Ford Fusion is all-new for 2013. When the wraps came off the 2013 Ford Fusion at the Detroit auto show, even jaded auto journalists were dazzled by the midsize four-door's stunning good looks. Like the love child of an Aston Martin and a BMW, the all-new Fusion sports a wide grille with strong horizontal lines, sleek wraparound headlamps and sharp, assertive creases.
The 2013 Ford Fusion is a five-passenger, midsize sedan. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional.
The 2013 Fusion is available with a wide range of powertrains, including gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid variants. The old V6 engine found on the previous Fusion is gone, replaced by a plethora of four-cylinder choices: Standard is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower that carries over from the outgoing model; though least expensive, the 2.5-liter engine is the least-efficient choice.
Two new engines debut for 2013 that are much more efficient: a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that makes up to 178 horsepower, and a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that churns out 240 hp and 270 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0-liter turbo delivers the best acceleration performance. Fuel economy is aided by sticking with smaller engines, as well as by incorporating systems such as electric-assist power steering, and an optional automatic Start/Stop feature on models equipped with the 1.6-liter Ecoboost engine. We found the Start/Stop feature irritatingly rough but it can be turned off.
The standard 2.5-liter engine is EPA-rated at 22/34 mpg City/Highway. Models with the new 1.6-liter engine achieve 25/37 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission and 24/37 mpg with the automatic. The new 2.0-liter turbo is rated 22/33 mpg.
The Fusion Hybrid model pairs a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT). It's good for a maximum of 188 net horsepower, with fuel economy rated at 47 mpg City and Highway (yes, that's 47/47 mpg).
The Ford Fusion Energi is plug-in hybrid that uses the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in the Fusion Hybrid along with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Fusion Energi is designed to run on pure electric power for short commutes and can be charged using a 120-volt or 240-volt outlet.
The 2013 Fusion is built on an all-new platform, which Ford says is more rigid and safer than before. Although classified as midsize, the 2013 Fusion feels large and cavernous. This second-generation Fusion rides on a wheelbase that's about five inches longer than the first-generation version (2006-12), but overall body length is only an inch longer thanks to shorter overhangs. The 2013 Fusion is also an inch wider and taller than before.
Our test drive revealed solid handling and a comfortable ride, although the Fusion doesn't feel as nimble as other midsize sedans. Fusion feels big while driving, and a U-turn requires of plenty of space, although the turning circle was cut down a bit from the previous generation and beats that of the Honda Accord. We found the Fusion Hybrid operates smoothly but didn't love the low, grumbly sound it makes.
Technology abounds in the 2013 Ford Fusion. It offers the latest version of Sync and MyFord Touch, the touchscreen interface that is much improved from its previous generation, although still wonky. Optional advanced safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection and lane-keeping assist, which helps wandering drivers stay in their lanes. The Fusion also offers active park assist, a feature normally found on high-end luxury cars, which scans parallel parking spaces and automatically maneuvers the car in on its own.
The 2013 Ford Fusion debuts at a time when competition between midsize sedans is tougher than ever. If you're motivated by sleek, European-inspired looks and a wide choice of powertrain options, the 2013 Ford Fusion is one of the best choices out there. But other automakers have launched all-new flagships this year, including the 2013 Honda Accord and 2013 Nissan Altima. The Toyota Camry was refreshed for 2012 and remains a perennial favorite. The Hyundai Sonata is also an excellent alternative, although even its alluring styling can't top the Fusion's.
Ford Fusion S ($21,700); SE ($23,700); Titanium ($30,200); Hybrid ($27,200)
The exterior design of the 2013 Ford Fusion is by far one of the most striking among non-luxury vehicles. Its wide-mouth horizontal grille evokes the design language of Aston Martin (which, for a time, was owned by Ford), and its wraparound headlamps and sharp body creases could have been penned by designers from a luxury German brand. Ford succeeded in making the car look high-end and modern, with styling cues that are aggressive but still approachable. Look carefully though, and you'll see places where it appears engineers had to shoehorn the inner workings to fit the design, such as the large gaps between the hood seams and the windshield.
Although the Fusion is classified as midsize, it looks and feels large. It rides on a wheelbase that's about five inches longer than the old model, although overall body length is only an inch longer, thanks to shorter overhangs. The 2013 Fusion is about an inch wider and taller than the last generation. Still, these growing dimensions aren't unusual, as the Fusion's measurements are very closely matched to those of the 2013 Honda Accord and 2013 Nissan Altima.
The base model comes with 16-inch steel wheels, which is disappointing considering the new Accord comes with alloys, and even some carmakers, like General Motors, are including alloy wheels standard on lower priced compact and sub-compact offerings.
