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PowerSteering: 2017 Ford Fusion Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Ford Fusion Review

By Liz Kim, May 09, 2017

Introduction
When it comes to midsize family sedans, two names usually pop up as the top contenders on almost every shopper’s list: the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. If you’re willing to widen the search beyond these two sales behemoths, an array of choices awaits to transport you and your family to your intended destination.

Take the best-selling family sedan from a domestic company, for example. The Ford Fusion benefits from a refresh for the 2017 model year, and the fact that it is built by an American automaker is important because Fusion buyers indicate this is one reason they chose it. Aside from its provenance, however, the Fusion is a good fit for any family.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport front quarter left photoFor this review, we evaluated a 2017 Fusion Sport with the V6 Sport Upgrade package, Driver Assist package, adaptive cruise control, navigation system, ventilated front seats, and summer performance tires. The price came to $40,680, including the $875 destination charge.



What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the updated 2017 Fusion, it’s helpful to understand who buys this car and what they like most and least about it.

According to J.D. Power data, the demographics for a Ford Fusion buyer align closely with those of the Midsize Car segment. Sixty percent of Fusion buyers are men (compared with 61% for the segment), with a median age of 52 years (vs. 54 years) and a median annual household income of $84,348 (vs. $86,876). A quarter of Fusion buyers are members of Gen Y (those born 1977 to 1994) (vs. 22 %), helping to bring the median owner age down a bit.

Price is a strong selling point for the Fusion, with 32% of buyers identifying as price buyers, compared with 26% for the segment. More than half of Fusion buyers also strongly agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (54% vs. 25% segment average), and they more frequently agree that they need a versatile vehicle that accommodates their busy lifestyle (81% vs. 77%).

In all other respects, Fusion buyer sentiments parallel those of Midsize Car buyers. Notably, despite the fact that Ford offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Fusion, just 55% of buyers agree that they are willing to pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly, exactly matching the sentiments of Midsize Car buyers.

Buyers say their favorite things about the Fusion are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving dynamics, interior design, seats, and visibility/safety. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the Fusion are (in descending order) storage and space, engine/transmission, infotainment system, climate system, and fuel economy.


What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the 2017 Ford Fusion performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

Exterior
Ford hasn’t altered the Fusion’s appearance since its last redesign for the 2013 model year. That’s not a bad thing, considering that designers got the looks exactly right the first time. From its prominent grille and its trapezoidal lighting to its well-proportioned silhouette, the Fusion is a handsome vehicle.

For the 2017 model year, the Fusion receives a mild freshening front and rear, but you’d have to look hard to see the difference between this version and last year’s version. My Fusion Sport test vehicle is a new variant for 2017 and comes with unique detailing, dark gray 19-in. wheels, and subtle quad-tipped dual exhaust outlets that suit its athletic demeanor.

Personally, I’ve never been crazy about the looks of the Fusion’s rear end, which is too bad, since that’s the view that everyone will get as you peel off the line at every traffic light, as I will explain later in the review.

Interior
Modern—almost to the point of being stark—the Fusion Sport’s interior is draped in Dark Earth Grey leather, lending a monotone, monastic air to the environment. I wished for a lighter-colored leather to air things out a bit, or a bit more contrasting trim on the dashboard to warm it up.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport interior photoAnother new version of the Fusion, the Platinum is equipped with plenty of high-zoot fanciness in the form of quilted leather, contrast seat piping, and wood trim. That’s more my style.

For the 2017 model year, Ford redesigned the Fusion’s center console, doing away with a traditional gear shifter in favor of a rotary twist knob. If the change must be made, for me, a knob is preferable to shift buttons. This switch frees up extra space, and the new center console provides plenty of storage as well as large cupholders.

Seats
The Fusion Sport’s front seats are supportive and bolstered well enough to hold you in place while canyon carving, and I’m always happy to report when the front passenger’s seat includes a height adjustor. Both front seating positions in the test vehicle supplied heated and ventilated cushions, and they worked quite well.

Rear-seat passengers enjoy plenty of shoulder and knee space, and thigh support on a tall bottom cushion. Additionally, the seatback angle is reclined a bit for greater comfort.

Climate Control System
Fusion buyers indicate that the climate control system is their least favorite thing about the car, aside from observed fuel economy (which is almost always at the bottom of the list). Ford listened, and for the 2017 model year the automaker redesigned the Fusion’s old touch-sensing control panel, installing a collection of buttons and knobs in its place.

The improvement will be instantly appreciated by anyone familiar with the previous Fusion’s controls. And while I would have preferred temperature adjustment knobs rather than switches, I’m going to complain too loudly about something that is relatively easy to acclimate to.

Now, all Ford needs to do is add shut-off controls for the rear air vents. My kindergartener got cold even though the day was hot, and all we could do was aim the flow of air away from her rather than shut it off completely.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport infotainment and climate control system photoInfotainment System
In addition to redesigning the Fusion’s center control panel for 2017, Ford updated the infotainment system to Sync 3, a far more modern technology that replaces the old MyFord Touch system. Faster in terms of response, easier to navigate in terms of menus and icons, and graphically more pleasing, this change addresses vociferous consumer complaints about the old system.

