By on January 28, 2009

Poor Ford. All they wanted to do was claim to offer “the most efficient midsized car in America.” “We’ve been pretty clear, probably annoyingly clear, to Toyota that we’re comparing Fusion to Camry,” Ford spokesman Mark Truby tells USA Today (via Daily Tech). After all, the Camry gets a paltry 33 city/34 highway rating from the EPA. At 41/36 mpg, the Fusion is clearly a more efficient mid-sized car than the Camry. But wait!

Toyota’s Prius just barely fits into the EPA’s midsized category with 110.6 cubic feet of interior volume, .6 cubic feet over the cutoff. Ladies and Gentlemen, according to your Environmental Protection Agency, the 48/45 mpg Prius is The Most Efficient Midsized Car In America. Or, as Toyota spokesfolks put it “it’s not exactly a squabble. What’s going on here is that we respectfully and cordially disagree on the definition of a midsize car. This is important when we’re discussing the EPA fuel-economy ratings of vehicles like the Camry Hybrid, the Prius and the Ford Fusion.”

But the polite tone didn’t lessen the blow in Dearborn, where the Fusion Hybrid marketing campaign had already written itself. “There’s a process to work through,” sighs Ford’s Truby. “Sometimes there’s an asterisk (in ads), clarifying why you think you can say that. Fusion (hybrid) is the most fuel-efficient midsize, in the way customers shop for cars. If we do use it in advertising, we’ll say most fuel-efficient midsize ‘sedan’.”

After all, the Prius has a hatchback. And all’s fair in love and marketing.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

42 Comments on “Would The Most Efficient Midsized Car Please Stand Up?...”


  • avatar
    golf4me

    What Ford should say > “The most fuel efficient car you’d want to be seen in”

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    They are splitting hairs over size classification of the Camry, Prius and Fusion. 41/36 is still darn good fuel economy out of a modern car.

    When the market recovers they should sell lots of these and the Hybrid Escape. It is their only hope to meet the new California Carbon Footprint regulations.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Most efficient mid-size “sedan.”

    Works for me. Good job, Ford.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Technically Toyota’s correct. Ford’s point still stands though to some degree. If you’re looking for a midsize hybrid sedan, the 2010 Fusion is the overall winner (now lets hope these things aren’t that tough to find once they’re released into the wild).

  • avatar
    M1EK

    The right thing to do is to point out that although the Prius is midsized, the Fusion is a damn fine achievement as well – it’s not easy to rack up a non-trivial mileage win over the Camry Hybrid; certainly something GM or Chrysler wouldn’t be able to do; probably not even Honda.

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    I’m with golf4me: “… car you’d want to been seen in.”

    If you’re talking about the most fuel-efficient vehicle that looks like it was squeezed out of backside of a Transformer on a high-fiber diet then the Prius is it!

    Kudos Ford. Don’t let Toyota steal your thunder.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    Given the choice between the Camry, Prius and Fusion Hybrids I’d spend my money on the Fusion. It might be less economical than the Prius** but it’s still got the potential to be an enjoyable driving car despite its green intentions. The Fusion is also the best looking of the three (even with the Judge Dredd grill on the 2010’s).

    **I’ve ridden in the Prius quite a bit and its a very good vehicle worthy of some respect. I’m just not certain I’m ready to own one yet.

  • avatar
    Wulv

    “it’s not exactly a squabble. What’s going on here is that we respectfully and cordially disagree on the definition of a midsize car. This is important when we’re discussing the EPA fuel-economy ratings of vehicles like the Camry Hybrid, the Prius and the Ford Fusion.”

    So it is fine to use EPA numbers for the mileage but not the same organizations numbers to define the segment?

    I am all for the Fusion Hybrid though, especially if they put the seats from the Flex in there. I finally got to sit in a Flex and I must say, DAMN it is comfy.

