- Soaring EPA gas mileage
- Very good-looking
- Supportive sport seats
- Excellent interior and trunk room
- The best-handling hybrid?
- Steering lacks feedback
- Glossy, sheeny seats and trim
- Pricing leaps with lots of big-ticket options
The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid makes an extraordinary leap forward in fuel economy--but also, in its appealing looks and handling.
The 2013 Ford Fusion is a family sedan with stand-out styling, engaging driving dynamics, and plenty of space for the family. Like the Taurus did in the mid-1980s, the Fusion has re-invigorated the brand's sedan presence.
The Taurus, of course, is still made, though it's vastly different from the original. The Fusion, however, is the star, offering everything a buyer needs and earning our 2013 Best Car To Buy award.
The Fusion's made the leap from good to great this year, and it's cemented its place in the very top tier of family sedans. The good looks are now gorgeous; the road manners, if anything, have grown even more athletic. The packaging's better for adults, even in back--and with new hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, this isn't just the most fuel-efficient Fusion ever--it's the most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan you can buy, period.
We keep circling back to the Fusion's looks, because it's easy to spot the influences that accumulate to a very handsome, sleek whole. The front end bends and chamfers a hexagon grille between headlamps and foglamps in a way that's half-Aston, half-Hyundai. The roofline? Pure Audi A7 from at least the rear quarters, with the LED taillamps punctuating that point. The sideview's all Ford, though, and the other elements don't hang off it out of context--they flow seamlessly together. The interior's functional and sleek, especially with the touchscreen-driven MyFord Touch system and the other touch-sensitive controls that smooth out the center stack to a tablet-like finish. The transformation jolts the Fusion out of its vague anonymity into rock-star status.
The base 2.5-liter four likely won't live up to those air-guitar dreams, but either of the EcoBoost engines presents some tasty alternatives. The weaker four's standard on the two lesser Fusions; its 178 horsepower and six-speed automatic weren't made available by Ford for testing. Instead, we racked up a hundred miles plus in the EcoBoosts, first the 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It's the replacement for the V-6 that's nowhere on the new Fusion's spec sheet, and it's fit for duty; it's quick to rev, and the automatic's shifts click quickly via paddle controls. The Fusion's a relative lightweight--with optional all-wheel drive on this model, it's about 3,700 pounds--so its nimble feel and well-tuned electric power steering make it more eager in driving feel than any other mid-size four-door we've driven. It 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.
There's also a 1.6-liter turbo four with 178 hp and an available six-speed manual; in the lightest Fusion, it also generates the best fuel economy numbers shy of the Fusion Hybrid (reviewed separately), up to an estimated 37 mpg highway. That's just 1 mpg shy of the best-in-class Altima, and several digits better than the outgoing Fusion.
A little longer overall than before, the Fusion has a much longer wheelbase, and it shows in better leg room, in any seating position. The seats themselves are thinner and firmer, just as in the 2013 Ford Escape, but we wouldn't mind sitting in them for hours, though we'd tilt the bottom cushion down in front on manual seats a bit more. Headroom's great without the optional sunroof, an unknown so far with one--Ford didn't make any glass-roofed vehicles available for testing. The trunk is 16 cubic feet, big for the class, and the Fusion has ample storage all around the cabin, with a stow space under the center stack, bottle holders in the doors, and a decently sized glovebox. The impression of quality is pretty high, especially with regard to noise damping and vibration quelling; the Fusion's doors close with the soft thump you feel more than you hear.
Safety features include front knee airbags and standard Bluetooth; the IIHS gives the Fusion its new Top Safety Pick+ status. 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 its most value-oriented competition, a spread that grows wider when you're trying to match high-economy editions. The cheapest Nissan Altima with a 38-mpg highway rating is $21,500; the Fusion S gets 34 mpg highway, but to get to its best 37 mpg highway, you'll spend $25,290 for the smaller-displacement EcoBoost four. Power front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and a rearview camera are options, as are all-wheel drive and a suite of safety features like lane-keeping assist and active park assist.
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.
For more on the 47-mpg version of this new family sedan, see our review of the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
2013 Ford Fusion
Wind-cheating lines and an athletic stance vault the 2013 Ford Fusion to the top of the family-sedan segment.
Try to find a better-looking family sedan at the price--the 2013 Ford Fusion is it, above the likes of the Buick Regal with a svelte, dashing body and hints and cues of much more expensive cars in its profile and nose. It looks most like Ford's Evos concept from a few years back, with a trapezoidal nose and grille that straddle a line somewhere between the latest Hyundais and the Aston Martin lineup. Follow the slim headlamps along the top of its slim-shouldered doors, and the Fusion rolls out an Audi A7-like roofline that tapers off into LED taillamps. A transformative step beyond the old Fusion, the new one looks every bit as convincing as a design statement as the original Taurus was in 1986. Does that mean Ford's come full circle to the oval?