With that said, Sync 3 remains a little bit more complicated than what’s used in some of the Fusion’s competitors. I also found that the navigation system can be vague and slow to respond to voice inputs, and the touted pinch-and-zoom and screen swipe functionalities are imprecise, all of which cuts into Sync 3’s overall appeal.

As is true for the climate controls, the stereo controls are now buttons and knobs rather than touch-sensing pads. This represents a significant improvement, especially the huge volume knob flanked by station tuning switches. Secondary functions are equally sized, dainty little things that require more attention away from the road than some might like, but nevertheless represent improvement.

If there is a feature that Ford should outright replace, it is the prominent Sony signage on the center of the control panel, which visually ages the Fusion because that electronics company hasn’t been cool for a long time.

Storage and Space
As mentioned previously, Ford has significantly improved the Fusion’s interior storage space for 2017, especially for front-seat occupants. I especially liked the big bin under the center of the dashboard, which keeps your phone, keys, and other items all in one place.

The Fusion’s caboose is admirably generous, and can carry up to 16 cu. ft. of gear. That’s definitely on the large side among midsize family sedans.

Visibility and Safety
People who buy family sedans usually buy them to carry their families. People love their families and want to keep them safe. Unfortunately, Ford can’t claim the Fusion is among the safest family cars, as the 2017 Fusion gets a middling 3-star (out of 5) rating for its ability to protect its front passenger in a frontal-impact collision, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) testing. This rating is actually worse than what the Fusion received in the previous four years.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport photoNote, however, that the Fusion does receive top marks for other NHTSA parameters, showing big improvement in terms of side-impact protection. The car also qualifies as a “Top Safety Pick” according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Because it exhibits “Poor”-rated performance for headlight illumination it misses out on the extra-credit “Plus” rating from the IIHS.

My test vehicle was equipped with a comprehensive array of active safety features including forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, among others. These important features are available for purchase on all but the base Fusion S trim level.

It’s a good thing they’re along for the ride, too, because the rakishly styled Fusion’s windshield pillars are thick and steeply angled, which somewhat impedes outward visibility.

Engine/Transmission
With the Fusion, Ford gives you so many powertrain choices that you’ve got to be trying hard to not find something that fits your needs. And yet, the engine and transmission are among Fusion owners’ least favorite things about this car.

Perhaps the new Sport version can improve the Fusion’s fortunes. It contains a muscular, 325-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 2.7-liter V-6 engine, and it’s fantastic. It can sprint away from the pack at a stoplight like no one’s business, leaving fellow commuters agog with their coffee dribbling down their chins. It revs hard across the tachometer, with little in the way of turbo lag to dull the party. Exhaust sound from the quad-tipped exhaust system is terrific, too.

2017 Ford Fusion rotary gearshift dial photoA 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters puts the power to the ground through an all-wheel-drive system. Shifts are sharp and timely, this 6-speed forcing you to wonder why anyone needs more gears than this.

Fuel Economy
Here’s why those extra gears may come in handy: fuel economy. More gears in a transmission typically translates to better fuel economy.

As far as the Fusion Sport is concerned, the EPA says to expect about 20 mpg as an average (17 mpg city/26 mpg highway). My speedy test vehicle did one better, returning 21 mpg on my driving loop, despite what I thought was frequent and liberal application of my right foot to test out the excellent acceleration.

In my experience, car buyers who choose small, underpowered engines solely on the basis of EPA fuel-economy ratings tend to be disappointed with real-world returns. That’s because feeble power plants encourage drivers to flog the gas pedal in frustration as they seek better acceleration. Given the Fusion’s unimpressive base engine and somewhat sluggish available hybrid and plug-in hybrid drivetrains, perhaps this accounts for those buyers who are mighty dissatisfied with the Fusion’s fuel economy.

Driving Dynamics
In spite of the Fusion Sport’s adaptive damping suspension, the 19-in. wheels produce a somewhat harsh ride over imperfect road surfaces, occasionally transmitting bumps in jarring fashion. The tautly tuned suspension pays dividends on scenic, curvy roads, however, delivering excellent weight management. Summer performance tires were installed on my test car, too, so adhesion proved quite sticky.

2017 Ford Fusion Sport wheel photoFord has done a good job of tuning the Fusion’s steering, which is light at low speeds and then firms up for fun at higher velocities. The big wheels and tires do, however, widen the turning radius. Likewise, the brake pedal is a joy to use, and following sustained abuse on mountain roads they exhibited not one bit of fade.

While the Mazda 6 may be the reigning aristocrat when it comes to family sedans that also provide driving pleasure, the poise displayed by the Fusion Sport is also admirable.


Final Impressions
With the 2017 Fusion, Ford retains the car’s good looks while improving its performance, upgrading its technologies, and resolving issues related to interior storage and controls.

Is this going to be enough to keep the aging Fusion in the hunt against other midsize cars? For now, I think so.

But with redesigned versions of the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry coming soon to a showroom near you, Ford is going to need to hustle an all-new Fusion into production sooner than later.

Ford Motor Company supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Ford Fusion review.


Additional Research:


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