Tests show Ford Fusion, C-Max hybrids don't live up to 47-mpg claims

Consumer Reports News: December 06, 2012 02:08 PM

Ford has been making some eye-opening claims about the fuel economy of the redesigned 2013 Fusion Hybrid sedan and new C-Max Hybrid wagon: "47 city/47 highway/47 combined mpg." After running both vehicles through our real-world tests, we have gotten very good results. But they are far below Ford's ambitious triple-47 figures.

In our tests, the Fusion Hybrid delivered 39 mpg overall and 35 and 41 in city and highway conditions, respectively. For the C-Max Hybrid, we got 37 mpg overall, with 35 and 38 for city and highway. These two vehicles have the largest discrepancy between our overall-mpg results and the estimates published by the EPA that we've seen among any current models.

2013-Ford-C-Max-ATD-studio.jpgYes, the disclaimer on EPA fuel-economy labels notes that your results may differ. But the overall mpg for these C-Max and Fusion models is off by a whopping 10 and 8 mpg, respectively, or about 20 percent. Our overall-mpg results are usually pretty close to the EPA's combined-mpg estimate. Among current models, more than 80 percent of the vehicles we've tested are within 2 mpg. The largest discrepancy we've previously seen was 7 and 6 mpg for the Toyota Prius C subcompact and Prius hatchback, respectively. And while our highway test results almost always meet or exceed the EPA highway numbers, our highway figures for these cars fell far below.

Make no mistake; both the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid still deliver excellent fuel economy. The Fusion Hybrid's 39 mpg is the best of any family sedan we've tested, edging out the Toyota Camry Hybrid by 1 mpg. And the C-Max Hybrid's 37 mpg is second only to the Prius V's 41 mpg in its class. But our tests show that buyers shouldn't expect the stellar 47 mpg that Ford is promoting.

How did we measure the real-world fuel economy? Like every car we test, we first put 2,000 break-in miles on the Fusion and C-Max hybrids after buying them from local dealerships. Then, we installed a precision fuel meter in the fuel line. To measure the city mpg, we ran the cars through the standard course on our test track, which consists of regimented speeds, multiple stops, and predetermined idle time. For the highway mpg, we twice drove the cars each way on a specific section of a local highway at 65 mph. Tests are run by multiple drivers on each vehicle, conducted only under certain weather conditions, and corrected for ambient temperature. (Learn more about how we test cars.)

EPA fuel-economy estimates are the result of testing on a dynamometer. It's worth noting that automakers mostly self-certify their cars. Then, the EPA spot-checks about 15 percent of them with its own tests in a lab. We have reported our fuel-economy results to the EPA.

We're not alone in these findings. Some Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid owners have reported fuel economy below the EPA estimates and other media outlets have experienced a similar shortfall.

Make & model CR overall mpg EPA combined mpg Difference
Ford C-Max SE 37 47 10
Ford Fusion Hybrid SE 39 47 8
Toyota Prius C Two 43 50 7
Toyota Prius 44 50 6
Honda Civic Hybrid 40 44 4
Infiniti M35h 25 29 4
Lexus ES 300h 36 40 4
Buick LaCrosse (4-cyl., eAssist) 26 29 3
Honda Insight EX 38 41 3
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid 33 36 3
Lexus RX 450h 26 29 3
Lexus CT 200h 40 42 2
Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE 38 40 2
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 19 20 1
Toyota Highlander Hybrid 27 28 1
Toyota Prius V Three 41 42 1
Chevrolet Malibu Eco 29 29 0
Honda CR-Z EX (manual) 35 34 -1

In response to our results, a Ford representative said in an email, "Early C-Max Hybrid and Fusion Hybrid customers praise the vehicles and report a range of fuel economy figures, including some reports above 47 mpg. This reinforces the fact that driving styles, driving conditions, and other factors can cause mileage to vary."

Earlier this month, the EPA forced Hyundai to restate fuel-economy estimates for 27 models after overstating their estimates. The company is spending an estimated $100 million a year to refund buyers for the extra fuel they burn.

"Most buyers won't get anything near 47 mpg in the real world," says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of auto testing. "Even though these two Ford hybrids are very efficient, this big discrepancy may leave customers disappointed."

Those fuel-economy results come as we're testing three versions of the 2013 Fusion, as well as the C-Max Hybrid. Initial findings indicate the sleek, sophisticated Fusion is a solid, well-rounded package. With a very composed ride and sharp handling, it drives more like an upscale sport sedan than a mundane family hauler. The C-Max is a very practical package that also drives well. Look for full road-test reports soon.

Why do Ford's new hybrids ace the EPA fuel economy tests?
Owners report Ford's latest hybrids don't live up to 47-mpg claims

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