2017 Ford Fusion SE TEST DRIVE

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        Generally when you purchase a car you'll decide where to put your money after only fifteen minutes behind the wheel! So, if you are in the market for a mid size sedan here is my take on the 2017 Ford Fusion SE. This SE came equipped with a 6 speed automatic transmission connected to a 2.5L four cylinder engine. At $27K new lets see how it fares...

EXTERIOR:
        The exterior flows well and the belt line despite looking high doesn't seem as high when you're in the vehicle. The front nose has the signature oval grille as do all current Ford cars. The grille is nearly 90 degrees vertical which knowingly helps with cooling, as well as aerodynamics. Keep in mind this vehicle can be had with a 2.7L Ecoboost (turbo charged) engine that puts out 325hp. The rear trunk line flows well into the body of the car. Glass area is generous including small windows on the front doors by the mirrors to further aid in outward visibility. Most SE models and all higher trims have a keypad on the door should the proximity sensor not work or if you don't have a keyfob but still need access to the vehicle. This particular SE is shod in a burgundy exterior, which is additional cost. The 'purple' as I call it, is a good overall colour that doesn't blend in as easily as the usual white, black, and silver colours that are so prominent on the roads.
        Speaking of good aerodynamics, Ford installed a full underbody hardened felt shield under the front of the vehicle. To do an oil change, you need to remove 9 fasteners that hold the panel in place. Some oil change shops might charge extra for this be it one time fee or by the hour, so be prepared for that extra cost. The cover does help in keeping things under the hood clean. Speaking of the hood, there is a rubber seal around all edges to keep out unwanted dust and debris. This also helps with lowering engine noise in the cabin. I changed the oil at 4,900km to Amsoil signature series full synthetic. I can attest to the fact that the underbody shield does in fact lower noise as I did a quick test drive after changing the oil before reinstalling the shield.
        Overall the Fusion is a handsome sedan with a look that will seem timeless for those who want to own one for a decade or longer.

INTERIOR
        Lets start with the drivers position. The car has a lot of nice angles to make it seem sporty while remaining functional as a family sedan. Visibility is fantastic and the seat can be adjusted to fit any driver in both vertical and horizontal position. The armrest padding is adaquate to rest your arms on long drives without feeling sore or getting fatigued by having to constantly change position. The seats are firm yet supportive especially on long drives. The instruments are laid out well to see even on odd angles, so if you want to lean your body more toward one side you need not have to sit up to see what's going on. The switches and knobs feel like they will easily last ten years under regular use and abuse. Steering wheel controls are easy to use and remember within a hundred kilometres of driving the car. Space is abundant all around, which is why most folks get the mid size sedan over a compact or sub compact, so they can move a bit in the vehicle or maybe they require the addtional head room that a larger vehicle generally has.
        Passengers are equally treated well. The centre console that houses the radio and HVAC controls is not angled toward the driver making the front passenger able to assist in the navigating and stereo-controlling role. The front seats are concaved slightly to allow additional leg room for rear seat passengers. Rear legroom is decent even with the front seats moved completely rearward. If you want to transport 4 large adults in relative comfort at a decent cost per mile, this Fusion SE is well suited to the task. It feels substantially larger than the late 90's early 2000's Taurus.

PERFORMANCE AND RIDE
        First off, if you want performance, shop other brands or pony up and buy the 2.7L Sport model. The 2.5L engine in this SE is adequate but is lacking if you want power or plan to ferry five people and luggage on a regular basis. It will work, but there are better options out there for not much more money.
        The 2.5L is rated at 11L/100km in the city and 7.5L/100km highway. Not bad for a 175hp 2.5L engine with 175lb ft of torque. Don't get me wrong, this non turbo 2.5L engine is a solid choice for long term ownership. While accelerating onto the highway it's easy to put the accelerator to the floor and have the engine slowly spool up and eventually change gears. It's not overly lethargic in city traffic but can be found wanting when you have some passengers and get into hilly terrain. Ford knew this, and built in a hill descent button below the gear shifter. It effectively holds a lower gear enabling less shifting while keeping the engine on boil - good thinking Ford! In town, you could pass this off as a cheap man's sport mode. Otherwise the transmission will upshfit as soon as it's able to all in the name of fuel economy.
        Fuel economy averages at 9L/100km even in -15C temps. Not bad at all for a 3400lb mid-size sedan. In top gear the engine cruises at a leisurely 1900rpm at 100km/h. Don't expect to pass anyone in top gear as slight increases in throttle will make the transmission kick down a gear or two. Cruising at 110km/h with relatively low engine rpm allows people to hold conversaion in the cabin without having to raise voices. This 2.5L should last quite a long time in the durability department. Ford's old Duratec and Vulcan 3.0L V6 engines were the best in the business back in the day and the 2.5L is a good replacement despite no longer using the Duratec name. Engine noise does get loud above 4500rpm, but most owners won't venture that high anyway.
        Throttle response is good and linear as you roll into the accelerator. Braking performance is also average with a half inch of travel before slowing and an inch or so before anti lock kicks in. The stock (OEM) tires are very good. Winter traction is above average and with the engines modest output it's hard to break the front tires loose from a stand still.
        No Ecoboost? NOPE. The 1.5L and 2.0L Ecoboost engines are optional in the SE and standard on higher trims. There is quite a bit of lag on both engines although if you drive a lot of highway miles they might be worth the added cost over the base 2.5L. However, if you look at long term service and maintenance costs the Ecoboost engine cost will never break even with the 2.5L despite it getting 8% worse EPA rated combined mileage. Why? Because boosted engines require oil changes sooner than non-boosted engines. At some point when the by products of combusion build up inside the engine it might require changing to 89 or 91 octane for optimal performance. Boosted engines often require premium fuel to prevent pre ignition of the fuel which causes engine knock and can ultimately damage the engine. Ford advertises the Ecoboost engines can run on 87 regular octane fuel but don't count ont it if you want long term ownership and reliability. When a turbo bites the dust, repair costs increase substantially. Smaller engines often work harder in city driving as boost takes a couple thousand RPM before it comes on strong enough to move a 3500lb sedan as well as the 2.5L NA I4. Ultimately what engine you choose comes down to your own personal preference, but the pros definitely outweight the cons and the 2.5L base engine is the best choice - unless you spend the extra $20K and get the Sport model with the 2.7L Ecoboost V6, just keep in mind it's a turbocharged engine too and will cost extra to maintain it over a larger displacement V6 from say Honda or Toyota.
        The suspension is forgiving over uneven roads. You do feel the bumps although the stock tires do a splendid job of minimizing harshness that enters the cabin. One of the better parts of the SE model is it's 17" tires, instead of the larger 18" tires which are optional and standard on higher trims. The larger sidewalls of the 17" tires help smooth out the ride and when the time comes to replace the tires, it won't cost as much! Turn is in relatively crisp and the car tracks very well on centre. There's no numb steering on centre like there is on most Hyundai products - there's a dead zone of about half an inch where you can move the wheel but it doesn't feel connected to the wheels and offers no change in direction.
        With most mid size cars the Fusion has a large fuel tank making long trips more bearable with less worry about fuel stops. The trunk hinges hide into the sides of the trunk and don't infringe on luggage space. Luggage space is rather generous at around 17 cubic feet which is more than most vehicles in this class offer.
        Overall this was a good purchase as a point A to B sedan for long term ownership. I'll update when I can about how the ownership experience is.

