The 2013 Ford Fusion is one of the best-looking new cars of the year--but it's more than just a pretty face. It's one of our favorite family sedans, and one of the top-rated vehicles at The Car Connection, too.
The first Fusion was a handsome, but maybe less distinctive-looking car, that earned a great reputation for reliability over time. It shared some running gear with other Ford-empire vehicles--the Mazda 6, the Lincoln Zephyr/MKZ, and the Mercury Milan. Over time, that gang of four split up, and now the Fusion's a member of a new family of vehicles that includes a mid-size European sedan and the next Lincoln MKZ.
The 2013 Fusion is simply a stunning car from almost any angle. It's a bold leap, and a collection of influences that comes together as something all its own. Sure, it's easy to see some Aston Martin in the grille under the blue oval--but the roofline's long taper, the slim decklid, and the bullet-smooth sideview are pure Euro-Ford. The Fusion's cockpit is dramatically streamlined, especially on versions with MyFord Touch; a metallic frame rings the center stack and a big LCD touchscreen and other capacitive controls, and not much else. It's a tablet-like finish that jolts the Fusion's cabin out of its vague anonymity into rock-star status.
The trio of powertrains in the new Fusion doesn't include any V-6, but we think you won't miss the extra cylinders. The base 2.5-liter four has been unavailable to us for testing, but we've spent a few hundred miles now in the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter turbo "EcoBoost" fours. The smaller, with 178 horsepower and an available six-speed manual, is the sleeper hit in the making, a junior Audi 5000 in all the right ways. It's a lightweight model with very nimble road manners, responsive electric power steering, and a very firm ride that occasionally skitters over, instead of absorbing, road imperfections. The manual shifter's a joy to row, maybe in part because so few of them exist in this class anymore.
Switch gears into the bigger four, the six-speed automatic, add on all-wheel drive, and the Fusion adds a new dimension to its personality. The 240-hp four smoothly winds out its power in V-6 style, and paddle shifters click off shifts in rapid fashion. With a couple hundred pounds more to carry around, the heft is noticeable, but it doesn't dull the Fusion's responses beyond recognition. it still corners firmly and flatly, with the right amount of give and travel, a combination that goes off-kilter in more than a few of the Fusion's top competitors.
As a family sedan, the new Fusion gives up almost nothing to its sporting demeanor. The interior room's been rearranged for better headroom and rear-seat leg room. The seats are firm and thin, and supportive in the Euro way. The trunk is large, at 16 cubic feet, only dropping 4 cubic feet on the Hybrid, and retaining the pass-through. Safety features include front knee airbags and standard Bluetooth, but no crash-test scores are yet available.
The hitch comes when pricing the Fusion directly against the new Nissan Altima, its primary competition. The Fusion comes with climate and cruise control; the usual power features; a CD player and an auxiliary jack; cloth seats; tilt/telescoping steering; and steering-wheel audio and phone controls. At a base price of $22,495, it's a thousand dollars or more than the cheapest Nissan Altima with a 38-mpg highway rating, at $21,500. To get to its best 37-mpg Fusion, you'll spend $25,290 for the smaller-displacement EcoBoost four.
Fully loaded, the Fusion barely tucks its nose in under $40,000, but there's a significant sweet spot in its powertrains and features at just under $30,000, where you'll find a 1.6-liter EcoBoost automatic with navigation, blind-spot monitors, leather seats, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors. At that price, the manual transmission's a no-cost option. We're just saying.