The 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid and its Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid sibling enter their fourth model year with only very minor changes. Competing against hybrid versions of the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Toyota Camry, the hybrid Fusion swaps out the gasoline-only powertrain of the well-received Fusion mid-size sedan for a smaller engine and a hybrid system using two electric motors.
The 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. It competes with the temporarily discontinued Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Volt, and the Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid (which will soon be joined by a Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid model using the same powertrain). The very low-volume Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid has now been withdrawn from the U.S. market.
Changes to the hybrid Fusions for 2016 are limited to a redesigned center stack, an available Cold Weather package, and an additional color choice (Shadow Black) on the Fusion Hybrid. It comes in three trim levels: the base S, the mid-level SE, and the top-of-the-line Titanium. In addition, an EcoSelect driving mode is now available, and a paint protection film by 3M is now offered as an option to protect areas most likely to be chipped or dinged. The Fusion Energi, offered in SE and Titanium trim levels, gets the new paint color and the protective film as well.
From its launch in 2013, the sleek Ford Fusion has been viewed as one of the better-looking mid-size sedans–and it led competitors to up their game on the design front. The 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. The Fusion shape 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. Choose your colors with care.
Both hybrid Fusion models provide more interior volume than the previous generation, but that descending fastback roofline does hurt rear headroom. 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 six-foot adults. In the rear, the headliner bulges to accommodate the optional sunroof, meaning the foreheads of taller rear-seat riders must nestle in a recess that will make them duck to move forward.
Sitting at the wheel, drivers see Ford’s “all-glass” instrument cluster, which can be configured to show a variety of graphic displays and data. Sensibly, Ford old-style knobs remain for regularly used controls like climate adjustment and radio volume. The Fusion still uses capacitive touch-sensitive buttons for many controls, which can frustrate, as does the controversial MyFord Touch voice and touch systems with its controls on a central screen.
The same 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a two-motor hybrid system, powers both Fusion hybrids. Together, the motors function as an electrified substitute for a continuously variable transmission (CVT), although expanding pulleys and belts are nowhere to be seen. The lithium-ion battery pack is located in the trunk, with a larger and higher-capacity pack in the Energi plug-in hybrid. The Fusion Energi has a 3.3-kilowatt charger that will recharge a fully depleted battery pack in 3 to 4 hours. The left-front fender door for the charger port is about the only way to tell an Energi from a regular hybrid Fusion, if you discount the badges.
In June 2014, Ford suffered a bit of embarrassment when “testing errors” that led it to inflate the fuel-efficiency ratings it submitted to the EPA for both hybrid Fusions had to be corrected. Last year, the Fusion Hybrid was lowered to 42 mpg combined (44 mpg city, 41 mpg highway) from 47 mpg combined (47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway) in earlier model years–and those ratings have been retroactively cut too. The ratings are still equal to or better than the hybrid versions of the Camry (41 mpg combined), Sonata (42 or 41 mpg), and Optima (38 or 37 mpg).
Similarly, the Fusion Energi is now rated at 38 mpg combined (88 MPGe efficiency, with 19 miles of electric range), reduced from 43 mpg combined (100 MPGe efficiency, with 21 miles of electric range). The new 2016 Chevrolet Volt will deliver a range of 50 miles or more, with fuel efficiency of 41 mpg, and a new Prius Plug-In Hybrid for 2017 is expected to deliver 20 to 35 miles of range. The 2016 Sonata Plug-In Hybrid will have at least 24 miles of range, and its fuel efficiency is estimated at 40 mpg. That means Ford may be falling behind in the range ratings.
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’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.Ford has some of the best regenerative braking in the business; transitions between regenerative and friction brakes are largely seamless.
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 still better on the road than any of their hybrid competitors, though. he only thing we’d fix would be the low-geared steering, which takes more turning than we expected to shuffle the Fusion through a series of back-and-forth turns. 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.
As in previous years, Bluetooth pairing is standard. But the options on a long list can add up quickly. They include parking sensors, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, and lane-correction and lane-departure systems.A technology package that adds the 8-inch LCD touchscreen for the MyFord Touch system also includes the rearview camera as well. Other options are remote starting, leather seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, and that space-stealing sunroof. Ford’s excellent active park-assist capability measures a parking space and steers the car into it, while the driver accelerates and brakes; that’s optional as well.
The Fusion line overall receives good safety ratings. The IIHS designated it a Top Safety Pick for 2015 and gave the car its highest “Good” rating in all categories except the new small-overlap front crash test, where it is deemed “Acceptable”. Meanwhile, the NHTSA gives the Fusion five stars (the highest rating) for overall safety, as well as five for frontal crash. Its side crash and rollover, however, only rate four stars.
The Fusion Hybrid starts at a reasonable $27,000, and both hybrid Fusion models are doing quite well for Ford–with the plug-in hybrid model even outselling the C-Max Energi model, despite a starting price of almost $40,000.
For more detail on the gasoline versions of this mid-size sedan, see our review of the 2015 Ford Fusion.