2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid First Drive
2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid remains one of the best-looking family sedans in the segment, with a quiet ride and excellent fuel economy, plus a plug-in option–but prices mount quickly.Since it launched five years ago, the Ford Fusion mid-size sedan has been deemed one of the sleekest and best-looking designs in a segment that’s often known for mundane styling. For 2017, all Fusions get slightly updated frontal styling, upgrades to the interior, and a host of advanced electronic safety-system options.
Those changes apply equally to the 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid and its sibling, the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. The hybrid Fusion competes with established hybrid versions of the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry, along with the more recent Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and a second-generation Honda Accord Hybrid promised for 2017 after that model skipped the 2016 model year.
Both hybrid models swap out the gasoline-only powertrain of the conventional Fusion for a smaller engine and a hybrid system that uses two electric motors. The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid adds a larger battery pack that can be plugged into the wall to recharge, for a rated electric range of 19 miles.
It competes with the all-new Chevrolet Volt, the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid, and the Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid that uses an identical powertrain. While the low-volume Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid is gone, a new Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is expected for 2017 as well.
The two 2017 Ford Fusion Hybrid cars share the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a two-motor hybrid system that substitutes for a transmission and operates like an electrified vesion of a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The lithium-ion battery pack is located in the trunk, with that of the plug-in hybrid Energi model being larger and higher-capacity.The Energi has a 3.3-kilowatt charger that will recharge a fully depleted battery pack in 3 to 4 hours through a door in the left front fender that covers the charging port. That door is just about the only way to tell an Energi from a regular hybrid Fusion, if you don’t read the badges.
The Fusion’s racy fastback shape starts with a large oblong grille opening and slants down to a tail that could almost be a hatchback–but isn’t. For 2017, the grille is wider and crisper, and headlamps are now LEDs. The Fusion tends to look better in darker shades that play up its racy lines, whereas light colors make it look heavier and thicker through the middle.
Both hybrid Fusion models provide decent interior volume, although that descending fastback roofline can hurt rear headroom—especially when the optional sunroof is fitted. The seats are well-shaped and comfortable, with a recycled synthetic material covering base-model Hybrid seats. Despite wheel wells that push front passengers’ feet toward the center of the car, there’s ample knee room for four six-foot adults.
Ford’s “all-glass” instrument cluster lets drivers configure the variety of graphic displays and data that they prefer. Thankfully, Ford has retained old-style knobs for controls like climate adjustment and radio volume that are frequently used.
Other controls are operated via capacitive touch-sensitive buttons, which can prove frustrating until you learn their quirks. But the controversial MyFord Touch voice and touch input systems have been replaced by an all-new Sync3 system that has much plainer graphics but promises faster and more accurate responses.
For 2017, the console has been reconfigured with a rotary drive selector knob that frees up space for more storage, as well as for cupholders sited in what Ford calls a more ergonomic manner. For the pair of hybrids, the main change is improvements to Ford’s control software (along with minor changes to the electric motors) that the company says will improve driving response. The goal is to make the hybrids feel more like conventional cars from behind the wheel, with engine responses that more closely correspond to changes to road speed.