Mountain Wheels: Traditionally-sized comfort with eco-friendly mileage in the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid |

Mountain Wheels: Traditionally-sized comfort with eco-friendly mileage in the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

It's my sincere hope that a generation that's grown up embracing the idea that environmental protection and resource conservation aren't notions for (or dreamed up by) foreigners will continue to support the evolution and development of hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.

Or, if Mike Judge's 2006 movie "Idiocracy" actually turns out to be a documentary — well, let us hope that a few of those full-sentence-speaking deplorable intellectuals do their part to keep carmakers on track to some sense of environmental awareness.

A case in point is the updated 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Here's a car that looks and acts like a traditional mid-sized four-door sedan, is comfortably capable of carrying five, and is still able to generate mileage to put a full-blown hybrid to shame.

By avoiding all of the weird angles, oddities and fading Bernie stickers found on those serious hybrids, Fusion is the ultimate eco-sleeper. Fusion Hybrid's other plus is its price: The reasonably well-optioned SE model I drove started at $26,480 and stickered at $34,510, complete with the whole package of safety aids, plus an upscale luxury package.

In the meantime, as hybrids go, the numbers seem like they're written in reverse: Fusion Hybrid will officially get 43 MPG in the city and 41 on the highway, though those are just averages of the averages. Minus the pedal-squeezing you may need to do to get the 188-net-horsepower produced by the 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and the car's electric generator to get you up the passes at Colorado's unofficial 75 mph speed limit, you can easily see highway numbers in the mid- to upper-40s, which is certainly Prius/etc. territory.

And other than some funny electric noises as the various motors and battery fans and such circulate — perhaps more evident as the car makes virtually no noises at all while rolling along in its all-electric mode in town — Fusion's Hybrid version behaves very much like its non-hybrid counterparts.

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That electric system, including a battery that takes up a considerable but not impossible chunk of the trunk space, is also capable of subbing in for the motor at flat, low-acceleration spots, up to 85 mph. Regenerative brakes work to recharge the battery, and pressing the car's EcoSelect button allows the car even more efficiency thanks to more subdued acceleration, less intense HVAC usage and even more regenerative braking. It's the default mode when you start the car. Steering is perhaps a little more stiff than you'd find in a non-hybrid vehicle, but did not present a major issue.

The 2017 rendition of the Fusion Hybrid receives a chrome-enhanced new front fascia with a notable horizontal grille, plus updates to the rear. Inside, new bits include an odd rotary gear shift dial which requires poking the middle to put the car into low gear; the plain but simple SYNC 3 navigation and entertainment system is a vast improvement from the previous systems.

What's most notable about Fusion Hybrid is its sheer normalness as a mid-size vehicle. The rear seat is gigantic and comfortable, nearly Taurus-like, and you and your front-seat passenger will enjoy ample room. Sure, you can mess around with the variety of eco-indicators on the two-sided electronic instrument display, but they're also easy to ignore.

There's a pretty comprehensive set of safety bits as options, now including an active parking assist which can help you safely navigate reverse perpendicular parking in spots like Capitol Hill. Stop-and-go-accommodating adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist and pedestrian detection are all part of that system.

2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE

MSRP: $26,480; as tested, $34,510

Powertrain: 188-HP 2.0-liter four-cylinder/electric motor combination with CVT transmission

EPA figures: 42 combined (43 city, 41 highway)

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