By Sue Mead, Motor Matters

Math is not my strong suit, so the challenge of "mathematical acrobatics" in calculating hybrid car miles-per-gallon is daunting.

In electric-only operation the hybrid car provides just a few miles of travel distance, while electric-plus-gas engine operation mileage varies dramatically based on conditions: Highway or city? Stop-and-go or cruising? You might net over 50 miles to the "gallon" or several dozen.

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Although Ford's new plug-in hybrid, the 2014 Fusion Energi, offers many ways to measure mileage, one thing is certain: the Energi's electric-only mode offers a longer single-charge trip than any other plug-in of its kind. Its 100 combined gasoline-and-electricity MPGe (miles per gallon electric) is more than the Toyota Prius Plug-in that's rated at 95 MPGe and the Chevy Volt at 98 MPGe.

The five-seater Fusion Energi starts at $38,700. More than just an EV geek's dream, the 2014 Fusion Energi is a lovely looking, midsize sedan. It's available with a number of uplevel features, such as adaptive cruise control, automated parking assist, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, inflatable (airbag) rear seatbelts and an audio system from Sony with 12 speakers and HD radio.

A wide, multi-slatted front grille makes a bold appearance for a strong first impression. The grille is capped by glistening narrow headlamp slits and a sleek character face, with lines that sweep from the front of the hood to the windshield. The sedan rides on 17-inch tires and sparkling aluminum rims that up-level the looks. The roofline is low and the rear end is clipped short, while details like integrated front fog lamps and body-color side mirrors add a classy touch.

The Fusion Energi is called an extended-range technology vehicle; these cars have small gasoline-fueled engines and generators that help provide motivation when charged batteries discharge. The gas-powered engine that powers Fusion Energi is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with variable intake timing; it delivers 195 horsepower-combined-hybrid output and 129 lb.-ft. of torque. Meanwhile, the electric motor is a permanent magnet AC synchronous design that makes 118 horses and 117 lb.-ft. torque.

The 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery pack takes about 2.5 hours to charge with a 240-volt power source or 6 hours with a 120-volt plug (a typical household connection).

We drove the 2014 Fusion Energi at Ford's Proving Grounds and our impressions were very much the same as driving its Fusion stablemates. These are great handling front-wheel sedans that have the engineering to make them light on their feet and perform all normal driving tasks with aplomb. The biggest difference in the Energi is the lack of noise when it's powered by the electric motor and the seamless start/stop. The Energi doesn't feel like a typical hybrid where you can feel some of the mechanics working and suffer some slight hesitation, especially when hard on the throttle.

Power-assist rack-and-pinion steering and a front MacPherson strut/rear multi-link suspension combine to make Fusion Energi feel firm and confident on the road. Energi's brakes are four-wheel power-assist discs with ABS and regenerative capabilities; traction and stability control are standard.

The Fusion Energi's interior is upscale in design with a uncluttered, refined cockpit that seats five comfortably -- and with ample leg room, just like the Fusion and Fusion Hybrid, which is not a plug-in. Split-folding rear seats add practicality for stowage. The trunk space carries just over 8 cubic-feet of cargo, which makes Fusion Energi perfectly capable for a weekend away or a week's worth groceries, however, because of the larger battery pack, luggage capacity is 4 cu.-ft. less than the Fusion Hybrid and only half that of the regular Fusion.

The cabin is built for commuter comfort and technological convenience. Leather seats are standard and there are two 4.2-inch LCD screens that contain enough vehicle information -- from fuel economy to regenerative braking performance, which helps capture energy harvested from more efficient braking to further boost electric motor mileage -- to keep even the most jaded rush-hour driver engaged.

MyFord Mobile and its smartphone app let you measure your mileage performance and locate charging stations; the Ford Sync infotainment system also is standard; it provides voice-activated communications and entertainment, plus a 911-Assist feature, along with an advanced Navigation System, with SiriusXM Traffic and SiriusXM Travel Link services and its greater wealth of travel information.



VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan

BASE PRICE___________________ $38,700 (as tested: $39,495)

MOTOR TYPE__________________4-cylinder Atkinson w/SMPFI


HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 141 at 6000 rpm (195 combined)

TORQUE (lb.-ft.)________________ 129 at 4000 rpm

TRANSMISSION_________________ CVT

OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 191.8 in.

TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb): __ 37.6 ft.

CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,913 lbs.

FUEL CAPACITY________________ 14.0 gal.

EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway (gas) 100 mpgE

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