The Ford Fusion Hybrid and the plug-in Fusion Energi version look and behave like their regular counterparts. The main difference is that Instead of a conventional gasoline-engine powertrain, they get a smaller gas engine, working in concert with an 88-kW electric motor.
The Fusion Energi can be plugged into a wall outlet to recharge. The included charger can recharge a fully depleted battery pack in as little as 2.5 hours. A door in the left front fender opens to reveal the charging port. The Energi plug-in has a range of 19 miles on battery power alone.
The two battery/gasoline Fusions share a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which develops 141 horsepower and mates with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). Total system output is 188 horsepower. In the Hybrid’s trunk is a 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. A bigger, higher-capacity (7.6 kWh) battery pack goes into the Energi model. An EcoGuide provides real-time information on driving with the greatest efficiency.
The current-generation Fusion was launched for the 2013 model year, along with the Hybrid and Energi models.
The sleekly elegant Ford Fusion is among the best looking of the midsize sedans. 2017 Ford Fusion models get a slightly revised front end with a wider grille, plus interior upgrades. Inside, the console has been revised for 2017 to include a rotary drive-selector knob, permitting a bit more storage space up front. Also new is the 2017 Fusion Platinum trim level.
A newly available suite of active-safety systems includes a lane-keeping system that supplants the prior lane-departure warning, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, drowsy driver alert; and adaptive cruise control. Park Assist now helps with both perpendicular and parallel parking.
Safety ratings have been good, though not class-leading. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Fusion its highest (five-star) rating for overall safety, plus five stats for the frontal crash test. However, side-impact testing produced a four-star score. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has gives the Fusion its top (Good) rating in every category, declaring it a Top Safety Pick+.
Four Fusion Hybrid and three Energi (plug-in) trim levels are offered:
Fusion Hybrid S ($25,185) comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, nine-speaker audio, a 60/40-split rear seat, Active Noise Control, two 4.2-inch LCD displays, keyless entry, LED taillights, 17-inch wheels, SYNC, and a rearview camera. Fusion Hybrid SE ($25,990) adds a 10-way power driver’s seat, 6-way power passenger seat, and satellite radio.
Fusion Hybrid Titanium ($30,520) includes upgrades with leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, a driver’s memory, power lumbar support, SYNC 3, ambient lighting, Sony 12-speaker audio with HD radio, 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Fusion Hybrid Platinum ($37,020) includes premium leather, cooled front seats, SYNC Connect, navigation, moonroof, sport grille. Active-safety features include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection.
Fusion Energi SE ($31,120) comes with leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, SYNC 3, 11-speaker premium audio, and satellite radio. Fusion Energi Titanium ($32,120) gets heated front sport seats, ambient lighting, a rear spoiler, and Sony 12-speaker audio with HD radio. Fusion Energi Platinum ($39,120) tops the line, including a sport grille, leather-wrapped and stitched instrument panel, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, cooled front seats, and navigation.
A big oblong grille leads the way to one of the most attractive sedan designs to be found today. At the very least, all Fusions, including the Hybrids, rank among the best-looking family sedans in the midsize class. For 2017, the shapely grille has grown even wider, with a greater level of crispness. The racy fastback silhouette tapers into a tail that suggests a hatchback, but the Fusion has a trunk. LED headlights are standard.
Fusions tend to look better in darker shades, which highlight the sedan’s racy shape. Light colors are likely to make the Fusion appear thicker and heavier. Either way, though, it’s one of the most noticeable sedan designs on today’s road.
Modern and tasteful, the Fusion interior focuses on seating comfort. Seats are nicely shaped and especially comfortable. Recycled synthetic fabric covers base-level Hybrid seats. Leather seating surfaces are standard in upper trim levels.
Ford’s glassed-in instrument cluster lets the driver configure displays and data as they prefer, ignoring the others. To its credit, Ford has kept traditional knobs for climate control and radio adjustment. Touch-sensitive buttons, used for other controls, can be frustrating, at least initially.
Thankfully, the controversial MyFord Touch input system is gone, replaced by a new SYNC 3 setup that uses less-fancy graphics, but promises quicker, more accurate responses.
Both hybrid models provide good interior volume, but the Fusion’s fastback-style roofline does cut down on backseat head clearance. Front wheel wells tend to push front passengers’ feet toward the center. On the plus side, knee room is ample for six-footers.
Handling has been a strong point in Fusions, and both hybrids hold the road capably. In fact, they stand above any gasoline/electric competitors, though both models are heavier than other Fusions and less athletic when cornering. Steering is slow, however. When running through a series of turns, you’ll probably turn the wheel more than expected.
Regenerative braking from the hybrid system also is among the best, with near-seamless transitions between regular braking and the action of the regenerative setup.
Expect a smooth, quiet ride in either model, helped by an amply-isolated engine and a low overall noise level at all speeds. Even the low-rolling-resistance tires transmit little noise into the cabin. They keep the ride firm, but not jarring. Active Noise Cancellation sends what might be called anti-noise through the door speakers, cancelling out certain frequencies that might otherwise be bothersome.
Ford’s Hybrid engineers have improved control software and modified the electric motor, promising better driving responses from the current models. They aim to make Fusion hybrids feel even more like regular gas-engine cars. The goal is to achieve engine responses that closely match increases in road speed.
As for fuel economy, the Fusion Hybrid is EPA-rated at 44/41 mpg (City/Highway), or 42 mpg Combined. Those are admirable figures, yet the latest Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid achieves a 47-mpg combined estimate. The Fusion Energi plug-in is EPA-rated at 38 mpg combined (88 MPGe equivalent).
Fusion Hybrids aren’t quite the most economical vehicles of their type, but they’re among the sharpest-looking and easiest handling, behaving admirably on the road. Options can add up in a hurry, and some are rather costly on the Fusion’s lengthy list.
Driving impressions by John Voelcker. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.