  • avatar
    dilbert

    I spent about an hour driving a Prius, the first 15 minutes were a great deal of fun, watching the gauges go all woopdedoo when you press the accelerator/brakes. (yes, I’m an engineer)

    The other 45 minutes made it clear I wouldn’t ever consider owning one because it’s a horrible car for anyone that wants their car to turn or accelerate with competence. Which you know, is nice to have an an emergency and all.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    So it is fine to use EPA numbers for the mileage but not the same organizations numbers to define the segment?

    Yes, that’s a reasonable position by Ford.

    Defining a car market segment is a matter of taste. Even if the Prius qualifies in the midsize by .6 cubic feet, it’s not clear that potential car buyers really compare hatchbacks like the Prius with sedans like the Camry and Fusion when shopping. The EPA size ratings are based on passenger plus cargo size. The Prius, as you might expect from a hatchback, has relatively less passenger space (96 cubic feet) and relatively more cargo space (16 cubic feet) than the Camry (101 and 11, respectively). That puts them in somewhat different categories for buyers. BTW, the Fusion has 101 and 16, respectively, which makes the mileage numbers honestly pretty impressive. Certainly there’s a lot of room to split hairs with this kind of marketing fluff and argue about exactly what it means for cars to be competitors.

    The EPA ratings for mileage, OTOH, shouldn’t be a matter of taste. Even when flawed, they’re still a consistent yardstick between models.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Arguably, for example, you could ask why the Prius is in the “midsize car” EPA category, but the Audi A3 (passenger 89, cargo 20) is in the “small station wagon” category along with the Honda Fit (passenger 91, cargo 21).

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    (Sorry, comment editing isn’t working for me because of a messed-up proxy.)

    Also, one can note that the EPA includes coupes and convertibles in the “subcompact car” category. But if the Audi A4 Cabriolet boasted about “best in its class” mileage, I don’t think people would point to the Cobalt and the Yaris as counterexamples.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Ford’s position makes sense in that the only way you’ll ever cross-shop a Prius with an actual mid-sized sedan is if you first ask, “What can I get that’s hyrid?”

    Frankly, the EPA’s relationship between vehicle size and interior volume is one that puzzles me. If a company can deliver typical mid size volume in a compact car then excellent work, brag it up. Footprint and weight are all that should matter, as both affect driving dynamics and the visual differences between cars.

    Would it make sense for me to insist that mid-engined supercars are sub-compacts based on their two seat interiors? If you answer yes to this question you have clearly never shared a narrow parkway with an Italian exotic.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Would it make sense for me to insist that mid-engined supercars are sub-compacts based on their two seat interiors?

    But actually the EPA puts mid-engined supercars in the “two-seater” category– the same place that they put the smart fourtwo. (Mini-compacts and sub-compacts are different categories, but most convertibles and coupes end up in sub-compacts for the same reasons.)

  • avatar
    John Horner

    ” … most fuel-efficient midsize ’sedan’.”

    The perfect work-around. The Fusion Hybrid is comfortably within the middle of the Mid-sized sedan pack as far as interior space for real people goes while the Prius just barely gets over the EPA’s arbitrary. The EPA defines the class size of a car by the sum of passenger volume plus cargo volume. Put a sedan style trunk on the Prius and it would drop down to the compact class. Wagons get their own size ranges, but hatchbacks are measured as if they were sedans.

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/info.shtml#sizeclasses

    The 2008 Fusion clocks in passenger volume = 101 ft3 + 16 ft3 luggage space for a total of 117 ft3, right under the 119 upper limit for the mid-size class. The 2008 Prius measures (Passenger) 96 ft3 + (Luggage) 16 ft3 = 112 ft3, just two cubic feet over the mid-sized goal line. Turn that hatchback into a conventional trunk and the Prius would be a compact.

    So yeah, the limits are kind of arbitrary and the thrust of Ford’s argument is correct even if the details are hairy.

  • avatar
    pnnyj

    Wulv :
    I am all for the Fusion Hybrid though, especially if they put the seats from the Flex in there. I finally got to sit in a Flex and I must say, DAMN it is comfy.

