All-wheel drive is a new option for 2007, and we found the new, all-wheel-drive Ford Fusion extremely stable on wet pavement.
The 2007 Fusion models come standard with side-impact and curtain airbags, an upgrade over 2006. The 2007 models offer Sirius satellite radio and DVD navigation. A front passenger seatback that folds down comes on 2007 Fusion SE and SEL models, making it possible to haul extra-long items, and the 2007 Fusion SE has been upgraded with fog lights and 16-inch wheels.
The Fusion offers a choice of V6 and four-cylinder engines. The four-cylinder offers a five-speed automatic, an impressive feature that offers smoother, more fuel-efficient operation. And the V6 comes with a six-speed automatic, a feature associated with top-end luxury cars. A five-speed manual gearbox is available with the four-cylinder engine.
The cabin is comfortable and well designed with controls are intuitive and easy to operate. The center dash is not spectacularly beautiful, and the interior looks classier in the lighter colors.
Crisp lines, big headlamps and a bold, chrome grille give the Fusion a distinctive appearance that we find attractive.
The Fusion has earned plaudits from consumer surveys. It was the most appealing midsize car in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, which surveys owners on product features. The Fusion was second in the Midsize Car category in the 2006 Ideal Vehicle Awards survey conducted by AutoPacific, beaten out by the nearly identical Mercury Milan; the survey focuses on how close automakers came to meeting the desires of the vehicle's target audience. The Fusion won in the Medium Car segment, beating out the Honda Accord and new Volkswagen Jetta, in Strategic Vision's Total Quality Study, which looks at things gone right, things gone wrong and dealership experiences after 90 days of ownership.
Ford Fusion S ($17,295); SE ($18,155); SEL ($19,250); SE V6 ($20,880); SEL V6 ($21,975); SE V6 AWD ($22,730); SEL V6 AWD ($23,825)
The styling features large headlights and a bold grille. Three thick chrome bars across the grille also make the car look more upmarket than its pricing might suggest. The front bumper almost disappears as there are two chrome strips below it that match the ones on the grille.
When the Fusion was first introduced, Ford executives said its three-bar horizontal grille would become the signature styling cue for Ford cars. Since then it has been seen on concept vehicles, as well as the new Edge crossover vehicle and will show up on the new Focus. This distinctive grille catches your eye on the road, distinguishing the Fusion from other mid-size sedans.
The sides of the car are crisply separated from the hood, roof and rear deck. A crisp fold along the top edges of the front fenders runs all the way back along the edge of the roof to the rear deck.
The design of the Fusion features a wide track, which makes it stand out on the freeway when viewed from behind. A high trunk line and large triangular taillight clusters with chrome trim give the rear end a classy look.
The overall effect is pleasing. The chrome on the car contrasts nicely with the body work, especially on dark-colored models or red. Gaps between body panels seem a bit larger than those on some of the other cars in the class.
Changes for 2007 are subtle. The SE model now has fog lights and comes standard with 16-inch wheels.
All-wheel-drive models have AWD badging on the rear deck. While the 17-inch wheels that drive the AWD SEL models are the same design, they have a tell-tale hash mark to identify all-wheel-drive models.
The Fusion fits into the Ford car lineup between the compact Focus and big Five Hundred sedan. It's slightly smaller than the outgoing Taurus, but it has much the same dimensions as its competitors. Although the Fusion shares its basic floorpan with the Mazda 6, its wheelbase is two inches longer and it is an inch or so wider. Ford also says it is a stiffer bodyshell than the Mazda6, which is good because a rigid structure is the key to a smooth ride and responsive handling.
The front seats manage to be slightly soft, yet supportive enough for long drives. A standard tilt and telescoping steering wheel and the six-way power adjustable driver's seat, standard on the SE and SEL models, helps drivers whether short or tall get comfortable.
