Despite their ages (both are near the end of their respective product cycles), the Fusion and Camry are solid choices for a sedan below $30,000. And the hybrid versions combine midsize room with compact efficiency. They're similar cars, and your purchase decision can ride simply on which you like best. And imagine the satisfaction you'll get from 40-plus miles per gallon with your family aboard.
FORD FUSION HYBRID:
When introduced for 2013, the Fusion's sheetmetal seemed almost exotic. With a front fascia taken – literally – from Aston Martin's design team (Ford owned Aston at the time), and a profile closer to a four-door coupe than Ford's previous sedans, this was the sort of dramatic design step Dearborn had taken in the mid-'80s with the Ford Taurus. And the revolution didn't stop with the exterior. The new Fusion was built on a more responsive platform, with a spacious, cleanly designed cabin.
The Fusion hybrid is one of two green options; the other is a Fusion PHEV plug-in hybrid. There's little to dislike in Ford's alternative recipe. Interior room is good, and the materials (a recent test vehicle was equipped with optional leather) are better than average. The ride is composed and the handling crisp. The hybrid is 200 pounds heavier than the standard Fusion's four-cylinder powertrain, but the gain in economy easily offsets the weight gain.
With its Eco setting engaged, the four-cylinder/electric combo makes 188 net hybrid horsepower – and sounds labored. With Eco disengaged, it's a different story. The torque is clearly evident as you accelerate to freeway speeds and comfortable once you're there.
TOYOTA CAMRY HYBRID:
Historically, there's no better path to automotive anonymity than the purchase of a Toyota Camry. Despite vastly improved dynamics and a passing resemblance to the Lexus ES, the Camry has always occupied the epicenter of boring.
Given, however, Toyota's leadership in hybrid engineering, the Camry Hybrid symbolizes the nature of motoring in the first quarter of the 21st century. Relative to the more-visible unusually designed Prius, the Camry uses conventional four-door architecture to turn the midsize dynamic on its head. Like the Fusion, the Camry is capable of an honest 40 miles per gallon in city driving, dropping to an estimated 38 mpg at highway speeds.
You'll see no vestige of Aston Martin in the Camry's sheetmetal. You might, however, see an affliction in common with the aforementioned Lexus, as Toyota's design team has applied a big-mouth front fascia.
Inside, the dash layout isn't as elementary as the Ford, but material choices seem slightly better. Although total interior volume is identical to the Fusion Hybrid, trunk area is just over 13 cubic feet, one greater than the Ford. Hybrid battery packs take up room in both trunks, but as minor as it sounds, that one additional cubic foot could come in handy. Thankfully, both the Fusion and Camry have folding rear seats. With the rear seats folded, this is no Suburban, but the extra load length could stow a bike or snowboards.
On the demo drive, the Camry's additional displacement (a 2.5-liter DOHC four compared to the Fusion's 2.0 DOHC four), and its 200 total horsepower prove more responsive than the Ford's 188. That results in a 38 EPA highway estimate for the Camry, however, while the Fusion delivers an estimated 41. Which gives the Fusion a combined estimate of over 40 mpg, to the Camry's 38.
You can make a valid argument for either hybrid. Let personal preference be the tiebreaker. Both the Fusion and Camry bridge the gap between credible efficiency and legitimate utility.