If you're in the market for a new family car that gets good gas mileage, easily carries 5 passengers, and has room in the trunk for your junk, several of the new models that debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week could be exactly what you're looking for. For now, let's take a look at the Ford Fusion Hybrid.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid created some of the biggest buzz at the show, and for good reason. It's a roomy, family-size car but with snazzy style and a regenerative braking system and electric battery that help it get 36 mpg in the city, 41 mpg on the highway. (Full disclosure: I was a guest of the Ford Motor Company at the auto show, though under no obligation to favorably review any of its vehicles.) In case you're wondering, here's how Ford explains what "regenerative braking system" means:
When you apply the brakes in a conventional vehicle, kinetic energy is lost to heat due to friction. During braking in the Fusion Hybrid, however, the regenerative braking system recovers over 90 percent of this energy that is normally lost and sends it back to the battery pack to be stored for later use. Not only is regenerative braking efficient, but it also helps minimize wear on the brake pads, lowering the cost of maintenance.
It doesn't matter if a car CAN get good fuel efficiency if the driver drives so it doesn't. One of the features I like the most on the Fusion is its "Dual LCD SmartGauge Cluster with Eco Guide." The SmartGauge uses liquid crystal displays on either side of the center-mounted speedometer. A tutorial built into the display lets you choose one of four data screens for the level of information you want — Inform, Enlighten, Engage or Empower — and explains your options within each. Steering wheel-mounted controls make it all easy. All levels can indicate instant fuel economy and trip data including time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty. The display grows leaves when you drive efficiently. The leaves fade when you don’t. More leaves = more mpg.
Another plus? The Fusion Hybrid's eco-friendly cloth seating is made from 85 percent post-industrial materials – polyester fibers that would otherwise have ended up in landfills.
The car also includes "adaptive cruise control" to automatically slow the Fusion when it detects slower traffic ahead, and an "active park assist" system to make it easier for the driver to parallel park. Sensors in the Fusion's rear quarter-panels detect traffic in a driver’s blindspot, providing both audible and visual warnings if traffic – unseen by the driver – is approaching.
While the Fusion Hybrid is available in show rooms now, stay tuned for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, which Ford claims will be the most fuel-efficient midsize car in the world. Arriving this fall, Fusion Energi could deliver more than 100 MPGe, a mile per gallon equivalency metric for electrified vehicles. Ford says this is 8 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt and 13 MPGe more than the projected efficiency of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid model.
Want to increase your fuel efficiency overnight? Pump up your tires! Use this tire pressure gauge to check your tire pressure at least every three months.