In keeping with its European influence, Ford has chosen to go with the soft touch for surface materials, which is expected in a luxury car but not in a mass-market car. The car we drove had a dark charcoal interior so everything was finished in black. The optional two-tone interior, especially the dark stone and camel with faux wood trim looks more inviting. The lighter colored interiors look friendlier.
The dashboard is a straightforward design that runs horizontally across the car's width with just a binnacle above the instrument pod. It contains four small gauges that are easy to read as they are separated from each other rather than overlapping and the figures are in a large font. Decent sized buttons make the radio and climate controls easy to operate. The center stack is simple and boasts straightforward controls that are easy to operate, though it is not beautiful to behold.
A convenient storage bin on top of the dashboard features a large clamshell lid and it's big enough to hold a phone or small camera as well as maps and the like. The center console, door pockets, and front seatback pockets provide additional storage.
New for SE and SEL models for 2007 is a front passenger seatback that folds down, making it possible to haul extra-long items. And heated front seats are an option on SEL models with leather seating.
Rear-seat passengers will find a decent amount of leg room with nicely shaped front seatbacks that allow for plenty of foot space. Head and leg room measurements don't put the Fusion at the top of its class, but the back seat feels roomier than the numbers suggest.
The Fusion has a good-size trunk with a flat floor and low lift-over height, making it easier to load groceries, luggage or cargo. All Fusion models include a 60/40 split rear seatback, which allows for a generous amount of pass-through space. The scissor-type hinges avoid the annoyance of luggage being crushed by gooseneck hinges.
We've found it handles well, something we've gleaned on curvy mountain roads above Hollywood and on a wet handling course in Dearborn. The rack-and-pinion steering is precise with just the right amount of weight to make the driver feel connected to the road without being twitchy. The Fusion feels bigger and heavier than it looks, but it also offers excellent stability.
The Fusion's nice combination of ride and handling are benefits of the rigid structure it shares with the Mazda6. The Fusion's stability is a benefit of its relatively long wheelbase and wide track, longer and wider than the Mazda version. The front suspension is a short/long arm design while the rear wheels are anchored through a multi-link setup. The bushings and hydraulic engine mounts are designed to keep vibration and road noise to a minimum. For the most part they do this, though some other cars in this class seem quieter.
The all-wheel-drive Fusion offers excellent handling stability and grip in adverse conditions. We drove one on a heavily watered down handling course at Ford's sparkling new proving grounds and were impressed with its ability to hold a line and not get out of shape in transient maneuvers. In other words, it's safer and easier to drive in the rain. And we're sure it'll perform much better in the snow than the other models, which use front-wheel drive. If you live in an area that gets adverse weather, the AWD model is a smart choice.
The 221-hp V6 engine provides enough power, although the Fusion will not likely be mistaken for a sports sedan. The Fusion can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 8 seconds, a reasonable performance though not as quick as the V6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The six-speed automatic transmission is very smooth. Shift into Drive and it works well. It's one of the few six-speed automatics in this class. However, it does not offer a semi-manual shifter. Shifting from D to L only locks out fifth and sixth gears. (We wonder how many people actually use semi-manual shifters so this may not be an issue for you.) Also, there's no indicator showing the driver what gear it's in at any given moment and around town it's difficult to tell by feel. (Again, you may not care.)
The Fusion V6 manages 29 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA. That's quite respectable for a V6 and the four-cylinder model with the five-speed manual betters this figure by a couple of miles per gallon.
We have not had an opportunity to try a Fusion with the four-cylinder engine. Considering the improved performance, smoother six-speed automatic transmission and almost identical fuel consumption, the V6 model is probably the best value for most buyers.
The 2007 Ford Fusion delivers sporty handling with value and comfort. Side-impact airbags are now standard equipment. The all-wheel-drive model provides excellent handling stability on slippery surfaces.
NewCarTestDrive correspondent John Rettie filed this report from Hollywood, California; with Cheryl Jensen reporting from Cleveland, Ohio; and Mitch McCullough in Dearborn, Michigan.