by Adam Lynton
Plug-in hybrids are a fantastic step forward towards electrification - the benefits of plugging in and using only electric power for a while without the anxiety of running out of juice. But for the Ford Fusion Energi, the fact that it wasn't designed with plug-in intentions from day dot seems to count against it, with specialized rivals like the Toyota Prius Prime and the Chevrolet Volt staring it down in the midsize hybrid segment. In comparison, the Fusion Energi seems a little feeble as a hybrid vehicle, despite its claimed all-electric range of 26 miles. Facing many compromises, like a near non-existent trunk, the Energi still has a comprehensive list of standard features, offers a quiet and modern cabin, and a class-leading infotainment system - so it's not all bad.
As with the previous model year, the front wheels of the Energi are once again powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, integrated with a 7.6 kW electric motor for peak combined outputs of 188 horsepower. Servicing the standalone model, titled the Energi Titanium, is a stock CVT automatic. Overall, the Energi is an easy car to live with and offers many of the benefits of a family sedan - but the question remains, why buy the Energi when all it offers and more can be found in better packages?
Ford saw it fit to delete the adjustable lumbar support and memory settings on the front passenger seat for the 2020 model year. Beyond that, there are no other alterations or enhancements for the new model year.
In appearance, the Fusion Energi sedan looks identical to that of the regular Fusion Hybrid, differentiated only by a charge-port cap located on the front left fender. The front end of the hybridized sedan sports LED signature lighting, daytime running lights, headlights, and fog lamps. It's perched on 17-inch Sparkle Silver-painted alloy wheels, and fitted with power heated exterior mirrors. At the rear, it flaunts LED taillights, a decklid spoiler, and a single chrome exhaust tip.
The Energi measures identically to the standard hybrid variant and differs only in height and weight to the gasoline one. It measures 191.8 inches long and 72.9 inches wide; while the plug-in and hybrid measure 58 inches in height, the gasoline variant measures 0.2 inches taller. The Energi carries the heaviest curb weight of the three variants - at 3,986 lbs, it's around 300 lbs heavier than the standard hybrid's 3,668 lbs in its heaviest form. This makes it around 500 lbs heavier than the regular gasoline variant.
The Fusion Energi is equipped with the same engine found in the regular Fusion hybrid, a 2.0-liter inline-four Atkinson cycle engine augmented with an 88 kW electric motor, and mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The front wheels of the Energi are powered by combined outputs of 188 hp, which accelerates the Energi from 0-60 mph in a reasonable 7.8 seconds. This doubles to 15 seconds in forced EV-only mode and drops slightly in maximum attack 'charge depletion' mode, which also unlocks a further 7 hp. With ample electrified torque at hand, acceleration off-the-line is effortless; getting up to speed can be gradual, but power - and enough of it - is always there for unhurried, relaxed driving. Responses from the powertrain as a whole are accurate and consistent throughout, and the engine makes for comfortable inner-city driving. The CVT is as seamless as expected, further underscoring the Energi's penchant for low to mid-range speeds.
Though the four-cylinder engine may cope with the Energi's hefty curb weight just fine, it's the car's handling that, unfortunately, takes a noticeable toll. It does manage to maintain its composure and stability around twisty roads, but only to a small extent. With its soft damping and steering that feels overly assisted, tire position and road feedback are detrimentally diminished, resulting in a car that feels far less agile than its more capable rivals. The steering effort is also always overly light and the brakes are uncomfortably difficult to modulate in traffic as the pedal feels spongy almost all the way through. The Energi's regenerative braking is very prominent, failing to integrate smoothly with the friction braking. In terms of ride quality, some may feel that over bumps, the sedan is overly floaty and buoyant, but with all that said, its standard suspension does still smooth out most imperfect road surfaces and typical undulations fairly well.
With the Energi's hybrid system in default drive mode, it returns EPA estimates of 109/97/103 MPGe city/highway/combined. On gasoline only, the Energi returns estimates of 43/41/42 mpg. With a fully-charged battery, Energi drivers can expect an all-electric range of a claimed 26 miles, which is relatively meager for the class. It's equipped with a decent 14-gallon tank, which, when full and with a full battery, avail the Energi with a maximum range of around 588 miles before requiring a top-up. The Energi's 7.6 kWh battery takes around seven hours to completely charge on a 110-volt household power outlet or two and a half hours on a 220-volt power outlet.
The Energi seats five passengers in reasonable comfort; but the back seat is rather confined, with the center providing a cramped space suited for nothing more than a young teen. The seats themselves are nonetheless exceptionally comfortable, adorned with leather-trimmed Sport seating surfaces. Front seats feature ample adjustability, heating, and even ventilation as standard. While room upfront is decent all-round, the Energi's rearward sloping roofline impedes headroom to some degree for the rear occupants. Fortunately, outward visibility isn't hindered at all - all-around sight-lines are uninterrupted, and the Energi's many driver-aids make for easy driving.
It's in practicality where the Fusion's compromises are most prominent - trunk room, especially. While the gasoline variant offers a reasonable 16 cubic feet of trunk room, the Energi offers only a mere 8.2. Although that is enough room for a weekly grocery run, because of the intrusion of the large battery pack housing, the trunk's load floor is significantly misshaped, hindering storage versatility to a considerable degree.
There's not much of an improvement on the inside, sadly. There's a typically sized passenger-side glove box, four decent door side pockets (but they don't hold bottles), a small center armrest console up front, and two cupholders front and rear.
