Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ford Fusion

The Ford Fusion continues to be a favorite of ours among the many mid-size sedans, with a stylish design and enjoyable driving dynamics. It’s a better driver’s car than the current Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Chevrolet Malibu. It has more drivetrain options than its competitors, too, including a plug-in hybrid, a trio of four-cylinders—two of them turbocharged—and a conventional hybrid option.

Other competitors in the wide-ranging mid-size sedan category include the Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Subaru Legacy. The Mazda is easily the most rewarding to drive in this bunch, but it doesn't offer quite the variety in powertrains and options as the Ford.

(The Fusion Hybrid, and its plug-in hybrid Energi variant, are covered separately.)

The Fusion is related to the Lincoln MKZ, which was also revamped for the 2013 model year with a more distinctive design. In the past, the Fusion architecture also spawned the Mercury Milan, which was discontinued along with its namesake division in 2011. Early Mazda 6 models were also related, but that car is now built on an unrelated architecture and is assembled by Mazda in Japan.

For prices, specifications, and safety information, read our 2015 Ford Fusion review--and our 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid page. You can also compare the Ford Fusion to its competitors.

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 aged well and still looked fresh several years later at the end of that model's run. That early Fusion also earned excellent reliability ratings (including the all-important approval of Consumer Reports); it has also gained kudos for quality from many other sources, and has held its resale value far better than the previous Taurus did.

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) Mazda 6, another vehicle lauded for its sport-sedan handling. Not counting pricier European luxury makes, the first-generation 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 offered from 2006 through 2009 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 its 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 the Fusion 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 at first, and had slightly lower power ratings than front-wheel-drive models. All Fusions received a heavy face lift for the 2010 model year, as well.

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. 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 at up to 47 mph and achieved an outstanding EPA city rating of 41 mpg. Changes were minimal from then on, until the Fusion was replaced for 2013.

The new Ford Fusion

The Fusion was entirely redesigned for 2013, in stunning fashion. The Fusion was named The Car Connection's Best Car To Buy 2013, for its sleek, elegant good looks; refined performance; and fuel-efficient EcoBoost turbo powertrains. The Fusion has a premium-car feel and an impressive feature set.

The latest Fusion wears 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 2013 Fusion included a base 2.5-liter 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. Worth 240 hp, the biggest engine came only with a six-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, while the 1.6-liter was offered with a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, and the base engine, only the automatic. All but the 1.6-liter have carried into the current Fusion's third year on the market.

While most Fusions make do with front-wheel drive, the top Titanium offers the option of all-wheel drive when paired with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. The 2.0 almost needs the extra traction to put its potent power down. All Fusions use an independent suspension design that provides confident, and even sporty, handling. It's fun to hustle and also handles long cruises with comfort. The Fusion also has good interior packaging for a family sedan, with a good balance of front- and rear-seat room.

When this generation was introduced, it offered a strong list of standard and available features. Those include Bluetooth with audio streaming standard, available leather upholstery, a backup camera, and even park assist, which uses sensors and the electric power steering to put the car in tight spots with the driver only operating the brake and throttle.

In the 2014 Fusion, Ford introduced a new 1.5-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that returned almost the same performance as the 1.6-liter turbo four but with better fuel economy. It comes paired only to the six-speed automatic and also features an engine stop/start system to conserve fuel. The 2014 Fusion also made the inflatable rear seatbelt system that was originally offered in the Explorer available on the Fusion, and Ford added cooled front seats and a heated steering wheel to the sedan's options list as well.

For the 2015 model year, Ford quietly dropped the manual transmission and its requisite 1.6-liter turbo four from the Fusion lineup. The Fusion's other great features remain: enduring styling, very good handling, and excellent crash-test scores from both the IIHS and the NHTSA.

An update to the second-generation Fusion is expected soon. Changes will likely include updated styling inside and out, added active-safety features, and the new Sync 3 infotainment system. Powertrain updates are also possible, although Ford tends to phase those in year by year instead of waiting for a refresh or full redesign.
Used Ford Fusion Models
 With the Fusion, Ford effectively replaced the Taurus mid-size sedan with a more compact, better-handling car. The 2013 model is gorgeously curved, but 2012 and older versions have a handsome look, very good interior space and a good reliability record. The four-cylinders are adequate, basic transportation; we're big fans of the hybrid models from the first-generation Fusion lineup, since in our hands they regularly hit their 36-mpg EPA highway gas mileage ratings.

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