    There was an interesting article in Ward’s Autoworld a few months ago about how Ford was reducing the number of seat designs from over a dozen to two which were being rolled out on all new models beginning with the new Focus. The emphasis of the design change was to make the seats better and more comfy (apparently a lot of study went into this) while also cutting costs through increased parts commonality between models. So there’s a good chance that the seats in the new Fusion will be as comfy as the Flex.

  • avatar
    HarveyBirdman

    I got to tinker around with one of these at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale a week and a half ago. No question, when looking at it, I immediately sized it up against its sedan competition, not the Prius.

    Fortunately for Ford, the (preproduction) Fusion hybrid sizes up quite nicely. The hybrid display is fun and functional, the combustion engine kicks on without a single hiccup (we got to fire it up), and the interior is quite possibly the best in its class. (I’ve spent a fair amount of time in my mother’s ’08 Camry, a car which I loved in its earlier iterations – read ’96 – but have now come to despise. I told my wife that its interior was fashioned out of the hide of a slain plastic rhinoceros.) The seats were beautiful, though I don’t remember how they felt; sorry.

    The Ford employee manning the display (who seemed like an engineer, but might have been a very knowledgeable marketing guy) was very proud of the new Fusion, and rightfully so. The market will definitely compare the new Fusion to the Camry, and the Camry will be found wanting.

    Oh yeah, and the Flex’s seats really are the best in the class, and probably the best at their price point. I couldn’t help but feel like I was in some sort of postmodern limousine when I sat in the back seat.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Something I’ve been saying all along to the hybrid pushers, people in the real world shopping for a new car do not think of the prius as a midsize car. They compare it to the Corolla, Civic, etc. It’s nice to see some people, at least at TTAC, actually can see this. Hopefully, Ford’s word play “mid-size sedan” works.

    Also, does anybody see the TTAC bias against domestics and for toyota both by the editorial staff and the posters here? I mean isn’t that what the domestic defenders are always claiming, that we consistently and unreasonably slam the domestics while loving anything made in Japan. Seems like most of us agree that Toyota is the ones using a loophole here to attack a darn good car being made by (Shock!!!) Ford.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Wagons get their own size ranges, but hatchbacks are measured as if they were sedans.

    Except that the Honda Fit and Audi A3 are put in the compact wagon category, unlike the Prius. The passenger + trunk on the Fit and maybe the A3 (depending on rounding) would qualify for full-size car as well. I suspect it may be that the A3 and Fit have 20 cubic feet of trunk space, pushing them into wagon, but the Prius has only 16.

    (Also, I don’t think the Prius is quite two cubic feet above the limit; the individual numbers are higher due to rounding, and the total’s a bit lower.)

  • avatar
    benders

    I just hope Ford has figured out how to sell these at a profit so they won’t have to limit production numbers.

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    benders
    I just hope Ford has figured out how to sell these at a profit so they won’t have to limit production numbers

    Ford caps Escape hybrids at 25K units a year since they lose money on each one. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same situation with the Fusion hybrid

  • avatar
    niky

    EPA size classification sucks… It’s Ford that has it right… It’s ludicrous how cubes of airspace that no passenger will ever set food, elbow or hair into are counted towards the total.

    Maybe Ford should release a hatchback Fusion and claim they have the most fuel-efficient large car in the world?

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I thought that both Ford and Nissan licensed “their” hybrid technology from Toyota? So it’s still a win for Toyota (if I’m right). The only other truly independent mainstream hybrids out there are Honda’s and the GM/Chrysler/Mercedes (2-mode) combo (I’m not counting GM’s BAS mild hybrid).

  • avatar
    charleywhiskey

    It seems to me that this Ford comparison marketing is yet another manifestation of their desperation. If the car is good, they should advertise it on its own merits, not compare it to something else which, at the end of the day, becomes simply a free promotion for the competition.