FINALIZATION
        If I had the resources to get a second vehicle, I'd get a GM product. This car is worthy for those who are used to driving vehicles with small displacement engines. The fusion has a simple design, descent performance for the size and weight of the car, and fitting a stroller in the hatch area is a very tight fit and requires you to remove the cargo cover that lifts up when you open the hatch.
        The skinny tires are helpful in deeper snow but fall short in handling. The tall stiff sidewalls contribute to a rough ride over bad roads. A lightweight alloy wheel package should be available for this vehicle, along with a telescoping steering wheel. Both features can be had on the SL trim levels along with a CVT gearbox. I haven't driven a Nissan CVT (yet), but the four speed auto seems more than capabable to move this car around. The gear ratios are well spaced and engine revs are low on the highway to reduce noise.
        Nissan engineers nailed the exhaust tuning with this car. It sounds as if there's at least a 2.5L engine under the hood when you drive the engine over 3000rpm. Over 4000rpm when you are forced to accelerate onto the freeway from a very short on-ramp, the engine sounds very raspy and would greatly benefit from a cold air intake system to help the engine breath better even at lower rpms.
        My hat goes off to Nissan for the great engineering done to this vehicle. A larger engine, such as the 2.0L 140hp unit found in the Sentra, would make a great option on the fusion. Perhaps a fusion Spec-V is on Nissans to-do list!

FUEL ECONOMY
        Well here it is. Before you peek ahead at the numbers keep in mind two things: First, when I drove in town I locked the over-drive off, keeping rpms higher for better performance and less engine lag around town. Second, a good sixty percent of the mileage was driven on the 401. I also kept OD locked off until I reached 90km/h when merging onto the highway. At that speed the engine easily turned over 3000rpm. Now for the numbers: Nissan rates the 4 speed automatic fusion at 6.4L/100km highway and 8.5L/100km city. For the 528km I drove the car this week I put in 25.61L of regular fuel. That works out to an average of 9.68L/100km. Not bad, but not great either considering it hasn't been very cold.
        If I had kept OD on during all driving fuel consumption would probably have been in the mid-to-high 8L/100km range. I should mention that the mileage I got with this car also included some idling time. Engine warm ups and when loading the car with boxes to move a friend of mine. Yes, its free to raid a tim hortons cardboard dumpster!

PURCHASE?
        If your on a budget there are many other choices available. It comes down to personal driving preference. Towards the end of my time with the fusion, a dashboard rattle was getting more prominent the more I drove the car. To counteract this, one just turns up the fan speed. This car needs cruise control. With the throttle by wire, electronically controlled drivetrain its hard to keep a steady pace on not only hilly roads, but any road. I found that the long raked windshield gets twice as dirty as the other cars I've driven. So be prepared to use lots of washer fluid when the weather turns sour. The intial cost of ownership is relatively low, but for some reason I can see the long term costs adding up quickly as the years pile on. If you order a fusion with air conditioning, don't forget that the compressor is mounted below the alternator along side the radiator, which will make for a very costly repair in 5-7 years time. I don't like how the snow sits on the rear bumper, since each time you want to open the hatch it's either iced shut or full of snow, making you scrape the debris away before you can gain access. Personally, if I was offered a better price than a comparibly equipped GM Cobalt sedan or other comparible model with more than a 2L engine would I buy a fusion. Would you want to own a vehicle that has less displacement than a pop bottle?