2013 Ford Fusion
Apologies to those who see their automobiles strictly as masculine objects, but the Ford Fusion has gone from being the pretty ugly girl in the midsize sedan class, to the downright gorgeous cheerleader.
The Fusion debuted as a 2006 model, and during its first generation, it changed incrementally via a few refreshes, but didn't quite have what it takes to really challenge the juggernauts of segment.
To be honest, at this point in the game, it seems like every redesigned model that gets introduced in the midsize sedan class is a juggernaut. With that said, Ford certainly brings its "A" game with the 2013 Fusion, and you can be sure it has more to boast than just good looks.
First and foremost, it's worth nothing there are a lot of options that will allow you to tailor your Fusion to your tastes and/or budget - front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, manual, automatic, three different engines (all 4-cylinder), and numerous packages. Heck, there are even two hybrid versions, one of which is an extended-range plug-in vehicle similar to the Chevrolet Volt.
Regardless of the features you opt for, you'll be able to show off one of the nicest-looking family sedans on the market right now. It's not as polarizing as a Hyundai Sonata, but also not as conservative as a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. It strikes a great balance somewhere in between.
My tester is a middle-of-the-pack SE model equipped with front-wheel drive and the smallest engine available in the Fusion, a 1.6-litre inline-4 EcoBoost. Even with three option packages and the optional engine, the vehicle comes in just over $30,000 before taxes, which isn't too shabby at all.
The little engine is, in a word, fantastic. The power output is right on par with just about every competitor's 4-cylinder offerings, but the torque is available from a low 2,500 RPM.
Six-cylinder engines are going the way of the dinosaur in the class, and turbocharged versions are becoming more commonplace with every passing year, but no one offers a turbo engine as small as Ford's 1.6-litre. That being said, its fuel economy isn't much better than those larger turbos found in the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.
My real-world numbers in the Fusion are better than the 2012 turbocharged Sonata, but noticeably higher than what I manage to get in the 2013 Nissan Altima with its naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre inline-4.
The Fusion doesn't act much differently from many other competitors. It exhibits some body roll around corners, but it's not terrible. Steering is nicely weighted, offering easy maneuverability at low speeds, while still giving noticeable feedback at higher speeds.
The ride is what you'd expect in a family sedan, as the Fusion is a little floaty, although the suspension feels slightly tighter than the Altima, Camry, and Malibu.
Rear leg room is closer to the bottom of the segment, and I notice both head room and foot room is a little lacking. The seats, though, are really comfortable both front and back, and have a much more "European" feel to them.
The office is laid out well but while some things are wonderfully user-friendly, others are the exact opposite. The Ford MyTouch system is slightly - and I'm being kind by using that word - better than the previous generation, but many commands still require more than one button press to properly activate, and they also require the driver to focus too much on the actual finger placement. The touch-sensitive dome lights are easier to activate, for Pete's sake!
The left/right steering wheel controls, though, do exactly what they were created for - to help keep drivers' hands on the steering wheel, where they belong. I wish more automakers would mimic them.
This test vehicle isn't how I would configure a Fusion if I were in the market for one, but this sedan shows plenty of positives to help out outweigh the negatives. Ford is showing it's willing to think outside the box in a segment that has for so long been extremely boring. It hasn't perfected the formula, but Ford is on the way to making a dominant entry.
2013 Ford Fusion
Trim level: SE FWD
Price as tested (before taxes): $30,749
Options on test vehicle: 1.6-litre engine ($900); Luxury Package ($3,000) inc.: 10-way power leather heated seats, upgraded exterior mirrors w/ memory, auto-dimming rearview mirror; Technology Package ($850) inc.: rearview camera, dual zone automatic climate control, SYNC with MyFord Touch; Driver Assist Package ($1,500) inc.: Blind spot alert system, Lane Departure Warning System, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, 110V outlet
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.6L 4-cylinder / 6-spd automatic with sequential shift
Power/torque: 178 hp/ 184 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (63L)
Fuel economy ratings: 8.7 L/100km city; 5.5 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.1 L/100km over 440 km
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km (basic); 5 years/100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Chevrolet Malibu; Chrysler 200; Ford Fusion; Honda Accord; Hyundai Sonata; Kia Optima; Nissan Altima; Toyota Camry
Strengths: engine; comfort; styling
Weaknesses: MyFord Touch; rear seat space