• BY JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN
  • Like a heaping scoop of fried ice cream, the outside of the 2013 Ford Fusion is hot. The all-new car is easily the best looking mid-size four-door the company has ever built and maybe the best looking mainstream sedan yet from an American company. Yes, the grille looks like it was ripped off an Aston Martin, but the rest of the body is more sculpted than any Aston’s, with prominent character lines down the side and a stepped hood.

    The profile, with its steeply raked windshield, sleek greenhouse, and near-fastback tail, is in the “four-door coupe” idiom pioneered by the Mercedes-Benz CLS and co-opted by the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, among others. The car the new Fusion most resembles, however, is perhaps Audi’s A7 five-door, and that counts as high praise. In fact, the new four-door Fusion is so well detailed—the side mirrors seem inspired by the NFL’s Lombardi trophy—that it looks as if it could be a direct competitor to the $60,995 Audi. Instead, it starts at $22,495 and aims its cannons at the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and the Volkswagen Passat.

    Besides being the Fusion here in America, this car will be sold as the Mondeo in Europe and may wear other names in other markets. But Ford insists it’s a one-spec car for the entire planet, which means that what gets built and sold as a Mondeo is virtually identical to what rolls out of the Hermosillo, Mexico, and Flat Rock, Michigan, plants that assemble the new Fusion for North America.

    Under the stunning sheetmetal, the 2013 Fusion is a strictly conventional front- or all-wheel-drive, transverse engine, mid-size family car. The structure is a steel unibody, with a strut-type front suspension and a rear multilink setup. There’s a disc brake at each wheel, the steering is an electrically assisted rack-and-pinion system, and all the usual electronic nannies are aboard. While the particulars are standard for the segment, it is a truly new chassis that shares no stampings with either the previous Fusion or Mondeo. (It also serves as the basis for the even sleeker 2013 Lincoln MKZ.)

    At an overall length of 191.7 inches, the new Fusion is only 0.3 inch longer than the 2013 Honda Accord. However, while the Accord runs on a 109.3-inch wheelbase, the Fusion’s stretches out to 112.2 inches. That’s a significant 2.9 inches longer, but it doesn’t show up in rear legroom. Honda claims 38.5 inches of rear-passenger leg space in the Accord, and Ford asserts 38.3 inches of legroom for second-row passengers in the Fusion. That said, the rear of the Accord feels larger than its numbers suggest, while the Fusion feels a smidge smaller. Maybe it’s all the black in our test cars, but the more likely culprits are the squirming required to fold yourself inside and the tighter greenhouse. Overall, Ford says a Fusion without a sunroof has 102.8 cubic feet of interior space while Honda claims 103.2 cubic feet for the Accord. Other minor nits: The Fusion’s small trunk opening could become an annoyance in everyday use, and its fuel tank is smaller than those of many of its competitors.

    Engine Rundown

    The least expensive 2013 Fusion models will be powered by the same naturally aspirated 175-hp, 2.5-liter four that was standard on the outgoing model. Ford didn’t have an example available at the press introduction in Santa Monica, California, instead serving up cars powered by the lineup’s turbocharged EcoBoost fours. There’s a 178-hp 1.6-liter that serves as an alternative to the base four, and a 240-hp 2.0-liter that effectively replaces the 240-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 that was offered in the previous Fusion.

    A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the base 2.5 and line-topping 2.0 turbo engines. The 1.6 turbo is available with either a six-speed manual or the six-speed automatic. The 2.0 turbo engine will power all Fusions equipped with the optional all-wheel-drive system. (The Fusion hybrid—both regular and plug-in varieties eventually will be offered—uses a belt-driven continuously variable transmission.)

    Specifications >

    VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

    BASE PRICE: 1.6-liter EcoBoost, $25,290; 2.0-liter EcoBoost, $26,745

    ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 1.6-liter inline-4, 178 hp, 184 lb-ft; turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 240 hp, 270 lb-ft

    TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

    DIMENSIONS:
    Wheelbase: 112.2 in

    Length: 191.7 in
    Width: 72.9 in Height: 58.1 in
    Curb weight (C/D est): 3400–3800 lb

    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
    Zero to 60 mph: 6.6–8.5 sec
    Standing ¼-mile: 15.2–16.5 sec
    Top speed: 120 mph

    FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
    EPA city/highway driving: 22–25/31–37 mpg

