Based on appearances alone, it may be hard to gain an unbiased perspective on the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion.
The car won Autoweek’s "Best in Show" award at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show last January before regular production even began. It also garnered the “Eye on Design Award” in Detroit as well as the Gene Ritvo Award for elegance in design from the New England Motor Press Association.
Alas, concentrating on appearances begs the question, “How does it drive?” Here, there is good and some not-so-good news.
First, here’s the good news. Our review all-wheel drive Fusion Titanium drove more like a luxury car than an entry level family sedan. It was so solid and quiet on the road that you could pass it off to a blindfolded friend as a expensive luxury German import.
The not-so-good news: This Titanium model bore a near-luxury car $35,285 price tag. Granted, the Fusion’s starting price is much lower, and less expensive versions are also very nice. But the mid-level, front-wheel drive SE that I tried did not measure up to this Titanium.
That SE model had the optional 1.6 liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Thanks to turbocharging, it’s more powerful than the standard 2.5-liter four and more fuel efficient in EPA testing, too.
Our Titanium had a 2.0-liter, turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that is more than a match for the power output of many competitive V-6s. It’s also nearly as smooth. For the ultimate in fuel economy, Ford also offers a Fusion Hybrid, with a plug-in hybrid on the way.
A six-speed automatic is offered with every model except for hybrids. Buyers of the 1.6-liter models have two options, a six-speed manual transmission or start-stop technology. You can’t have both.
Start-stop means that the engine turns itself off when the Fusion stops, such as at a red light. It restarts when the driver releases the brake pedal. In real world city driving, start-stop saves gasoline, though its advantages are not always obvious in EPA testing.
Acceleration with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and six-speed automatic is brisk. Zero-to-60 takes just under seven seconds and Fusions with this motor manage this run with an effortlessness that is the hallmark of much more expensive luxury vehicles.
Handling is very good, though the electric power steering robs the driver of road feel. Still, the new Fusion proved to be stable and balanced in turns. It is fun to drive.
Front seat comfort and room are good, though the bottom seat cushion is short. Six footers in the rear will find adequate head room, but leg room is limited with the front seats moved back.
The trunk is plenty big but the trunk lid is small. Old-fashioned hinges take up some room but they won’t crush anything as they are shielded from the cargo area.
If were in the market for a Fusion I’d probably go with the cheaper SE and opt for the 1.6-liter engine with the six-speed manual. You can also specify the 2.0-liter in the SE, but all-wheel drive is offered only on the Titanium.
SE buyers can also avail themselves of additional options, including adaptive cruise control, rear obstacle detection, blind spot alert and lane departure warning with lane-keep assist. Lane-keep assist and departure warning was included on our Titanium model and it performed admirably. Drift over a lane marking without using the directional signal and the steering gives you a little push back to the center of that lane. With only a light touch on the wheel, it worked perfectly.
I’d make room in my driveway for the new Fusion based on looks alone. The fact that it drives quite nicely is an undeniable plus.
The 2013 Ford Fusion is very good looking. It’s also a wonderful car to drive, which makes my difficulties with some of its controls quite frustrating.
Ford included the MyFord Touch system on our review car. This means the car had a large central touch screen with virtual buttons for many climate, audio, navigation and communications functions. Fortunately, the system is easier to use now than when it first came out more than a year ago. Unfortunately, it’s still fussy and distracting.
Touch screen “buttons” cannot be located merely by feel; you have to look. The system is slow to respond once you press some of them. If you’re like me, you’ll press the button again only to find that both applications register and the result isn’t what you wanted. So, you have to start again from the beginning.
Then there’s the unique turn signal control that returns to the center position immediately after activating the signals, even before you complete your turn. Turning the signals off ahead of the self-canceling function requires a second push of the lever in either direction. Several times, when I had two quick turns in opposite directions I simply turned off the signals after the first turn when I thought I was activating them for the second turn.
The interior would have done justice in a luxury car not too long ago. Of course, the Fusion Titanium’s price tag would not have been out of place on such a luxury car, either.
As for fuel economy, we managed just 22.1 miles per gallon, and we were trying to do better. Acceleration was wonderfully quick, I must say.
The ride in the Fusion is very nice. It’s stable, with rough pavement provoking only muted sounds from the suspension. Again, this car in Titanium trim passes for a luxury vehicle. For buyers who seek the luxury of affordability, the “S” and “SE” versions are far more appealing, and they look just as nice.
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email email@example.com