasingly crowded market, it’s the new Clarity that stands out on paper. It combines the generous interior space of a midsize sedan with an outstanding all-electric range of 48 miles. And, unlike those of its competitors, the Clarity’s batteries don’t cut sharply into its trunk space. Prices start at $34,295, before a $7,500 federal tax credit.
But especially if your typical commute is closer to 20 miles than 50, there are reasons to still consider the Fusion Energi.
First of all, while the Clarity’s futuristic looks won’t appeal to everyone; the Fusion is a more classically-attractive sedan. Its bold vertical grille and gracefully sloped roof have aged well since the 2013 debut, looking neither dated nor forced.
Secondly, though the Fusion Energi looks expensive, with a base price of $35,495 (minus a tax credit of $4,004), buyers can expect to enjoy steeper discounts compared to the Honda’s. It also comes with more standard equipment, including rich leather upholstery on its extra-comfortable seats.
Buyers interested in the Fusion Energi also would do well to consider the aforementioned Kia Optima plug-in hybrid, which is similarly affordable and can pull off up to 29 miles per charge. The Fusion Energi is the posher option of the two, however.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in saving fuel but don’t feel like plugging in your car, Ford also sells a Fusion Hybrid, which is rated for 42 mpg in mixed driving. It’s much more affordable than the Energi, both because it has a smaller battery and because it’s available with fewer standard features. It also has a larger trunk. Prices start at $28,450. The Fushion Hybrid’s competitors include hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Toyota Camry.
Visit tinyurl.com/sentinel-fusion-energi to see more photos of the tested 2018 Ford Fusion Energi.
Brady Holt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association.