Inside, the 2013 Fusion's cabin strips out some of the angled, nonsensical buttons that trim out the Focus and Fiesta, and frames all the center stack of controls in a simple metallic ring that leaves a strong graphic imprint on the cabin. On lesser models, there's a small LCD screen for radio and SYNC displays, flanked by a small battalion of hard buttons; it's undersized for the allotted space and looks it, while the rest of the controls are almost flush--capacitive controls run the climate control systems and some audio functions, with only a couple of actual knobs in place.
On versions with MyFord Touch's voice, wheel, and touch controls, the vitals are reduced to an elegant LCD touchscreen panel and to a minimum of breaks on the surface of the dash. It's a striking effect obviously influenced by Ford's work with Volvo--down to the storage bin under the climate controls that's left open at the sides, to leave some visual air moving throughout the cabin. Our chief complaint inside is the use of gloss black plastic on the dash and door panel armrests; it's prone to scratch and swirl, and doesn't look as good after only a few thousand miles as it does before a single use.
2013 Ford Fusion
Taut handling and turbocharged engines give the Fusion an enthusiastic feel without too sharp an edge.
The new Ford Fusion picks up where the old one left off, feeling athletic and enthusiastic about the act of driving. It's even more true this time, and in context, the Fusion's the best family sedan for that kind of driver, bar none--not Camry, Accord, Altima, Legacy, 6, Malibu, Passat, or any others we can think of.
The Fusion is no longer offered with any V-6 engine, and it's better off for it, since the smaller-displacement engine strategy forces some weight-trimming on some models. The lightest version is up marginally to 3,333 pounds, but the heaviest all-wheel-drive model tops out at 3,681 pounds, more than a hundred pounds down on the scale.
The base engine in the Fusion S and the Fusion SE is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, with 175 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, which it makes at a relatively high 4500 rpm. It's offered only with a six-speed automatic, and only with front-wheel drive. Ford declined to provide this model on its first drives for the media; as with the 2013 Escape, we think it could be some time before we're able to track down a base model, but we'll update this review as soon as we're able to find one. This Fusion, by the way, is rated at 22/34 mpg.
The Fusion Titanium has a much more satisfying base engine. It's an "EcoBoost," the term Ford uses to smaller-displacement engines with turbocharging and direct injection, meant to replace larger-displacement engines in its lineup. In this case, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four replaces 3.5-liter and 3.7-liter V-6s in the Fusion; it's down somewhat on power to those, at 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque reached at 3000 rpm versus as much as 265 hp in the outgoing engine--but it feels much friskier and more eager than the less rev-happy sixes ever did. It's also the most vibration-free, quietest installation of this powertrain we've yet experienced, in Ford-brand vehicles and in those from other formerly related automakers.
The Fusion Titanium is equipped only with a six-speed automatic, but in this case, a set of paddle shifters gives the driver direct control of the gears, a big improvement over outdated Ford efforts in the last Fusion. It's a quick shifter, and paddle controls enhance the sporty feel the Fusion imparts in other ways, while also reducing the need to remove a hand from the steering wheel. Ford hasn't released performance estimates, but based on the power and weight differences from the last-generation Fusion, it's likely the front-drive version can accelerate to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. The Titanium's also the only model to offer all-wheel drive, which adds a couple hundred pounds to its curb weight. Until the EPA confirms fuel-economy numbers, we'll have to reason that the weight also damps its fuel economy by an unknown amount.
The intriguing option among powertrains is a 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbo four. About as powerful as the base engine, it makes 178 hp and its 184 lb-ft of torque are developed at a much lower 2500 rpm. A little more grunty than the "big" 2.0-liter, the 1.6-liter has the eager feel in common--it's the low torque peak, but it's also the availability of a really well-engineered six-speed manual transmission as a fun alternative to the six-speed automatic. The manual's throws get a little long on the north-side gears, but the clutch uptake is shorter than that of the Subaru BRZ we drove in the days immediately before our Fusion test drive, and the shift quality has a soothing, mechanical sweetness that's reassuringly familiar to anyone who grew up driving European cars. This version's estimated at 25/37 mpg, too--almost the best in its segment, just behind the Nissan Altima in highway ratings, but it does come with a price premium over the 2.5-liter four.
All versions have front struts and a rear multi-link suspension, and electric power steering that's not overly quick or artificially hefty. And just when you think the Fusion's embraced all the usual sport-sedan cliches, it shows otherwise. It's firm and composed, but it's not stiff for stiff's sake. There's more ride compliance here than in the Malibu, but less so than the cozy new Altima and less body roll, too. Still, the Fusion never forgets it's a family sedan first.
