The Ford Fusion has gotten a slight refresh for the 2017 model year, and so has the Fusion Hybrid. The styling differences are subtle, but they somehow combine to make for a much more handsome look overall.
A big part of that has to do with the new, larger headlight lenses that fit better with the front grille. The look is classic thanks to the heavy doses of chrome, yet modern at the same time thanks to those aggressive headlights and LED lighting.
There are some new wheel choices for 2017, as well. The two-tone 18” alloys on my test car are a great fit and they come as standard on both Hybrid Platinum (seen here) and Hybrid Titanium models. Would I have liked the option to switch to bigger wheels? In this case, probably not since they would likely compromise ride quality, which happens to be one of the great features of the Ford Fusion in general. Plus, the two-tone look somehow makes the sidewalls less visible, which is often the goal of bigger wheels in the first place.
The biggest difference you’ll find inside the Ford Fusion Hybrid for 2017 is a heightened sense of airiness. Much of that can be attributed to the switch from a traditional console-mounted shift lever to a rotary dial. It’s easy to use, and it doesn’t snag on to purses or duffel bags as you try to move them to the passenger seat. It also means no linkage is required, so you get an extra storage bin within the console itself.
You can more easily access the compartment at the base of the centre console, which is perfectly sized for mobile devices so you don’t have to waste a cup holder—one of my pet peeves in the auto industry. It would have been nice if the pad your phone sits on were of the wireless charging variety, like some of the Fusion’s competitors offer, but that’s a bit of a nitpick especially since not all smartphones—iPhones in particular—have this ability right now.
What you can do with your iPhone, however, is hook it up to the car via USB and activate Apple CarPlay, which essentially turns your infotainment screen into a mirror image of your phone. It’s compatible with Android Auto, as well, so it really has the bases covered in this regard. Alternatively, if you prefer to use Ford’s own SYNC 3 interface, you can easily switch between the two.
While I tend to say that tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are always better than car companies when it comes to digital media interfaces, the SYNC 3 system does make a compelling argument. The buttons are nice and big, the interface is simple, the graphics are attractive, and response times are quick. It really is one of the best interfaces in the auto industry.
The one issue I have in the context of the 2017 Ford Fusion’s infotainment has less to do with the system itself and more with the centre stack in which it’s housed. The latter is finished completely in cheap, easy-to-scratch plastic and is littered with buttons that seem out-of-date considering how futuristic everything else looks, what with the fancy rotary dial, customizable mood lighting, bright gauge cluster (that features two TFT displays of its own) and crisp SYNC 3 screen. This is nearly the top model (the Titanium trim sits below the Platinum in the Hybrid lineup, remember), so I would have expected designers to class it up a little, maybe with piano black finish, some faux aluminum, SOMETHING.
It’s strange because the rest of the cabin is very good. Titanium trim means high-grade leather seating, the sort that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lincoln MKZ, although that model does get an even higher grade of Venetian leather. You’ll also find a nice, thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel and dash top, as well as door inserts to complete the look.
I would ask for a little more interior room, however, especially in the back seat. Occupants there get just 973 mm of legroom and 960 mm of headroom, both figures being eclipsed by the hybrid variants of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The driving position is also a cozy one mainly due to a snug footwell that requires longer-legged folks to make a few concessions. What the Fusion does get, however, are 60/40 split-folding rear seats that make up for a loss of trunk space resulting from the hybrid system battery. Still, we were able to fit an adult-sized hockey bag in there, with the pass-through allowing room for the sticks.
Driven to impress
Other than that centre stack, the cabin’s fit and finish does a good job of demonstrating just what lies ahead once you start the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid with the press of a button. Of course, you’d better be aware that you’ve done so because this is a Hybrid, and if you miss the “ready to drive” message that greets you on start-up, you may not realize that you’ve started it at all. In fact, the Fusion will happily sit there and essentially do nothing, as long as you haven’t activated anything that requires additional power, such as operating the dual-zone HVAC system.
Until you select “D” and stomp on it, even, you still won’t hear the engine come on as it only does so under extreme loads, assuming you have fully charged the 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery pack that powers the electric motor. Said battery tends to charge quickly, even telling you upon coming to a full stop just how much power you have regained via the regenerative braking system. Hitting 97%-100% on a regular basis wasn’t hard, and we weren’t even hypermiling, just driving as we normally would.
Combined power is rated at 188 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque when both the 2.0L gas engine and electric motor are active. Output when cruising in electric mode is rated at 118 horsepower. Ford claims that the Fusion Hybrid can do about 135 km/h in full EV mode, but we can’t imagine that happening under any sort of accelerative source as we only managed speeds over 60 km/h. Still, it’s pretty impressive stuff, and we averaged 6.4L/100km throughout our test. That’s roughly 1L/100km more than Ford’s official number, but I wouldn’t call that a deal-breaker by any means, especially when you consider just how well the Fusion Hybrid drives otherwise.
The damper settings are right on, ensuring that both small bumps and larger undulations are tackled with relative ease by the chassis, which makes use of MacPherson struts up front and a stabilizer bar, independent integral-link suspension at the rear. The car’s slippery shape, meanwhile, makes for some nice, quiet forward progress, helped by noise-cancelling technology that comes standard on all four Hybrid trims (S, SE, Titanium, and Platinum). Look closely and you’ll see how this works: Tiny little speakers are embedded in the headliner, and these emit a little white noise to neutralize as much road, engine, and wind noise as possible.
While the tech works in most situations, the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid sounds a little wheezy when you really try to put a strain on the powertrain, such as when climbing steep grades. The sound is met with less-than-zippy forward progress as the extra weight added by the hybrid system can really be felt in these conditions. The Fusion Hybrid can be driven on the highway, but it remains happiest where most hybrids tend to: in town, at more moderate speeds.
The city is also where we found ourselves making regular use of the Fusion’s self-parking feature, which comes as a $600 option on the Titanium model. It can be used to park in either perpendicular or parallel fashion, and can also be asked to pull the car out of a parallel spot all on its own. To activate, simply slow down, hit the console-mounted button marked with a steering wheel graphic, and let the system do the rest. All you have to do is let go of the brake and switch from “R” to “D” when it asks you to. It works like a charm, too, regularly parking within a perfect 2” or so from the curb—fantastic stuff.
In the end, there’s no debating the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid’s efficiency, the technology it offers, and its comfortable ride and well-appointed interior. There’s also little question that the passenger compartment will feel snug for taller occupants. If you can find a seating position that works for you, however, you’ll be treated to a well-implemented hybrid drive that ticks most of the right boxes.
Want a second opinion? Read Trevor Hoffman’s 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid S Review.