  • avatar
    Droid800

    @Celebrity208

    No, that’s incorrect. Ford’s technology is completely distinct from that of Toyota’s. (Nissan took HSD wholesale and plopped it onto the Altima platform.)

    What you’re referring to is the fact that Ford and Toyota worked out a cross-licensing deal where, essentially, Toyota agreed not to sue Ford because some of Ford’s hybrid technology might have infringed on Toyota’s patents. There are only so many ways to make hybrid tech, so Ford agreed to make sure they would actually be able to produce ‘real’ hybrids.

    No hybrid technology is shared between Toyota and Ford.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Sharky02 – From the Toyota marketing dept?

  • avatar
    Johnster

    The EPA classification system borders on ridiculous and has to be taken with a considerable grain of salt. They consider the Bentley Arnage and Continental Flying Spur to be “mid-sized” for crying out loud.

    In years past the regular Volkswagen Passat with front-wheel drive was considered a mid-sized car, while the Passat with 4Motion was considered compact because of the small amount of room taken up by the driveline going the rear wheels and the resulting hump in the center of the rear floor.

    And then there was the case of the K-Cars. The Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries were considered mid-sized while the arguably more luxurious Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge 400 using the identical body shells were considered compact because their seats had more cushioning, enough that the EPA measured less passenger space in the interiors.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Maybe Toyota can counter Ford with the claim of the Camry Hybrid having the best mileage for an American made midsize sedan. Besides, how long will Ford have any sort of bragging rights? I still haven’t seen the numbers on the 2010 Camry Hybrid and it’s due for a complete redesign in 2011.

    If Ford wants to take the best sedan mileage, they should have the crew on Enterprise Drive (Allen Park Drivetrain Engineering) drop a Diesel into it. A Fusion Diesel Hybrid might even beat the Prius in mileage.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    OK Prius doubters. The interior dimensions of a Prius are near identicle to a Malibu.

    Nobody questions a ‘Bu is midsize.

    Sure the Fusion is bigger and has a trunk. It sounds like a great vehicle.

    I never get all the anti-Prius animosity. It’s like a Prius ran over all of your collective mothers or something.

    BTW, the few reviews of the Prius Touring package I have seen lead me to believe it may address a chunk of the handling objections.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    John R

    Let’s not get too carried away fellas, the jury is still out:

    We simply could not achieve those figures in real-world driving, though. We drove the Fusion Hybrid on the same route around Orange County, California, as we did in a recent comparison of the Camry Hybrid and Prius. This suburban loop is 177.9 miles long and we averaged 31 mph in the Fusion Hybrid. Typically, cars we’ve tested on this loop return fuel-economy figures a little better than their EPA city estimates. The Fusion Hybrid did not.

    In fact, we could manage only 35.7 mpg. The car’s onboard computer was a little generous, claiming 37 mpg. The Camry Hybrid we tested on the route (on a different day) returned 41.8 mpg and the Prius garnered 51.9 mpg.

    Why was the mpg number of the Fusion Hybrid so much lower? We can safely assume that the weather conditions played a role. High winds and nonstop rain (with standing water in places) surely put the Fusion Hybrid at a disadvantage compared to the Toyotas, which were tested on a more typical sunny day in Southern California. How much is that worth? We don’t know for sure — maybe 2 or 3 mpg, which would have put us closer to the car’s EPA-certified city fuel economy. We’ll need to test the Fusion Hybrid against its main competition on the same day and in the same conditions for a final assessment.

    –Edmunds

  • avatar
    npbheights

    Prius is a hatchback, Fusion is a sedan. Two very different categories. End of story.

  • avatar
    niky

    Bunter:

    OK Prius doubters. The interior dimensions of a Prius are near identicle to a Malibu.

    Nobody questions a ‘Bu is midsize.

    I may think a Prius is pointless (purely from an economical standpoint, because without the free pass greenie tax breaks give it, it doesn’t make any economical sense), but I’m no “hater”, in fact, driving a Prius can be fun… quiet… comfy… and with the hybrid drive, a sort of video game wherein you strive to keep the gas engine off as long as possible.

