If there’s one marketing axiom the automotive industry has embraced over the years it’s: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. In other words, once you’ve found a formula for success, stay with it….sometimes to the bitter end. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was General Motors’ Oldsmobile Cutlass of the 1970s – ‘80s. At one point, it was one of the most popular cars in America and GM spun off at least 25 versions of it over the years.
No surprise then, that Ford has updated and refined its Fusion for 2017, without altering its essential character.
“The Fusion was the leader in its segment in 2015”, says Ford of Canada’s director of marketing, Bill Rowe, “and the number one reason? Crashworthiness.”
But there’s more to the new Fusion than the ability to withstand a collision. Ford has added a bevy of convenience and safety features….not to mention new powertrains, exterior styling cues, and interior refinements. Counting the various trim levels and drivetrains, it’s now available in at least 13 variations. Ford clearly wants to appeal to every possible corner of this segment of the market.
For example, Fusion now has a rotary dial shift selector, an available pedestrian detection system, lane-keeping assist, and blind spot information….not to mention hands-free parking for both parallel and perpendicular parking.
You can also get the Fusion with a lively V6 engine, all-wheel-drive, gas-sipping EcoBoost engines, or a hybrid drivetrain…including available plug-in. I recently drove the base and hybrid models.
Base model first. Power is provided by a 2.5 litre four cylinder that develops 175 horsepower and transmission is a six-speed automatic only. This model starts at $23,688 and will likely be the best seller. Why not? It has everything you could ask for, including back-up camera, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, blind-spot side mirrors, hill start assist, electric parking brake and push-button start….among other things. This last item is of questionable value, IMO, but that’s the direction the industry is going, so there it is. Just for the sake of discussion, I once talked to a cabbie who drove a Prius for over 500,000 kilometres and he informed me that the most problematic area of the car was the push-button start, which had to be replaced several times.
Anyway, the base model also has the aforementioned rotary dial shifter, which I totally approve of….especially when it comes to low-speed parking maneuvers that involve a lot of back-and-forthing. It’s seamless, prompt, and well coordinated. Not the most exciting car on the road, the base Fusion is a lot of car for the money and stacks up favourably against perennial favourites Camry and Accord.
Hybrid Titanium. With a 2.0 litre Atkinson cycle engine and lithium-ion battery powered permanent magnet AC electric motor combining for 188 total horsepower, this one won’t set the roads on fire when it comes to performance. That said, it will return a combined fuel economy of 5.6 L / 100 km, which, for a mid-size four-door sedan is more than acceptable.
The problem – if it is one – with performance is that the CVT - the only choice here - is all about fuel economy….this means that overtaking eighteen-wheelers is more of an adventure than it should be and even just accelerating away from a stop-light is an exercise in disappointment. That said, typical buyers of this model aren’t likely to be concerned with how fast it goes from zero to sixty.
They will appreciate the level of comfort, though. Standard equipment on all hybrid models includes everything mentioned with the base version, and the Titanium model adds leather steering wheel, upgraded stereo, power sunroof, reverse sensing system, leather interior, and Ford’s unique MyKey system. This last feature codes the key so that you can regulate the car’s performance, stereo output, and fuel range when someone else uses it. Cute, but probably not appreciated by younger non-owners. Base hybrids start at $28,888, and the Titanium goes out the door for $34,988 before extras.
Both versions of the Fusion come very close indeed to the driveability of their Japanese competitors….Camry and Accord. This has always been one of the key ingredients of the popularity of these two: they are just so damn easy to drive. Aside from issues with the CVT in the hybrid, the same can now be said of the Fusion.