Unless you're a pro wrestler or NBA player, you may feel swallowed up inside the Fusion. There's plenty of space up front for legs, shoulders and heads, and roominess is accentuated by concave door trim, which looks as if it were pared away by a giant potato peeler. Strangely, the narrow, body-hugging sport seats don't match their cavernous surroundings. Front seats sit low in the cockpit, and combined with the relatively high hood line, we had a hard time finding a comfortable seat height. On the plus side, the headrests sit at a surprisingly neutral angle, and don't force your head to tilt forward as aggressively as in some other vehicles.
In a nod to sustainability, the cloth seats that come standard on the Fusion Hybrid and optional on the SE are made from 100 percent recyclable materials, and the seat cushions and head restraints use a polyurethane foam that Ford says is derived from the oils of plant seeds, including soybeans. They had a slight sheen, and reminded us of dressy twill pants one might find at Banana Republic. Leather on the Titanium trim is nice, but not buttery soft.
Materials and finishes on the dash and upper portions of the doors and dash are straightforward and attractive, but ragged edges along the top seam of the map pockets make it appear that someone forgot about the lower half of the car. Also, we noticed a layer of what appeared to be sound insulation material peeking out from the space between the instrument panel and the windshield. Ford representatives pointed out that we were driving pre-production vehicles, so we're not sure whether these peculiarities will end up on the showroom floor.
The center stack on base models uses manual climate control knobs that are easy to see and are well laid out. On models equipped with the MyFordTouch interface, climate and other functions are adjusted via touchpad controls, which we found were not always accurate or responsive. In fact, while we liked the look of the 8-inch touchscreen display, we were often frustrated while using the MyFordTouch interface. The driver's instrument cluster is modern and good-looking, with a pleasing illuminated blue needle on the speedometer. An optional dual LCD display allows drivers to toggle through a variety of functions. One nifty feature is the overhead interior lighting, which you can turn on and off with the swipe of a finger.
The steering wheel feels fine in hand, and is equipped with a plethora of buttons for vehicle information and settings, volume and audio input, cruise control, handsfree phone operation and voice activation. It can be distracting to find everything at first, and takes some time to memorize.
Rear seats are comfortable, with adequate leg and knee room. Headroom clearance is good for passengers up to about six feet tall. There is somewhat limited toe room due to what we guess is a variety of wires and electronics stuffed under the front seat. Adjustable headrests are comfortable for passengers, but can interfere with rearward visibility.
The 2013 Fusion offers 16 cubic feet of space, which is slightly more than its competitors: Camry and Altima each offer 15.4 cubic feet, and the Accord measures 15.8. (The new Fusion offers half a cube less than the outgoing Fusion.) The battery pack in the Fusion Hybrid cuts down significantly on trunk space to 12 cubic feet, and creates an odd, high shelf in the back half of the cargo area.
The Fusion feels like a big car on the road as well as in the cabin. In its turbocharged 1.6-liter iteration, the Fusion provides decent, albeit docile acceleration. For more oomph, go for the 2.0-liter turbo.
Steering is light and comfortable, and the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts in all the right places. Titanium models are equipped with paddle shifters for manual gear changes. Brakes are smooth and confidence-inspiring.
Thanks to its electric motor, the Fusion Hybrid offers plenty of pep off the line. The electronically controlled CVT is smooth and seamless, and brakes are firm and responsive, without feeling grabby like many vehicles that use regenerative systems. Its low, grumbly sound is rather unpleasant, however, despite Ford's attempts to muffle it with acoustic material.
Handling is solid and comfortable, and on par with our expectations for a midsize family sedan. Although, the Fusion doesn't feel as nimble as other cars in its class. We had an embarrassing moment when we were forced to make a three-point U-turn at a stoplight on a major city street to clear two lanes. The Toyota Camry, in a subsequent comparison drive, felt more maneuverable and got us around in one fell swoop with its 36.6-foot turning circle. Still, the Fusion's turning circle of 37.7 feet bests the Accord's girthy 38.1 feet.
Fusion SE models with the 1.6-liter engine can be equipped with an optional automatic stop-start feature to improve fuel economy. And like some of the other stop-start systems on the market, the Fusion's feels invasive and annoying; some manufacturers have smooth systems. The car shudders when it turns the engine turns off, and shudders even more when it turns back on.
In a segment littered with utilitarian choices, the 2013 Ford Fusion is a competitive family sedan that makes a bold fashion statement.
This report was filed by New Car Test Drive correspondent Laura Burstein from Santa Monica, California.