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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion mid-size sedan gives Ford a striking, capable, and very modern competitor whose design sets it apart from the comparatively bland Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Chevrolet Malibu four-doors. Not only that, but the Fusion delivers a sportier driving experience, while offering an array of different powertrains matched by no other competitor. The Fusion can be ordered with any one of three four-cylinder engines, two of them Ford's turbocharged EcoBoost offerings, and as both a hybrid and (in some states) a plug-in hybrid.

First launched in 2006, and heavily revamped for 2010, the Fusion was entirely redesigned for 2013. Its sleek lines have been likened by some to a four-door Aston Martin (the British sports car maker once owned by Ford), and the new model also offers MyFordTouch connectivity and infotainment and luxury features that can run the sticker price well up into the high 30s.

The Fusion has built up a reputation over the years for quality and reliability that have made it an increasingly strong competitor in the sales race. Mid-size sedans are a tough category, and every vehicle--including the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Subaru Legacy--is no more than four years old, with most new in 2012 or later.

The new 2013 model bows with an entirely new design language that owes much to the themes seen on the Ford Focus. It's a sophisticated look, with some cues that echo details on everything from newer Hyundais to the latest Aston Martins and Audis. The cockpit design is formatted around MyFord Touch, the touchscreen-driven controller of phone, navigation, climate and audio systems--though it's an option, not standard.

Engines on the new Fusion include a base four-cylinder engine with 175 horsepower; a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with direct injection, 178 horsepower, and an estimated highway gas mileage rating of 37 mpg; and a 2.0-liter turbo four shared with vehicles from the Taurus sedan and Edge crossover to the hot Focus ST hatchback. It's worth 240 hp, and comes only with a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, while the 1.6-liter is offered with a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, and the base engine, only the automatic.

All Fusions except the top Titanium model are front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive can be paired with the 2.0-liter Titanium-trim Fusion. With an independent suspension and electric steering, the new Fusion has brisk, athletic handling that's among the best in its class--and the same goes for its interior packaging and safety equipment.

Features in the first model year included standard Bluetooth with audio streaming, and options run the gamut from leather upholstery, to a rearview camera, a navigation system, even to active park assist, which steers the Fusion into parallel-parking spots while the driver operates the brake and accelerator.

The 2013 Ford Fusion was named The Car Connection's Best Car To Buy, for its sleek, elegant good looks, refined performance, and fuel-efficient EcoBoost turbo powertrains. We've also found that, at an affordable price with either of the EcoBoost engines, the Fusion has a premium-car feel and an impressive feature set. The Fusion's also been named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS (and more recently, Top Safety Pick+).

The Fusion Hybrid, and its forthcoming plug-in hybrid Energi edition, are now covered separately.
In 2006, the first Fusion set a new look for Ford with a very prominent three-bar chrome grille and upright headlights leading to a more conventional look otherwise. Though the look was bold for the time, it's aged well and still looks fresh several years later.That early Fusion also earned excellent reliability ratings (including from Consumer Reports) ever since its introduction; it's also gained kudos for quality from many other sources, and it's held its value on resale far better than the previous Taurus had.
Another reason the first Fusion resonated so much better with shoppers than previous models like the Taurus is that, quite simply, it was fun to drive. Likely, that's because it was built on some of the same underpinnings as the previous-generation (pre-2009) Mazda6, another vehicle lauded for its sport-sedan handling. Not counting pricier European luxury makes, the Fusion was quite possibly the best-handling mid-size four-door sedan available in the U.S. during its run on the market.

The base 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine in the 2006 through 2009 Fusion was only adequate with the automatic transmission but felt considerably peppier with the standard manual gearbox—a combination that proved hard to find in some areas. The V-6 didn't stand out for performance numbers—it only made 240 horsepower—but it felt strong in the Fusion and the six-speed automatic transmission worked especially well with it.

For 2010, the 2.3-liter engine was replaced with a 2.5-liter that wasn't much more powerful but was considerably less noisy when pressed to perform. And it finally got Ford's larger 3.5-liter V-6, making up to 263 horsepower. From 2007 on, all-wheel drive was been offered on the Fusion, but it was only available with the V-6, and had slightly lower power ratings than front-wheel-drive models.

The first-generation Fusion had a comfortable ride and a roomy interior, but for its first several years, up through 2009, it could feel a little drab inside. But a redesigned instrument panel and new seats, along with some improved materials, brightened up the feel of the Fusion for 2010. Ford also stepped up the safety features for 2010; options included a Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.

The only common complaint with the 2006-2009 Fusions was that they didn't return the fuel economy of most mid-size rivals—most of which were slightly larger and had slightly larger engines. Despite the improvements for 2010, fuel economy figures didn't become much better.

Ford remedied that for 2010, with the introduction of the Ford Fusion Hybrid, a model that paired a version of the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor system. The Fusion Hybrid was able to run on electric power only at up to 47 mph and achieved an outstanding EPA City rating of 41 mpg City. Changes were minimal from then on, until the Fusion was replaced for 2013.

The Fusion is related to the Lincoln MKZ, which has also been revamped for the 2013 model year with a more distinctive design. The Mercury Milan was discontinued along with its namesake division in 2011. A fourth model related to the last-generation Fusion, the Mazda 6, is now built on an unrelated architecture, and is assembled by Mazda in Japan as that company completes its separation from Ford Motor Company.

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