    But a Prius isn’t in the same league as the Fusion, Camry and Accord. It’s a hatchback based on a compact-car platform, with a lot less interior volume than the Fusion if you discount the cargo space, which the EPA lumps together with the passenger space if and only if the vehicle is a hatchback. If they did the same thing for sedans, everything else would be a size larger than the Prius.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    So why don’t they make a Fusion hatchback/wagon?

    In Europe, Mondeo sales are 2% sedan, 18% hatchback, 80% wagon.

    The Fusion’s front styling would work better with a very square wagon back.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    the passenger volume of the Prius fits well within the set of ‘midsize cars’. The hatch is largely irrelevant here, except inasmuch as it allows for some higher headroom, perhaps.

    It’s not built on a ‘compact car platform’ – it has its own platform, distinct from the Corolla or Yaris.

  • avatar
    tedward

    johnthacker
    re: mid-engine cars
    That’s my point though, these cars are gigantic when you share roadspace with them, despite their tiny interiors. They should be in the same category as other large-ish vehicles.

    Bunter1
    It’s not really Prius hate on this one I think, it’s more that Toyota did a great job packaging a small car and for some poorly thought out reason the EPA classified it as a mid-size. Maybe they think that they’re helping out companies by giving them a boost up in class, but in my book that would be a major (HUGE) negative. The Prius’ packaging is literally the only thing I like about the car, and I like it a lot.

    Ultimately the only reason I care about this is that I’m a strong proponent of size limiting cars to appropriate roadways, Ford’s marketing problems don’t exactly rate. I remember when NY banned all trucks from the parkway system (commercial classification mandatory) and I do so with fondness. Now I get my mirrors rubbed by terrified chicken-heads in Expeditions every weekend and I wish that the auto-lobby hadn’t been quite so succesful in expanding the market for their SUV’s.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Hmmm…I don’t see the word “hate” in my previous post.

    In addition, I did not use the EPA volume as my base of comparison.

    In the CR data charts they list the dimensions they measured for the various vehicles.

    The Prius head, leg, shoulder room front/rear averages out nearly identical to the ‘Bu.

    If the ‘Bu gets a pass on mid-size why not the Prius?

    That, again, is my point.

    My conclusion is that I can get a functionally mid-size car for a mid-size price that gets about an extra 20 mpg over the norm for the class.
    Fuel/cost savings start day one.

    My perspective.

    I like the Fusion. I do not own a Prius.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    tedward

    bunter1…not picking an argument with you over the Prius’s functionality, except that I think you understate it if anything (“hate” was used casually). The Malibu is over 15 inches longer than the Prius and about 2 inches wider, making it far less maneuvarable and attractive as a city car. That is my point. I just don’t understand why interior volume matters when it can so easily be manipulated without changing the shape or functionality of the car (ex. rear seat delete, center console delete, adding a RWD tunnel).

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    the passenger volume of the Prius fits well within the set of ‘midsize cars’. The hatch is largely irrelevant here, except inasmuch as it allows for some higher headroom, perhaps.

    Except that it doesn’t exactly, Mr. Dahmus. The Prius has less passenger volume than almost all of the midsize cars, and barely squeezes into the midsize range based on its large cargo space, a few extra cubes of which comes from being a hatchback. OTOH, it’s 96 cubic feet of passenger space isn’t that far off from a big group around 97-98. It’s not the smallest car in the class though– I can’t figure out how the Nissan Versa got in the EPA’s midsize category.

    OTOH, it has more passenger volume than just about all of the compact cars by EPA category. It’s clearly larger in the interior than the Corolla, Aveo, Civic, Jetta, Accent, Rio, etc., all of which are in the 91-92 range.

