Popular? You bet. It would be easy to try and pin the Ford Fusion’s success on styling alone, but there’s a lot more to its strong sales than first meets the eye.
The refreshed 2017 Ford Fusion gets some subtle, yet very nice visual improvements, from a faintly reworked grille, more angular headlamps, and a revised lower fascia to classier LED taillights incorporating ritzy chrome strikethroughs that stretch right across the car’s backside.
But Ford is attacking midsize competitors from every other angle, too.
The new 325-horsepower, twin-turbocharged AWD Sport V6 might be getting all the headlines, but the Fusion also continues forward with one of the cleanest and most efficient plug-in hybrid models, plus a new near-premium variant along with one of the thriftiest regular hybrids in the class, not to mention a variety of engines and trims in between.
So, yeah, Ford has the midsize sedan segment completely covered with its Fusion Sport V6, Energi, Platinum, Hybrid, etc.
Good value and efficiency
While spending time in a Sport V6 model might be tempting, I chose the regular Hybrid as my first 2017 Ford Fusion tester as it’s one of the more popular electrified offerings. The S trim is the most basic Fusion Hybrid from a wide and varied lineup that also includes SE, Titanium, and Platinum. Starting at just $26,670, it undercuts all of its midsize peers (the next cheapest costs over $2,000 more).
The fact that it also achieves second-best fuel efficiency is almost as impressive. Ford claims 5.6L/100km on average (city and highway combined) compared to 5.0 for the new Chevy Malibu Hybrid ($28,850), 5.6 for the base Hyundai Sonata Hybrid ($29,649), 5.9 for the Toyota Camry Hybrid ($29,550), and 6.3 for the Kia Optima Hybrid ($30,095).
Still, just like it’s not all about the best possible fuel economy, it’s also not simply about the best base price. Another attribute that keeps Ford Fusion customers coming back is interior design and execution, not to mention roominess. It’s a big car that results in one of the most accommodating cabins in the segment, especially in the back, while even this entry-level Fusion S Hybrid gets dressed up with more soft-touch materials than most rivals for a near-premium experience.
Additional highlights include a beautifully detailed SmartGauge primary cluster integrating dual 4.2” configurable LCD displays for managing battery replenishment via Brake Coach and employing Engage and Empower modes, while Ford’s growing or falling “Efficiency Leaves” cause a person to think about the environmental impact of each trip taken.
The wow factor of the gauge cluster fades as your eyes turn to the centre stack where the base model gets a somewhat underwhelming infotainment system. It’s full colour and high-resolution, but desperately small, and if it didn’t also boast SYNC phone connectivity, voice recognition, a reverse camera with active guidelines, and other functions I’d call it a decent 9-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 display audio system and leave it at that. Still, fairness requires we remember the $2,000+ discount when compared to its closest rival that comes with a standard 7” touchscreen, and also take note that Ford makes SYNC 3 ― one of the auto industry’s best infotainment systems ― available in higher trims.
The rest of the centre stack is well designed with switchgear that surpasses many premium-branded models. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard across the Fusion Hybrid line.
Additional standard kit not yet mentioned include keyless entry, push-button ignition, automatic headlights, auto start-stop, a tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, intermittent speed-sensitive wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, one-touch up/down power windows all around, hill start assist, SOS post-crash alert, and all the usual active and passive safety features including front knee airbags.
New for 2017, the rotary gearshift dial is a space-saving solution first offered by Jaguar and then some Chrysler products. It makes way on the console for a smartphone slot while looking pretty slick, and only requires an easy twist of the beautifully detailed, etched metal and gloss black dial to choose the usual P, R, N, D, and L positions, the latter one actuated by pressing a button at centre.
Once in Drive with the electromechanical parking brake released, it’s much like the previous Ford Fusion Hybrid, meaning the car is wonderfully smooth, amply powerful when called upon, and plenty efficient as noted, although the engine seems slightly louder. I didn’t miss the manual-mode thumb toggle on the old shift lever since Ford’s eCVT isn’t really designed for performance driving, so DIY mode is hardly needed. The reprogrammed transmission does an admirable job of mimicking gear shifts while delivering the kind of silky operation buyers in this class appreciate.
The 2.0L Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder produces 141 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque on its own, but combined with the 35kW electric motor and 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery total output jumps to 188 horsepower during normal conditions and 195 when a quick sprint or passing manoeuvre is required. Alternatively, the new Fusion Hybrid can run on battery power alone for extended periods, which is one reason why its fuel economy is so good.
Four-wheel discs with ABS and the usual regenerative braking system make for controlled stops, the latter technology being improved with a software upgrade for more natural feel. In corners, this base S model drives confidently thanks to a fully independent suspension riding on 17” alloy wheels and 225/50R17 all-season tires. Moreover, it delivers a wonderfully compliant ride both around town and on the highway.
Good level of comfort
The 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid really is comfortable. The driver’s seat in my tester did not include power adjustments, but nevertheless proved inherently supportive in all the right places. Meanwhile, the rear seats are at least as good. With the driver’s bucket positioned for a 5’8” adult, I had about 6” ahead of my knees when seated behind, plus around 3” above my head and plenty of room from side to side. The middle seat is fairly flat, providing reasonable third passenger comfort, and while no centre armrest is included, the S model is as nicely finished here as it is up front.
Options are limited to a $450 paint upgrade, $300 for remote start, $250 for inflatable rear seatbelts, $150 for all-weather floor mats, $100 for a block heater, and $40 for a cargo net. Of course, plenty of dealer accessories are available, and the sky’s the limit if you move up into one of the aforementioned trims. For example, the Fusion Hybrid Platinum receives a gorgeous mesh grille, special 19” alloys, opulent quilted leather, and every available driving aid and active safety feature for an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating. By the way, all 2017 Fusion models earn a 5-star NHTSA safety rating.
Another useful feature is standard MyKey, which can limit valet drivers or your own darling teens from exceeding 128 km/h, keep the audio system volume to 45% of its maximum capability, and more. Additionally, all Fusions benefit from improved hood seals, underbody insulation and wheel liners, front/front-side acoustic glass, and active noise cancellation to keep the cabin as quiet as possible.
Also notable are 60/40-split rear seatbacks that make the most of the shrunken trunk. At 340 litres, it’s bigger than some of its rivals, but losing 113 litres from the conventionally powered Fusion’s cargo capacity might pose a challenge to diehard golfers. The rear seat pass-through is smaller than that of the regular Fusion, too, but the bulkhead-mounted battery is at least flat, so you get a better use of the space, making the Fusion Hybrid’s trunk one of the more useful in the segment.
I’m not going to say the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid S is my class favourite, but once getting past the outdated infotainment system I found the rest of the car very impressive. Its low price point will undoubtedly pull many prospective buyers into Ford showrooms to take a closer look, at which time those who live on their smartphones (hopefully not while driving) will probably upgrade to a trim featuring the larger touchscreen, while others who find their old flip-phone just fine will be more than happy with the base model. This strategy could give the Fusion Hybrid an advantage over rivals that charge more for fancier standard tech.
If there’s a single message Ford makes clear with the new 2017 Fusion, it’s got to be “something for everyone.” From budget-minded consumers to luxury indulgers, technophobes to technophiles, planet savers to performance freaks, and everyone in between, the Fusion’s got it covered.