Consumer Reports: Ford Fusion fun but flawed; Mitsubishi i-MiEV slow, chintzy [w/videos]Wed, 23 Jan 2013 16:31:00 ESTFord compliment from Consumer Reports these days is like waiting for a low-cost new product from Apple. So we weren't really expecting a glowing review of the 2013 Ford Fusion when CR got its hands on the car. The institute's crew bought three different versions of the Fusion (Hybrid, 1.6-liter EcoBoost and a Titanium with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost) to put through its barrage of tests, and while we aren't too surprised by some of the findings, they're still interesting nonetheless.
CR praises the Fusion for its "eye-catching" design and says that the sportier Titanium trim level is the best-handling midsize sedan they've ever tested, but that's about where the good news ends for Ford. The Fusion Hybrid also posted the best-ever fuel economy CR has recorded in a midsize sedan, but the only problem is that their number was 39 miles per gallon combined – far less than Ford's 47 mpg rating for city, highway and combined. As expected, CR also dinged the Fusion for its MyFord Touch, but some of the other gripes about the car include a cramped cabin and poor fit and finish.
Other Ford products tested this time around include the Focus Electric and C-Max Hybrid. Like the Fusion, CR's observed fuel economy of 37 mpg for the C-Max fell well short of Ford's advertised 47-mpg rating, and both cars were criticized for the use of MyFord Touch. CR notes that the Focus Electric's interior is also cramped, with the battery pack taking up a lot of cargo space.
In other news, CR slams the Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric car rather mercilessly, something that is perhaps less surprising. The institute digs into the low-cost urban runabout for its lack of speed, payload, and chintzy finish, among other things.
You can check out videos about the Fusion Hybrid, Focus Electric and i-MiEV by scrolling below.
CONSUMER REPORTS FINDS TRIO OF NEW FORD FUSION TRIMLINES STYLISH, FUN TO DRIVE, BUT FLAWED
Electric Car Clash: Ford Focus Electric schools Mitsubishi i-MiEV
New Ford C-Max impresses
YONKERS, NY - Consumer Reports testers found that the redesigned Ford Fusion hits a lot of high notes but some prominent gripes keep it out of the top tier of the independent testing organization's midsized sedan ratings.
Consumer Reports bought and tested three versions of the Fusion: a SE with the popular 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, a SE Hybrid, and a top-level Titanium with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. Their engineers found that the Fusion clings to corners, with quick, decisive turn-in response and well-controlled body lean. The steering is ideally weighted, with reassuring road feel. All three versions proved enjoyable, balanced, and predictable at their handling limits. Thanks to slightly sharper handling, the Titanium version is the best-handling midsized sedan Consumer Reports has tested.
The Hybrid's powertrain is very impressive. It's slick and refined and delivers competitive acceleration. Plus, it squeezes out an eye-popping 39 mpg overall - the best fuel economy CR has measured in a midsized sedan. However, that fuel economy is considerably less than the EPA test results of 47 mpg overall, city, and combined.
"All versions of the Fusion provide a composed, civilized ride that's as good as that of some cars costing twice as much. We wish the Fusion's EcoBoost engines better complemented its dynamic abilities," said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports.
Ford's pair of EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engines fall short in both acceleration and fuel economy when compared with competitive models such as the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. The 1.6-liter turbocharged four provides decent performance overall but needs to work hard and sounds gruff when revved. The larger 2.0-liter turbocharged four delivers ample power but lacks the creamy smoothness of competing V6s while also being slower and less efficient.
Another gripe of Consumer Reports engineers was the MyFord Touch infotainment system, which handles audio, climate, and communications functions. Optional in mid-trim Fusions and compulsory in high-trim Titanium versions, it's needlessly complicated and finicky to use.
The Fusion's cabin space is a little snug, which compromises the driving position and rear-seat room. The Fusion's sleek form is very eye-catching but it reduces function, cutting into outward visibility. Consumer Reports found its test cars, all bought soon after the Fusion went on sale, have multiple ill-fitting body and trim parts.
"The Fusion's interior looks nice and has high-quality materials but we're surprised at the number of fit-and-finish flaws we've found, especially in our pricey Titanium version," Fisher said. "Hopefully, Ford will sort out these flaws soon."
None of the Fusion versions are currently Recommended by Consumer Reports because they are too new to have sufficient reliability data.
Also included in this month's report are Consumer Reports' test of the Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. They join the previously tested Nissan Leaf as the first widely available all-electric vehicles. The Focus Electric builds on the great handling and refinement of the conventional Focus and adds instant, silent power and the second best fuel efficiency Consumer Reports has recorded the equivalent of 107 mpg (or 3.18 miles per kilowatt-hour). "The Focus Electric proves that electric cars can be both super-efficient and a lot of fun to drive," says Fisher.
But the Focus Electric can't escape some inherent deficiencies, including a cramped rear seat and frustrating MyFord Touch controls. In addition, the large, lithium-ion battery pack consumes much of the modest cargo space.
The smaller i-MiEV squeezes out the equivalent of 111 mpg overall or 3.28 miles per kWh, making it the most energy-efficient car Consumer Reports has tested. But in almost every other way, the i-MiEV lives up to the lowest expectations you might have of an electric car. It's slow, chintzy, cramped, and so far off the mark that testers often felt it was closer to being a glorified golf cart than an actual car. While the Focus Electric costs about $41,000, compared with $33,630 for the i-MiEV, it's definitely the better choice for consumers who want to go gas free. (Both prices are before a $7500 federal tax credit, and other state incentives may apply. There are also inexpensive lease deals for the Focus.)
Neither vehicle is recommended. Both are too new for Consumer Reports to have sufficient reliability data for them. And the i-MiEV scores too low in our tests.
Consumer Reports also tested Ford's C-Max, an appealing hybrid hatchback that packs a lot of room within its compact size. Consumer Reports' measured fuel economy is 37 mpg overall. That's impressive but falls far below the EPA's stated combined city and highway of 47 mpg .
The C-Max's arch-rival is the Toyota Prius V. The C-Max can't match the Prius V's 41-mpg overall fuel economy or generous interior space. But the Ford is quieter and much more enjoyable to drive. Handling is agile, with quick and ideally weighted steering, and it rides very comfortably. Like other Fords, the optional MyFord Touch system is frustrating, but even the standard radio controls are overcomplicated. A plug-in hybrid Energi version is also available. The C-Max rates just below the Mazda5 at the top of Consumer Reports overall ratings for small wagons, but is too new for Consumer Reports to have compiled reliability data to Recommend it.
Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.
The full report and road test results are available at ConsumerReports.org on January 23rd and in the March issue of Consumer Reports. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to Website for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. Check out CR's ongoing Twitter feed at @CRCars
By Jeffrey N. Ross
See also: Autoblog Podcast #317, Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell revisit bitter F1 rivalry in... Ford Fusion campaign?, Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #317 LIVE!.