A Midsize Sedan for the Smartphone-Wielding Generation
With small turbocharged engines and connectivity becoming more important in cars, it’s a good time to take a closer look at a car with a tiny heart and one that’s also well-integrated with the smartphone generation. The 2017 Ford Fusion is available with both, and in the case of our test car, it comes with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo-four and Sync 3 with Android Auto and Apple Car Play integration. From the outside, the Fusion still looks as sexy as ever, but does it come with the substance to back up its looks even with that pint-sized engine?
In the 2017 Fusion, the 1.5-liter turbo-four is rated at 181 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque, and it comes mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Competitive numbers, but due to its 3,442-pound (5539.4 kg) curb weight, the Fusion takes 9.1 seconds to hit 60 mph and does the quarter mile in 16.8 seconds at 81.3 mph (130.8 km/h). Below 3,000 rpm you get prodigious turbo lag, and above 4,500 rpm, all the engine is doing is making noise. On the road, this car feels quicker than its acceleration numbers suggest due to it having plenty of midrange torque. Keep the revs between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of power for passing, merging, and climbing up steep grades. However, between the turbo lag and lack of power at higher revs, the engine feels like it only has power for a few seconds before tapering off.
The six-speed automatic offers quick shifts when left to its own devices. Sport mode improves throttle response and quickens shifts, mitigating some of the turbo lag. Should you want to take full control, the paddle shifters offer reasonably fast upshifts and rev-matched downshifts. So the tiny turbocharged 1.5-liter in the Fusion is torquey but not quick. Does that mean it makes up for it in fuel efficiency? Fortunately, it does. In our Real MPG testing, the car exceeded its EPA ratings of 23/34 mpg (10.2/6.9 L/100km) city/highway with 23.8/36.5 mpg (9.9/6.4 L/100km) ratings.
One of the Fusion’s best traits is its blend of a comfortable ride and agile handling. The car took 27.4 seconds to finish Motor Trend’s figure-eight course while generating a 0.61 g average and put up 0.83 g of lateral acceleration on the skidpad. Combined with the light yet responsive steering, the Fusion is fun to pilot down twisty mountain roads. The Fusion’s reassuring brakes, which have good pedal feel, complement its excellent chassis and steering. Stopping from 60 mph took 119 feet, which is shorter than most of its direct competitors, such as the Kia Optima LX 1.6T and the Mazda6. Thanks to the 235/40R17 tires on our test car’s 17-inch alloy wheels, the Fusion grips well and never felt like it was fighting you when driven hard down a challenging winding road.
Unlike the Toyota Camry and other competitors, the Fusion doesn’t feel like it’s floating when going over bumps, and it maintains its composure over less than perfect pavement. Although the suspension does a nice job at keeping road impacts and imperfections out, vibrations still get transmitted into the cabin, and occupants will feel it through the seats. There are also times while driving over rough surfaces that the ride can get busy because of the suspension being tuned slightly toward the sporty end of the spectrum.
Sync 3 now comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration in all Ford vehicles for the 2017 model year, and in the Fusion, the way the native system interacts with your phone is outstanding; it’s among the best out there. Once your phone is plugged into a USB port and you’ve got Android Auto up on the screen, everything becomes a breeze to use. Unlike in some automakers’ integration of Android Auto, your smartphone is your infotainment system, so when you press the voice command button on the steering wheel, it’s Android Auto answering your commands, not the native interface.
Speaking of voice commands, there are no set phrases that you have to say when interacting with Android Auto. The moment you say “play Coldplay,” it’ll immediately play Coldplay, provided you have some songs in your smartphone’s playlist. The same goes for making phone calls; say “call” followed by the name person’s name, and it responds in an instant. As for navigation, Google Maps becomes your default system (Apple Maps in the case of Apple CarPlay), and it couldn’t be any easier. You can simply enter your destination’s name or address via the touchscreen or Google Search, and it will give you multiple routes. Android Auto, however, doesn’t display your entire music library or your contacts list, so you’ll have to go by memory. If you’re in an area with poor cell service, Android Auto and CarPlay won’t be of much help, though, because your navigation will be either extremely slow or disappear altogether.
With the integration of Android Auto done so well in the Fusion, you’d be forgiven if you forgot that Ford’s Sync 3 interface is even there. When you do interact with Sync 3, you’ll immediately notice that the interface is responsive, quick, and user-friendly. Voice commands, like in Android Auto, are easy, and although it does require you to say particular phrases, they’re not super specific ones; telling it to call someone, change the climate settings, or play a specific song is just as simple. Those who don’t like using voice command will also have user-friendly controls, and the Fusion’s 8.0-inch touchscreen has a simple layout and quick and responsive controls. The screen has clear graphics, pinch-to-zoom function, and swiping capability. Two 4.2-inch displays flank the central speedometer, and you can configure them individually to show, among other things, your trip computer, radio, and vehicle diagnostics to complement the main touchscreen.
The 2017 Fusion’s cabin is a nice place to be, and in our modestly equipped SE trim test vehicle, the seats are supportive and have plenty of adjustments. Rear-seat passengers will also be comfortable thanks to abundant headroom and legroom for all but the tallest folks. However, getting in and out can be a bit of a hassle due to the car’s swoopy roofline. Despite good visibility, the Fusion is lacking in greenhouse and doesn’t have an airy-feeling cabin, either, because the rear window and side windows aren’t wide. For those obsessed with cubby spaces and cargo space, the Fusion has lots of them along with a massive glove box. Trunk space is also a generous at 16 cubic feet, and in case that’s not enough, the Fusion also comes standard with 60/40 split-folding rear seats for extra cargo capacity.
Inside, the Fusion is well insulated with little road and wind noise entering the cabin. Powertrain noise is also kept at a minimum even when you go on full throttle; all you’ll hear then is a slight hum from the engine. Although high-quality materials are used throughout most of the Fusion’s cabin, some of the plastic trim pieces are cheap and flimsy. Some of the low-grade bits are mixed in with the soft-touch plastic, detracting from an otherwise well-built interior.
Although the 2017 Fusion doesn’t forget that it’s a family sedan, it brings plenty of substance in the form of user-friendly technology and agile handling. Priced at $25,000 USD, our test car is attainable and surprisingly well-connected for the money. Multimedia tech is the main highlight in the refreshed Fusion. Its interface is user-friendly and easily integrated with mobile devices. The car isn’t perfect, however, because the cabin materials, chassis damping, and engine response could be improved.
|2017 Ford Fusion SE EcoBoost|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$25,000|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||1.5L/181-hp/185-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,442 lb (60/40%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.7 x 72.5 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.8 sec @ 81.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||119 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.4 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/34/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147/99 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.72 lb/mile|