The same goes for the steering, which isn't perfect, but doesn't trip over itself with constant changes of force and feel. Turning off-center meets with an appropriate amount of resistance; there's not much feedback when unwinding the wheel, and the ratio could be a little quicker, but the Fusion has a more natural feel than most family sedans with electric steering, whether you're rolling on 17-inch 50-series treads on the SE, or on the 45-series 18-inchers on the Titanium. Somehow, we have to think the base 16-inch and optional 19-inch wheels at the bottom and top of the lineup will be more compromised. We'll let you know when we drive them.
2013 Ford Fusion
Comfort & Quality
Skip the sunroof and there's plenty of room for four six-foot adults--even with the fast, sexy roofline.
It hasn't grown significantly in any dimension, but the 2013 Ford Fusion is nearly a full-size sedan now, in terms of interior volume. It's amply comfortable for four adults, a fifth in a pinch, but the cabin's reorganized in some subtle ways that show its new debt to European tastes.
The numbers show that the Fusion's the better of some of its closest competitors, at least on paper. It rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, up almost 5 inches, and is 191.7 inches long overall, about an inch more than in 2012. At 72.9 inches wide, the Fusion also has 44.3 inches of front-seat leg room and 38.3 inches of rear-seat leg room, while headroom checks in at 39.2 inches and 37.8 inches, respectively. The interior volume of 118.8 cubic feet is just a cube or so shy of the EPA's full-size hurdle; trunk space of 16 cubic feet is good, if not titanic like the bigger Taurus and its 20-cubic-foot whopper.
For comparison, the Altima, Sonata, and Passat all have shorter wheelbases and are shorter--except the Passat, which is the same overall length as the Fusion. The Sonata beats the Fusion's front-seat leg room by nearly an inch; the Altima, by 0.7 inches--but the Passat falls far shy, by almost six inches. The Passat wins in rear-seat leg room by almost four inches, though, with the Altima and Sonata behind the Fusion by almost two inches. The Fusion, it seems, does the better balancing act between front and back.
We've driven Fusions with manual and power seats, and found excellent front-seat space and comfort in both, though on the manual seats, there's a little too much front-end tilt to the bottom cushion for our tastes. The seats are thinner, and the seating position seems higher than before, while the front passengers' feet will have to cant inward slightly, around the wheel wells that intrude marginally into that space. Headroom is excellent, with a few inches to spare even for six-footers--but no cars equipped with the optional sunroof were available for testing.
In the back seat, the doors are cut tall for easy entry and exit, and the cushions are high. As is the case with the Nissan Altima and VW Passat, six-footers will make contact with the headliner; in the Fusion, it's on the back of the head, and the fast roofline doesn't impact the space as much as it could. I found at least an inch or two of knee room in back after I'd set the front seat to leave a few inches between my legs and the dash.
In most of the test cars we've driven so far, the Fusion's panels and materials have been well fitted. and well chosen. Sound damping is especially well done; like the new Chevy Malibu, there's little drivetrain noise heard above the beltline, in contrast to cars like the Sonata and Passat. We'd quibble with some of the textures inside the Fusion, though, especially on the full-tilt versions. The base cloth upholstery has a sheen to it; it's even more true on the Hybrid models, and only the leather option will relieve the inexpensive look. We're no fans of piano-black gloss trim, either, since it scratches so easily--and the Fusion's cockpit wears a lot of it. The dash cap is soft to the touch, though, and the switches and controls operate with precision, down to the soft, vibration-free thump of the doors as they latch closed.
2013 Ford Fusion
Knee airbags, Bluetooth and blind-spot monitors are on the list, and the Fusion's a Top Safety Pick.
A brand-new vehicle on a new architecture, the 2013 Ford Fusion has earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the Fusion deserves its "good" scores its primary frontal and side tests, as well as an 'acceptable' rating in the new small-overlap frontal test, which altogether earns it a Top Safety Pick+ award for the new model year.Meanwhile, a look at the Fusion's safety hardware is promising. Each one comes with eight standard airbags, including dual front knee airbags, a first for the sedan. Along with mandatory stability control, the Fusion also has standard active headrests with a slimmer design than in some other Ford vehicles, and less of the forward protrusion that's made its seats less comfortable. Bluetooth is also standard across the lineup, along with SYNC phone and audio connectivity--and we consider it a safety feature, given the reality of driving and talking on America's highways.
In terms of optional safety features, a rearview camera is not available on the base sedan; it's an option on the SE, and standard on the Titanium, along with an 8-inch LCD touchscreen also used as the MyFord Touch display. Rear parking sensors are an option on the SE and standard on the Titanium, too.
Finally, the Titanium is the only model to offer some of Ford's latest safety technologies, all options, some bundled in a package, some offered independently. They include a lane-departure warning and lane-keeping system, that nudges the car gently back on track if its forward-facing camera detects that it's crossed the lane divider; adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitors for the side rearview mirrors, with cross-traffic alerts that make backing out of parking spots a little safer; and active park assist, which dials the car into a parallel spot while you operate the pedals.
