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2016 vs. 2017 Ford Fusion: What’s the Difference?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2016 Ford Fusion review and the 2017 Ford Fusion review.

 

It’s best not to screw up a good thing. The current-generation Ford Fusion has been a huge hit, melding the traditional family-sedan virtues of space and value with sleek styling that has attracted many new buyers and inspired copycats. It’s also been one of the best midsize sedans to drive and is available with the widest variety of models and engines. The changes made to the 2017 Ford Fusion do not screw it up, but rather improve it in key areas. Let’s take a look at the differences.

2016 Ford Fusion    2017 Ford Fusion

Exterior

It may be hard to tell the 2016 and 2017 Ford Fusion apart at first glance, but if you look at them side by side, you should be able to notice that the grille is a little smaller and sleeker. The reshaped headlights also have an LED running light element, while the lower air dam and fog light areas have been merged. Around back, a large chrome strip now connects the redesigned but similarly shaped taillights. These aren’t major changes, so if you go for a deal on a 2016, you certainly shouldn’t feel like you passed on a significantly more fashionable choice.

2016 Ford Fusion interior   2017 Ford Fusion interior

Interior

The cabin’s overall design remains the same, but there were key changes made for 2017 that improve functionality. Perhaps the most noticeable is the rotary transmission shifter. Like those found in Jaguars and certain Chryslers, Jeeps and RAMs, this shifter is intuitive to use and importantly frees up space on the center console for an electronic parking brake, bigger and more useful cupholders and an additional forward bin for placing a smartphone. Interior storage has therefore gone from a sore point for 2016 to a plus for 2017.

There is also a new, range-topping Fusion Platinum trim level for 2017 that slathers on a thick layer of luxury, with wood trim and soft leather applied to most interior surfaces. This, plus the 2-tone color scheme and quilted seat leather, create an environment that arguably betters entry-level luxury sedans such as the Acura TLX.

2016 Ford Fusion   2017 Ford Fusion

Mechanicals

With both model years, you essentially get the same ultra-refined and surprisingly sharp driving experience. It’s quieter for 2017, though, and Ford tweaked various elements of the two EcoBoost models for improved fuel economy — a fact not readily apparent considering that the Environmental Protection Agency’s revised testing methods for 2017 actually result in lower mile-per-gallon figures.

However, the Fusion V6 Sport is a new trim level that brings an unprecedented amount of performance to the midsize-sedan segment. Its 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 sends 325 horsepower and an incredible 380 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels — that’s more than a BMW 340i, just to name one performance sedan. The V6 Sport also includes an adaptive suspension that not only improves handling but can sense potholes and adjust itself accordingly.

2016 Ford Fusion   2017 Ford Fusion

Features & Technology

Technology was previously a reason to think twice about the Ford Fusion, as its MyFord Touch touchscreen was less user-friendly than rival systems. This changes for 2017 with the new SYNC 3 touchscreen and could ultimately be the main reason to choose it over a 2016. SYNC 3 is quicker and much easier to use, whether you’re a tech geek, a Luddite or something in between. It also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Unfortunately, the base electronics interface of buttons with a small screen is unchanged — most rivals typically offer better.

2016 Ford Fusion   2017 Ford Fusion

Driving Experience

Whether you opt for the 2016 or 2017 Ford Fusion, you should find a midsize sedan that drives with a greater degree of composure and sophistication than its rivals. The ride is impressively comfortable yet composed, allowing you to feel what the car is doing without also feeling every bump and jolt from the road. We would also recommend opting for one of the available turbocharged EcoBoost engines that provide more responsive-feeling acceleration than the 2.5-liter base engine (as well as most rival base engines).

2016 Ford Fusion   2017 Ford Fusion

Safety

The 2017 Ford Fusion performed better in testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Whereas the 2016 model received a second-best Acceptable rating in the small-overlap front crash test, the 2017 gets the best possible rating of Good. All other crash ratings are equally Good between model years. Changes to the Fusion’s optional forward-collision warning system, including the addition of pedestrian-detection technology, have also resulted in IIHS upgrading its crash avoidance/mitigation rating from the lowest possible rank of Basic to the highest possible: Superior.

The 2017 Fusion has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the 2016 has already received the best possible 5-star rating.

Conclusions

If you get a great deal on a 2016 Ford Fusion, we doubt you’ll be kicking yourself for not getting the 2017. It’s like the difference between an iPhone 6 and 6s. Having said that, the 2017 Fusion is ultimately more appealing, with subtly improved styling, a more usable cabin, better safety and an even broader model selection.

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