When the five-passenger Ford Fusion debuted for 2013, many hailed it as the best-looking car in its class. Its wide grille and sleek lines make the Fusion appealing to the eye, and its wide range of available powertrains, including gas, hybrid, and plug-in, make it appealing to a variety of drivers.
New for 2014 is a turbocharged 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that makes an estimated 178 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, slightly more on both counts than the base 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine. Paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost is expected to be the most fuel-efficient of all the gasoline powertrains. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine with the automatic is no longer available. Also new on the Fusion for 2014 are updated exterior colors and interior trim options.
Four gasoline engines are available on the 2014 Ford Fusion: The base 175-hp 2.5-liter four cylinder paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that earns an EPA-estimated 22/34 mpg City/Highway; a 178-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost that's available only with a 6-speed manual earning 25/37 mpg City/Highway; a 240-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a 6-speed automatic that is rated at 22/33 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel-drive and 22/31 mpg with the Titanium trim's optional all-wheel drive; and finally, the new 178-hp 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine.
Fusion Hybrid models pair 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 in both city and highway driving.
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. Ford claims a combined range of up to 620 miles between the battery and the gas tank, with up to 21 miles in all-electric mode. It's EPA rated at 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), and has a charge time of about two and a half hours using a 240-volt charger, and about 7 hours using a 120-volt household outlet.
Although classified as midsize, the 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.
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 includes Ford's Sync voice recognition and the MyFord Touch interface although both have their idiosyncrasies and can be frustrating, despite recent improvements. Optional advanced safety features include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist, and an automatic parallel parking feature, the latter of which is normally reserved for high-end luxury cars.
Although good-looking, the Ford Fusion faces tough competition. If you're motivated by sleek, European-inspired design and a wide choice of powertrain options, the Ford Fusion is one of the best choices out there. But other automakers have recently updated their midsize offerings too, including perennial top-sellers like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Those who want something a little different might also consider the Hyundai Sonata and the Nissan Altima, which both offer solid driving dynamics in attractive packages, although their designs aren't as eye-catching as the Fusion's.
The exterior design of the 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. 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 Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
The base model comes with 16-inch steel wheels, which is disappointing considering the Honda 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 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 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 Ford Fusion feels like a big car on the road as well as in the cabin. In its base 2.5-liter iteration, the Fusion provides decent, albeit docile acceleration. For more oomph, go for the 2.0-liter turbo. Last year's 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine is no longer available with the automatic transmission, and has been replaced with the new 1.5-liter EcoBoost. We didn't get to drive a Fusion with the new engine, but we expect similar performance to the old 1.6-liter, with equal horsepower and slightly less torque. The improvement, we expect, will be better fuel economy.
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.
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. It has a bigger onboard battery and uses different cells. Ford claims a combined range of up to 620 miles between the battery and the gas tank, with up to 21 miles in all electric mode. It's EPA rated at 100 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), and allows the driver to choose between three modes: EV Now, EV later and Auto. As the names suggest, EV Now will operate only in all-electric mode; EV Later switches into hybrid mode and saves the battery, and Auto will self-select modes depending on driving demands.
We drove the Fusion Energi SE around sprawling Los Angeles, and found that its EV range lived up to Ford's claims. On a 19.5-mile drive on city streets, we kept the Fusion Energi in EV Now mode the entire time and brought it back with 3 miles of charge to spare. We didn't modify our driving style to maximize range, and even passed a few cars with gusto. Although, we kept the A/C off, which helped to stretch our range (Ford engineers say the climate control system is the biggest drain on the battery). This isn't much of an issue for those living in mild climates like Southern California, but expect performance to drop if you use the A/C or heater frequently.
Regenerative braking systems typically make for a grabby brake pedal feel; not so in the Fusion Energi. The pedal feel was the smoothest we've felt in this type of car. The only thing that irked us, besides certain aspects of the MyFordTouch interface, was that startup was completely silent, which created a debate amongst passengers as to whether the car was actually on. However, this characteristic is typical of electrified vehicles.
In a segment littered with utilitarian choices, the Ford Fusion is a competitive family sedan that makes a bold statement with an eye-catching design and multiple engine choices.
This report was filed by New Car Test Drive correspondent Laura Burstein from Santa Monica, California.