    Continued…

  • BY JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN
  • Here’s where we pick up our fried-ice-cream metaphor again: Peel back the Fusion’s sultry shell and its insides are cold, and we’re not talking about the HVAC system. The interior is almost antiseptic in its stark decoration—it’s all textured black plastic, silvery trim, and electronic displays, and things look even more sterile with the MyFord Touch system aboard, when the knobs and buttons that control the climate-control and sound systems are swapped for a single rubberized membrane on the center stack. (MyFord Touch is optional on the mid-grade SE and standard on the top-shelf Titanium.) Even in the leather-lined Titanium model, there is a severity to the Fusion’s interior that’s chilling; there are no warm colors or materials, and the only hue available is black. Lesser models can be had with a tan interior, but that’s it for color choices. Maybe it’s the European influence on a car that’s being sold worldwide.

    A Fine Driving Lad

    The mood improves by measures once you start driving, though. The brakes are strong, the structure is stiff, and response to steering input is immediate. The suspension keeps body motions and head toss to a minimum even during spirited driving, and the impression is one of solidity, willingness, and capability. Overall grip levels feel high, too. The car is one of the best to drive in the class, perhaps only trailing the latest Honda Accord in overall goodness. A comparison test should help figure things out—stay tuned.

    As for the engines we drove, the 1.6-liter EcoBoost Fusion settles into a barely audible idle at startup. This is a small, direct-injection engine muffled by its turbocharger plumbing, so maybe it’s no surprise that it’s so quiet. The hushed tone is also a big clue that the engine is intended to deliver efficiency and unobtrusive operation rather than lap records at Laguna Seca, even with the manual gearbox. Still, we prefer the self-shifter to the automatic, which is overly busy as it tries to stay in the power.

    As for the manual, the shifter is VW-like and sweet in its action, the clutch take up is light, and the Fusion moves with some grace coming off the line. There’s a bit of turbo lag just off idle, but spool up is quick and the engine is making its peak 184 lb-ft of torque by 2500 rpm. The 1.6 is not quick so much as it is quick enough; there’s just enough power to keep the driver out of trouble, but not so much you need to worry about turning your teenager loose in the car. We’re estimating a 0-to-60 time of 8.0 seconds for this engine with the manual transmission; add a few tenths for the auto. One frustration with the manual-equipped model is that the dash only features a dinky digital tachometer to the left of the speedometer. It can be displayed as either a bar graph or dial, but it’s always too small to be accurately read.

    The EPA rates the Fusion with the 1.6 turbo at 25 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway with the manual transmission. Go for the automatic and those numbers drop to 23 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. In comparison, the base 2.5-liter four with its mandatory automatic runs at 22 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. With numbers that close, the extra $795 for the 1.6 may be hard to justify for Fusion buyers who don’t care about engine refinement or having a larger slate of available options.

    There’s less lag with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost, and, with more power on tap, the six-speed automatic is better behaved here. Excepting the fact that the turbo four isn’t as creamy smooth as a V-6, it’s a willing engine that delivers a thick-set 270 lb-ft of torque at just 3000 rpm. It’s the same basic engine (albeit down 12 hp) as the one found in the hot, manual-only Focus ST, and it’s a solid companion in the Fusion. Our estimates put the 2.0-liter turbo Fusion at 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds with all-wheel drive and nearer to seven seconds with front-wheel drive.

    Our first experience with the Fusion has us feeling mostly hot, but a little cold, too. But we’ll have to wait for more exposure—including the inevitable comparison tests—to tell if it transcends temperatures to be truly cool.

    Specifications >

    VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

    BASE PRICE: 1.6-liter EcoBoost, $25,290; 2.0-liter EcoBoost, $26,745

    ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 1.6-liter inline-4, 178 hp, 184 lb-ft; turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-liter inline-4, 240 hp, 270 lb-ft

    TRANSMISSIONS: 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

    DIMENSIONS:
    Wheelbase: 112.2 in

    Length: 191.7 in
    Width: 72.9 in Height: 58.1 in
    Curb weight (C/D est): 3400–3800 lb

    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
    Zero to 60 mph: 6.6–8.5 sec
    Standing ¼-mile: 15.2–16.5 sec
    Top speed: 120 mph

    FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):
    EPA city/highway driving: 22–25/31–37 mpg

    View Photo Gallery

    By JOHN PEARLEY HUFFMAN

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