Ride Review: Ford Fusion

2013 Ford Fusion SE - All Photos by Randy Stern

2013 Ford Fusion SE – All Photos by Randy Stern

In previous reviews for this car, the label “sexy” has been applied to it.

“Sexy?” How can a mid-sized family sedan, promising seating for five and fuel efficiency, be considered “sexy”?

There are plenty of explanations. The previous Ford Fusion was the complete opposite. It had to be more mainstream since it had to establish itself in the mid-sized family sedan market. The old Taurus was left for dead in the fleet markets by 2006, giving the Fusion a fighting chance to replace it. The previous Fusion was highly successful, giving Ford some footing in a highly competitive segment.

However, the Fusion needed a follow-up. It needed style to go along with its success. Ford decided to meld the Fusion with another successful car – a European executive sedan called the Mondeo. The new Fusion became part of the OneFord strategy – combining all products sold in a singular segment as a singular vehicle. Therefore, we are not just looking at the new Fusion, but, rather, a true global powerhouse with some very “sexy” lines.

Consumers and fleet owners already responded to the “sexy” new Fusion in North America. Sales are good for Ford and mainstream buyers are once again taking a chance at something unconventional – rather, Kinetic (as in the OneFord design language) – that still wears the blue oval badge. In April of 2013, the Fusion was the third best selling passenger car in the USA.

While Ford consumers are proving the Fusion’s worth in this hotly contested segment, how does it stack up against its competition? Rather, is this truly the best front-drive, mid-sized Ford ever?

Just like the Taurus of 1986 vintage, it does take some retina adjustment to get used to the new Fusion’s styling. The long, sleek lines start from grille up front reminiscent of an Aston Martin – a company once owned by Ford. If there was not the third glass behind the rear door, you could almost think it is an Aston Martin Rapide – a compliment indeed! Nonetheless, it aspires to be a different take on the midsized car and it succeeds beautifully.

Rearward, some grumbled that it looked like a Fiesta or a Focus in the back. Obviously, no one understood how the Kinetic design language was supposed to work. It is a family rear end with a rather small deck lid. It does work, as behind the deck lid is a huge trunk worth throwing a weekend worth of stuff for four people. Five-spoke, seventeen-inch alloy wheels finish off the upgraded SE model’s look.

Ford Fusion 2

Step inside and you will be absolutely surprised. One might think there would be some loss in interior space given the low-slung roof. Not so. A tall driver will find a comfortable and engaging place behind the wheel. A cockpit-like driving space is right for the control needed to take the Fusion on any road. Compliment that with rightly bolstered leather seats that adjust in various ways for any driver. Though it is a mid-sized family sedan, it certainly feels like a driver’s car.

Though it feels like a driver’s car, the real battle for superiority in the mid-sized family sedan segment is in the rear seat. The Fusion does not disappoint with plenty of legroom for average adults. Do not let the fastback-style roof line fool you, since headroom stops for six footers. Cabin comfort is very good and active all around.

The latest Ford elements are present on the instrument panel. The center speedometer is flanked with two customizable TFT screens, while the main MyFord Touch screen is ever present in the center stack. Unlike the latest Kinetic design Fords, the instrument panel seems a bit restrained design-wise. However, this is a huge plus, because the interior is straightforward and more functional to use.

Between SYNC and MyFord Touch, sound is sent through six speakers positioned cleverly throughout the cabin. Speakers are even crafted into the upper parts of the doors with the grille integrating the power lock switches flowing to the door latch. You get SiriusXM along with the possibilities of SYNC connections from your portable devices. Bluetooth streaming for phones and music on smart devices is seamless.

Ford Fusion 3

What makes the Fusion more of a driver’s car is the 1.6 liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. With 173-178 horsepower on tap – depending on the kind of fuel you pour into the tank – it motivates the Fusion quite well. However, it is the 184 pound-feet of torque that will make you a true believer. The absence of turbo lag alone will make a lot of drivers very happy. This EcoBoost came with a six-speed automatic transmission sending power to the front wheels and a stop-start system that is truly unobtrusive. This drive line is an absolute win overall.

Augmenting the fine EcoBoost drive line is a set of driving dynamics that befits the efficient turbo’s mission – and exceeds it. Through post-winter road surfaces full of exposed gaps and potholes, the Fusion’s suspension made easy work of these imperfections by absorbing everything it was served. Nothing shook through the cabin – and this is a good thing in this segment. The Fusion offered a very smooth ride on the better surfaces. Handling was fantastic with minimal body roll and lean in the corners. This thing loves to track through everything and does not mind being chucked around when challenged.

The key to this great handling package is an accurate and perfectly weighted steering system. The Fusion holds the road, but could feel light when it is stuck in a straight line on the highway. Brakes are very good – action is right with accurate stopping power in both normal and panic situations.

The big selling point for the 1.6 liter EcoBoost is fuel economy. With the power equal to its competition, one would hope it would also be equal in terms of consumption. The Fusion turned a fuel economy average of 28.7MPG – which is considered “not bad” these days. Actually, that figure is much more livable than what the non-hybrid Fusions used to average in my care.

Ford Fusion 4

The Fusion lineup starts at about $22,000. This well-equipped SE model, several upgrades through packaging and other active safety equipment, brought the sticker to $30,975 . There are two grades of Hybrids available – in SE and Titanium – along with the addition of the Energi plug-in model, for those looking for more sustainability out of their Fusion.

In all, Ford simply nailed the new Fusion. It starts with a fresh look designed to inject some soul back into the mid-sized family sedan and ends with a rewarding driving experience for everyone on board. You responded to it by taking delivery at a clip of over 20,000 units per month – making this a leader amongst passenger cars, period.

Going out on a limb here, this could be the most important Ford sedan to come along since the introduction of the 1986 Taurus. Forget whether it has front wheel drive or its size and class designation – the Fusion is drawing you back to Ford by standing out in a crowd and making people notice as one drives by.

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