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.
We give the Fusion Hybrid and Energi an overall score of 8.0, with points for its pretty shape, its high efficiency, and its friendly handling. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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 coming for 2017 after that model skipped the 2016 model year.
For more detail on the gasoline versions of this mid-size sedan, see our review of the 2017 Ford Fusion.
Fusion Hybrid styling
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 headlights 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.
Inside, 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 But the controversial MyFord Touch voice and touch input systems have been replaced by an all-new Sync3 system that has much plainer graphics but faster and more accurate responses.
Both hybrid Fusion models provide decent interior volume, although that descending fastback roofline can hurt rear head room—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 6-foot adults.
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.
Fusion Hybrid performance and fuel economy
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.
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.
The two hybrid Fusions share the same 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, mated to a two-motor hybrid system that substitutes for a transmission and operates like an electrified version 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 Hybrid is now rated at 44 mpg city, 41 highway, 42 combined, a respectable number but notably below that of the new Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, which gets a 47-mpg combined rating. The plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi is now rated at 38 mpg combined (88 MPGe efficiency, with 19 miles of electric range), not quite as good as the 40 mpg combined, 99 MPGe, and 27 miles of electric range for the new Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid. It’s also notably inferior to the latest Chevy Volt’s 42 mpg combined and 53 miles of electric range.
Good handing has always been a Fusion benefit, and the hybrids hold the road well, though they’re notably heavier and less lithe in corners when you drive them back to back with the gasoline models. They’re better on the road than any of their hybrid competitors, though we’d fix the low-geared steering, which requires more turning than we expected to shuffle the Fusion through a series of back-and-forth turns. Ford also has some of the best regenerative braking in the business; transitions between regenerative and friction brakes are largely seamless.
On the road, well-isolated engines and a low noise level even when they’re running at maximum speed mean the two hybrid Fusions are smooth and quiet inside. Ford gets special credit for managing to keep the noise from their low-rolling-resistance tires down, while the ride stays firm but doesn’t jar. Ford’s active noise cancellation, used in the C-Max hybrids as well, sends anti-noise through door speakers to cancel some of the frequencies that sound like the car is straining.
The Fusion line receives good, if not top-of-the-list safety ratings. The NHTSA gives the Fusion five stars (the highest rating) for overall safety, as well as five for frontal crash. Its frontal crash and rollover, however, only rate four stars. Meanwhile, the IIHS gives the Fusion its highest “Good” rating in all categories, making it a Top Safety Pick when equipped with automatic emergency braking.
The Fusion Hybrid comes in several trim levels: the base S, the mid-level SE, and high-end Titanium, and the new top-of-the-line Platinum. The Fusion Energi is offered in SE, Titanium, and Platinum trim levels. The Fusion Hybrid starts around $26,000, and the Fusion Energi around $34,000. Note that the highest-end Fusion Platinum Energi, however, starts at $42,000 and can rise somewhat from there.
Options on the Fusion’s long list can add up quickly. New for 2017 are a suite of electronic active-safety systems that include adaptive cruise control that works down to a full stop and back up to speed; an active lane control system that expands on the previous lane-departure warning; pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection; driver alerts for drowsiness; and an enhanced Park Assist that now offers perpendicular as well as parallel parking. Other options are remote starting, leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, and that space-stealing sunroof.