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March 30, 2014

Ford Fusion Hybrid combines brains, beauty

As a general rule, gas-electric hybrid cars and trucks are not fun; their very nature precludes it. Hybrids are made to maximize conservation at the expense of stimulation. The thrill of driving one is seeing the mpg indicator creep higher, rather than the speedometer.

Certainly that’s true of the Toyota Prius, which loudly proclaims its mission without any endearing aesthetic quality. But a fuel-sipper doesn’t have to look ugly to be efficient; you could opt for the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Seriously. Take a good look. I’ll wait.

See what I mean? It’s so beautiful, you’d never guess that it’s a hybrid.

Redesigned last year, the Fusion’s face wears a grille that bears more than a passing resemblance to the one used by Aston Martin. It fronts a sleek, athletic body that’s a bit more unique. Taken together, the car is about as fetching as you can expect a mainstream midsize sedan to be.

Perhaps its most beautiful feature is its EPA rating: 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway. My 310-mile test drive yielded a very respectable 43 mpg, which is better than most conventional compact cars.

As you may know, a gas-electric hybrid pairs a gas engine with one or more electric motors. By having electricity do some of the chores, the car or truck burns less gas. As a concept, it’s more than 100 years old. As a realistic transportation solution, it’s about 15 years old. And it works seamlessly in the Fusion Hybrid.

Ford combines a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 118-horsepower electric motor and funnels the power through a continuously variable automatic transmission to the front wheels. Horsepower is rated at 188. That’s not enough to make the Fusion a speed demon, but the car proves lively enough to slug it out in the worst suburban street warfare.

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