With the Energi Titanium being a standalone model, it's comprehensively outfitted with almost all of the Fusion lineup's available features. The Energi has intelligent access with remote start functionality, push-button start, and power door and window operation as standard. The driver is given a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt and telescoping adjustment, a ten-way power-adjustable seat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The front passenger's seat features six-way power-adjustability, and both front seats have heating and ventilation. There's an EV-mode selector, dual-zone automatic climate control, ambient lighting, active noise control, and a universal garage door opener. Also standard with the Energi is Ford's Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced driver-assists, which comprises forward collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high-beams. This complements the existing features, such as the rearview camera, hill-start assist, rain-sensing wipers, and dynamic cruise control with stop and go capability.
An eight-inch LCD touchscreen display takes center stage in the Energi, featuring Ford's class-leading Sync 3 infotainment software which includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality as standard, as well as voice-activated navigation with SiriusXM radio connectivity, Live Traffic, and Travel Link. There's also Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and audio streaming, HD Radio connectivity, FordPass Connect functionality, as well as an AM/FM/MP3 stereo with CD-player. A premium 12-speaker Sony surround-sound audio system is standard fare. There are two USB ports in the dash available for device charging and connectivity, along with a single 12-volt power outlet. Ford's Sync 3 system is one of the most user-friendly systems available and is highly intuitive and user-friendly; the visuals on the LCD screen are crisp, and responses are accurate and fast.
The Fusion Hybrid Energi has managed to prove itself over the years, having received only one recall in 2019 for potential exposure to high voltage sources. And though J.D. Power is yet to accord the 2020 year model of the Fusion Hybrid Energi with a predicted reliability rating, we except its dependability to be high - it scored 78 out of 100 for the 2019 model year. Ford backs the plug-in hybrid with a standard three-year/36,000-mile limited bumper-to-bumper warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and with eight years/100,000 miles worth of hybrid component coverage.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has fully evaluated the 2020 year variation of the Ford Fusion Hybrid Energi, but the NHTSA gave the 2019 variant four out of five stars in rollover tests. The IIHS put the standard Fusion sedan through its paces, and it achieved overall ratings of Good for six tests.
The Energi comes with a consignment of eight standard airbags, which is complemented by Ford's Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced driver-assists. This includes forward-collision warning, forward automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a rearview camera, and automatic high-beam headlights.
The Fusion Hybrid Energi is a mediocre hybrid vehicle in all honesty; it's easy to live with and features contemporary infotainment and safety tech in its standard guise. However, being based on its gasoline-powered sibling that wasn't built with hybridization in mind, it has had to undergo many compromises in its transformation. This means that many of its rivals, those that have been designed with the intent of hybridization from the outset, offer far more well-rounded packages overall, specifically in performance, efficiency, and practicality. The price increase from the standard Fusion to the Energi is also considerable and unjustifiable, given that the potential electric range is just 26 miles, and the sacrifices to achieve this are many. The Energi only really stands out for its functional and modern infotainment setup and high levels of safety and advanced driver assists - rivals beat it in pretty much every other regard.
The 2020 Ford Fusion Hybrid Energi's MSRP of $35,000 is average for the segment - this price excludes Ford's destination charge of $995, an acquisition fee of $645, as well as any tax, registration, or licensing fees. There aren't any additional packages available for the Energi, only an option to install a power moonroof for $1,095. Two of the Energi's exterior color options also have an extra charge of either $395 or $595 - there isn't much more to pricing on the Energi. As a plug-in hybrid, the Fusion Energi may be eligible for certain eco incentives depending on which state the buyer purchases the vehicle in.
2.0-liter Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
There is only the standalone Energi Titanium that comprises the Ford Fusion Energi lineup, taking on the same levels of specification as the Titanium on the standard Fusion and offering no additional packages. If anything, we suggest optioning the Energi in any of the dark exterior color hues as they complement the Energi's chrome exterior accents and enhance the illumination of the Energi's charging cap. There is a power moonroof available, which could be a nice luxury add-on, but that's about all that's available. The Energi is otherwise pretty much fully-equipped with the best of what Ford offers in the class. But really, you'd be better off looking elsewhere.
The Prius Prime is considerably more affordable than the Fusion Energi, with its base model available to buyers at an attractive MSRP of $27,750, hiking to only $33,650 for the top-spec trim. Furthermore, the Prius Prime is also equipped with a far more proficient powertrain, comprising a less powerful - but far more efficiency-minded - 1.8-liter inline-four hybrid engine. On gasoline only, the Prius Prime returns 55/53/54 mpg, and with the hybrid components in play, a combined estimate of 133 MPGe. It offers about the same all-electric range though, claimed at 25 miles on a full charge. It does, however, put the Fusion Energi to shame in terms of practicality, offering an impressive trunk capacity of 19.8 cubic feet, which is more than double the capacity of the Energi's. The Fusion Energi does take the win in the way of infotainment, though, as the Prius Prime does not offer Android Auto at any trim level. But it's a small consolation, as the Prime is better in just about every other metric.
The base model Volt is around $1,500 cheaper than the Fusion Energi, though the more comparable top-tier trim costs about $3,000 more. The Volt features a less powerful 1.5-liter inline-four hybrid engine, offering an identical 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.8 seconds. But, the Volt has slightly better gas mileage estimates of 106 MPGe combined, and an electric-only range of 53 miles - double that of the Fusion Energi. The Volt is also slightly more practical than the Fusion Energi, offering a trunk capacity of 10.6 cubic feet in a space less compromised to the Ford. The Volt received a Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS, too, which could be a major consideration in terms of buyer confidence, as the Fusion Energi has not been rated at all. The Volt comes as comprehensively outfitted with active safety and advanced driver assists as the Fusion Energi does, and it is just as well-specified in terms of contemporary tech. Still, the Volt takes the win in this comparison as the better plug-in hybrid.