Visibility in the Fusion is excellent. Its relatively slim roof pillars don't obstruct an over the shoulder glance, and the decklid isn't quite tall enough to blot out much of the rear view--though the rearview mirror itself isn't particularly large.
2013 Ford Fusion
Hybrid drivetrains, active park assist, voice-controlled navigation--the Fusion bristles with features and options, which explains its premium price.
The new Fusion makes a play for premium-price buyers and for bargain shoppers too. It offers plenty of luxury and entertainment features, but keeps many of them bundled in packages or limits them only to certain models or powertrain combinations.
Still, the base Fusion S ends up about $1,000 more expensive than some of the cars you may be shopping at the same time--that is, if you can find a Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata or Kia Optima without any options. The Fusion S is priced from $22,495, and includes the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a six-speed automatic transmission; power windows, locks, and mirrors; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack; 16-inch wheels; cloth seats; SYNC with Bluetooth audio streaming; capless fuel filler; tilt/telescoping steering; cruise control; and steering-wheel audio and phone controls. Among the few options are remote start; an ash tray; portable DVD entertainment systems; and floor mats.
The $24,495 Fusion SE also comes standard with the normally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder and automatic; it adds standard satellite radio; more speakers (two more, for a total of six); a 10-way power driver seat; and 17-inch wheels. This Fusion can be outfitted with either the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or the 2.0-liter turbocharged four; the latter can be ordered with either the six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, while the 2.0-liter turbo four comes only with the automatic for a higher base price of up to $26,745.
Options on the SE include 18-inch wheels; a spoiler; a sunroof; memory seats; front heated seats; premium cloth upholstery or leather upholstery; a navigation system; an 8-inch LCD touchscreen with MyFord Touch voice, steering-wheel, touchscreen controls for vehicle systems; remote start; automatic stop/start; reverse parking sensors; active park assist; and safety tech like blind-spot monitors, lane-departure warnings and lane-keeping assist.
The $30,995 Fusion Titanium comes only with the 2.0-liter turbo four and a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. It has almost all of the above equipment standard--including parking sensors; rearview camera; a Sony audio system; MyFord Touch; power front seats; HD Radio; pushbutton start; automatic climate control; 18-inch wheels; aluminum interior trim; and remote start. A moonroof, 19-inch wheels, navigation, and the safety-tech add-ons are among the few options that can lift this model's price to $39,340, once each of the most expensive, non-conflicting options is chosen. At those prices, it's clear that Ford considers the Fusion a step up from its competitors, and expects that you will, too.
2013 Ford Fusion
Gas mileage leaps as Ford drops the V-6--and the Fusion Hybrid comes as a plug-in, too.
Now that it's put aside its V-6 engines, the four-cylinder-powered Ford Fusion earns some significant fuel-economy numbers. It's just shy of best-in-class when fitted with its optional--and smallest-displacement--engine, and among the best with its most powerful powertrain.
There's also a Fusion Hybrid, with sky-high 47-mpg ratings across the board, and an Energi plug-in hybrid version with a higher 100-MPGe figure than that of the Chevy Volt--but we're handling those separately due to the technology differences with the gas-only cars.
The base engine in the Fusion S and SE is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, carried over with minor improvements from other model lines (a version is found in the Mazda5 minivan, too). It's combined with a six-speed automatic, and generates fuel economy figures of 22 miles per gallon city, 34 miles per gallon highway, or 26 mpg combined. The city number's very low, but the highway number rivals vehicles like the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, and beats the base Chevy Malibu.
The standard engine on the Fusion Titanium is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four with direct injection. Teamed to a six-speed automatic and front- or all-wheel drive, it's good for gas mileage of 22/33 mpg, or 26 mpg combined, Ford says. Those figures haven't been certified yet, but they put the Fusion in the same space as the Sonata 2.0T and Optima Turbo, as well as the Malibu Turbo, while significantly outpacing the Nissan Altima V-6 and its 22/30-mpg figures. With all-wheel drive, it loses 1 mpg on the combined cycle.
The interesting comparison comes with the optional 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four. It's offered on the Fusion SE, and it also can be outfitted with stop/start technology for $295 more. Stop/start boosts fuel economy almost 4 percent, Ford says; it also transmits some light shudder into the pedals and floorpan on restart, we found during our short test drive, but it's completely tolerable as it helps this powertrain to gas mileage of 25/37 mpg, or 29 mpg combined with a six-speed manual, or 23/36 mpg and 28 mpg combined with the automatic. That's just below the Nissan Altima's class-leading 38 mpg for the highway cycle for non-hybrid vehicles, and a few miles per gallon ahead of all other competitors. Will buyers pay the premium for fuel economy? It's been a mixed proposition so far in other Ford products, but the Fusion could prove otherwise.