    It’s a ‘tweener. Its closest comparison for size is, unsurprisingly, the Acura TSX. Unsurprising since the TSX is based on the Euro Accord, which is halfway between the US Civic and US Accord and, by US definitions, clearly a ‘tweener. But the Acura TSX, because of less cargo space than the Prius due to not being a hatchback, goes in the compact car category. Though obviously neither precisely fits the Platonic ideal of a US midsize or compact car.

    But of course squeezing cars into fixed categories is going to be silly no matter what; there will most likely always be ‘tweeners. The A3 and Fit are “compact station wagons,” the Prius is not. And these ratings don’t always make sense; a car that is surprisingly roomy given its footprint on the road doesn’t necessarily fall in the same class as a car that is cramped despite its size. And cars with extra passenger volume due to higher roofs are useful to some people, not so much to others.

  • avatar
    niky

    That’s the problem.

    I had a Prius for a week… we did an economy run in it with four to five people jammed into the car.

    We had it up against a european Ford Focus diesel…arguably the most cramped “compact” car in its class.

    The Prius isn’t based on a Corolla, true, but it’s on a compact-car floorpan, nonetheless… built to take engines from 1.5 to 2.0 (the new Prius is getting a 1.8, right?)… that was our consideration in doing the economy comparison… these two cars were quite likely to be cross-shopped by potential buyers interested in this amount of space and fuel economy.

    We noticed the headroom difference (Damn Focus/Mazda3 C-pillar), but the rest, elbow room, leg room, etcetera… didn’t even register. Compared to a modern Accord or Camry? The difference is immense. It simply isn’t in the same class.

    Now we don’t have the Bu’ here, but I’ve seen one at an autoshow… not the roomiest of cars, but I can see why… incredibly thick transmission tunnel, big, clunky seats. The Prius comes within an inch or two here only because, like most ultra-space savers, it uses thinner seats and clever seat mounting. Equip a decent midsized car with light, space-saving seats (a la Honda Fit) and the comfort factor you considered when going for a mid-sized car goes out the door. That’s why a Honda Fit, despite having great interior measurements, doesn’t quite compare to a full-on compact in comfort.

    Class sizes are wandering, which adds to the confusion on size classification, and, as some organizations have found, trying to stay on top of these classes can cause an incredible amount of complication and confusion.

    But the EPA’s combined volume rating is, again, just plain daft. As is the subcompact Bentley Continental GTC… which probably has more engine displacement than passenger space.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    built to take engines from 1.5 to 2.0

    Considering the whole point of a hybrid is to allow it to get by with a much smaller gas engine than would otherwise be warranted, this is kind of a stupid way to classify the car.

    As for comparing to other midsize cars, you’re right on the side-to-side room, but dead wrong on leg room; the biggest surprise people get when they ride in the back of ours is how much legroom there is.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    johnthacker, you will not find me arguing that it’s not “between” the Corolla and Camry. I only ever raise the midsize argument against those who insist it’s a compact car.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Considering the whole point of a hybrid is to allow it to get by with a much smaller gas engine than would otherwise be warranted, this is kind of a stupid way to classify the car.

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure that most consumers do not look at the engine displacement first, especially since many of these cars are offered with two different engines. 1.5 to 2.0L would exclude the upper engine choice on the Corolla, even.

    OTOH, while the hybrid allows the gas engine to be smaller, the combined horsepower is not that great for the Prius, being similar to the lower engined Corolla. There are situations where that might be significant. As far as room goes, though, it’s certainly in a between spot, so people insisting that it’s clearly compact have issues just as people insisting that it’s clearly midsize.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • speedlaw: Acura : horrible marketing and BMW copying on top of one of the best engineering companies in Car World....
  • DenverMike: That’s true but what are we talking, a Dollar/25 cents a day? It’s not like many are paying...
  • Gardiner Westbound: Has Honda sorted out its GDI/Turbo issues?
  • pprj: Any word if this engine has VCM?
  • mopar4wd: Installed reman CVT on an Altima runs around 25-2800 last I checked. There was a place near me used to do...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber