Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Toyota Camry 2010-ish vs. Ford Fusion 2010-ish - Hybrid Versions Impressions

Undeniably, my heart will always be with the Toyota Prius. It isn't a perfect car, but I can look past its faults. That's real love, n'est-ce pas?

But sometimes you need or want a bigger car that fits more stuff, looks more traditional, and has a lot more horsepower for when you need to accelerate -- like after pulling over on a highway cause the car in front of you broke down and you felt obligated to help him after honking at him for a solid 10 seconds before his engine blew.

The Toyota Camry hybrid and Ford Fusion hybrid vehicles are the workhorses in my company's pool of cars. For every time I drove a Toyota Prius at work, I probably drive the Camry at least fives times and the Fusion at least twice. There have always been more of them available because they're more similar to traditional, gas-only cars. From what I remember, I've been in 2007, 2010, and even 2012 Camry hybrid models. I believe the Fusions I drove were 2010 or 2011 -- one had about 500 km on the odometer and the new car smell still when I got my turn. 

Chances are that I've put on a few thousand kilometers in various Camry sedans and well over a thousand kilometers in the Fusions. Most of it was on freeways, but I've also done a lot of driving on lower tier highways and even unpaved, country roads with a single lane. There is a difference and I do have a clear preference. Below I'll describe some of those differences. Note that it's been a while since I've last been in one either car as the driver though.

Differences Between 2010-ish Camry and Fusion Hybrids

Road Noise
The first time I took the Ford Fusion on the freeway was months after driving a 2007-ish Camry for thousands of kilometers months straight. I was used to the Camry being pretty noisy over 100 km/h by then. It was necessary to turn the radio fairly loud to hear it over the wind, traffic, wheel, and other road noise. After taking the Fusion on the freeway, my jaw dropped at the decreased level of road noise that could be heard in the cabin at speeds over 100 km/h. It wasn't whisper quiet and it's not like I could hear a pin drop, but I felt the difference was pretty significant. However, after driving a 2012 Camry for a few days, I can say that the newer model appeared to improve in this respect. It was quieter than the 2007 model. Whether it was as quiet as the 2010-sh Ford Fusion or not, I couldn't really tell. 

Road noise is more of an aesthetic, nice to have thing. Steering and handling is more of a basic requirement of a car that can make or break a vehicle in my mind. Unfortunately, every Camry hybrid that I've driven has had, what I think to be, pretty poor steering control . By "poor", I mean that I didn't feel much feedback, the wheel felt too loose making steering movements jerky, and it was difficult to keep the vehicle in a straight line without constantly making adjustments. Many times I had to give the wheel a death-grip because it felt like I couldn't let go without it veering off quickly. If you have read my Toyota Prius post, you'll know that I had the exact same issues with steering in that car. From what I understand, it has to do with how Toyota implemented their electric or power steering and something to do with ratios. Like the Prius though, I'm sure that if I had to drive the Camry for a few weeks straight, I'd be able to get used to the steering. 

In contrast, the Ford Fusion was an absolute dream to drive. I don't know if it was really that good or if I had just been so used to driving Camry and Prius vehicles with steering that I didn't like. There was noticeable feedback and some good resistance to the wheel that made fine steering movements easier. Doing large turns was just as easy as minor in-lane adjustments. And unlike the Camry, I was able to take my hands off the wheel for several seconds at a time and have the vehicle track straight. I didn't feel like I was constantly fighting the car and the Fusion was just a joy to drive.

Rear Window Visibility
Neither car had good rear window visibility. I remember reversing in both cars multiple times (I'm a rear-in parker) and being unable to see much of anything above the trunk. If I recall correctly, the Fusion seemed to have a smaller or shorter rear window though -- I couldn't see as much out back. 

All Ford Fusions that I sat in had a black or grey color scheme for the interior. This included seats, dash, linings, cup holder, etc. The ventilation and radio controls used dark colored knobs too. They actually looked pretty stylish, but they paled in comparison to the speedometer. In the Ford Fusions I drove, the speedometer was a fancy computer screen with graphics and animated menus. This included the speedometer and the gas gauge, which showed an animated liquid for the fuel level. Can't say it worked any better, but it looked nice. 

The earlier Toyota Camry models I drove were a bit "bare basics". It had a lighter grey interior used for plastics, cloth liners, and seats. No fancy graphics in this cars. Dials were analog. There were some liquid crystal black and white screens for the fan and radio, which I didn't mind. For some reason, there was also a light blue color used throughout the instrument panel for the radio and ventilation controls. The knobs and plastic already didn't look very good, so the light blue highlight just further detracted from the car's interior appearance. Things definitely looked nicer in the 2012 Camry model with a better color scheme and, what appeared to be, nicer looking plastic.

I don't have much to say about the appearance, acceleration, and storage capacity of the cars because nothing really stood out to me. The Fusion is preferred in terms of appearance by yours truly, but that's pretty subjective. Both cars did great in terms of gas. If the on-board fuel consumption meters were accurate, I regularly did 5.5 L/100 km on very long trips. The range was probably closer to 5.5 to 7.5 L/ 100 km if there was lots of stopping and idling required. There were many 300-ish km trips when it only took about 15-20 L to top the tank off. In contrast, I took a newer model Chevrolet Impala on the exact same trip and managed to use up half the tank.

Overall, I would prefer the Ford Fusion hybrid over the Toyota Camry hybrid. I felt that the Fusion handled better, looked generally nicer, was quieter, and just a better ride.

Toyota Prius 2007--ish Impressions