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2013 Ford Fusion Test Drive Review
Thanks to the 1.6-liter EcoBoost’s torque curve and the Fusion’s composed chassis, perfectly weighted steering and ultimately faithful brakes, the Fusion is easy and fun to drive.
The 2013 Ford Fusion represents an almost faultless execution of a modern midsize family sedan. Looking great and driving better, the new Fusion is safe in a collision while offering a range of information, entertainment, convenience, safety and luxury upgrades. Add hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrain options, and there’s a Fusion to suit almost any car buyer.
Look and Feel
Out of 10
Glance at an approaching 2013 Ford Fusion, and you might mistake it for an Aston Martin. The trapezoidal grille, the horizontal chrome grille bars, and the slanted headlamps wrapping back into the fenders all resemble a luxury performance model hailing from Gaydon, England. But then the blue oval hood badge becomes obvious, or the car’s profile comes into view, and it is instantly clear that this car is Ford’s new midsize family sedan.
The 2013 Ford Fusion is completely redesigned for the 2013 model year. Highlights include new turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines, new hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, next-generation MyFord Touch technology, additional convenience and safety features, and a luxury-themed Titanium trim level.
The new Fusion Titanium sits atop a trim-level tree that includes the standard Fusion S and mid-grade Fusion SE. The Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion Energi (the plug-in hybrid trim) are available only in SE and Titanium trim levels. While the Fusion S is equipped with the basics, it offers few extras. That’s why the Fusion SE is expected to be the most popular model, as it gets appearance, comfort and convenience upgrades and is offered with numerous options. The Fusion Titanium is equipped with added power, performance, technology and luxury.
We elected to test-drive the most popular version of the Fusion, the SE with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and an automatic transmission. Our test car had the Luxury Package ($2,280: leather seats, heated front seats, 4-way power front passenger’s seat, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, memory settings for the seats and mirrors, fog lights and rear floor mats) and the SE MyFord Touch Technology Package ($1,000: MyFord Touch with Sync services, reversing camera and dual-zone automatic climate control). Additional upgrades included an automatic engine start/stop system ($295), rear parking assist sensors ($295) and a navigation system ($795). The total sticker price was $29,290 including the $795 destination charge.
Out of 10
Ford installs a choice of 5 different powertrains in the 2013 Fusion, ranging from a standard 170-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine in the Fusion S and SE to a plug-in gas-electric hybrid system in the Fusion Energi. Official fuel economy ratings range from a low of 22 mpg city for a Fusion SE or Titanium with a turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive, to a high of 47 mpg city and highway for the Fusion Hybrid. The Fusion Energi is rated to return 100 MPGe in combined driving.
Our test car had the most popular powertrain, the turbocharged 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Despite spending the majority of our evaluation miles on the highway, we averaged just 26.4 mpg, short of the EPA’s 28 mpg estimate for combined driving, let alone the 37 mpg highway estimate.
Aside from its disappointing fuel economy, our test car’s 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine offered satisfying response thanks to its broad torque curve. At higher revs, this engine isn’t as quiet or refined as an Audi or Volkswagen turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. Fuel economy isn’t as impressive as the Audi/VW engine’s, either, despite our test car’s inclusion of automatic stop/start technology, which shuts the engine off when idling in traffic or at an intersection in order to conserve fuel.
The 6-speed transmission offered with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine is equipped with Ford’s silly thumb-shifter button for manual control of gear changes. Why bother? At the very least, Ford ought to provide the paddle shifters offered on the Titanium model. On a positive note, the transmission upshifts rapidly under normal driving conditions to conserve fuel, but when driven with gusto will hold gears longer to improve acceleration and throttle response.
When it comes to ride and handling, the best sedans deftly balance the two, regardless of price or target audience. They handle as securely as a sport sedan without trying to be one, and they ride like luxury sedans without a luxury price tag. The new Ford Fusion achieves this balance.
Ford installs a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension in the Fusion, tuned to produce what we think is an excellent ride quality, one that successfully isolates surface harshness without filtering critical communication for the driver. The car does exhibit an unusual degree of lateral rocking over undulating pavement, producing unexpected head toss for occupants. But otherwise, we have no complaints about how the car rides.
Better yet, handling is unbelievably good. The Fusion is exceptionally well balanced, turns in crisply with almost no body roll, and doesn’t feel like a traditional nose-heavy, front-drive sedan from the driver’s seat. Grip is a limiting factor, of course, but the Fusion SE’s 17-inch all-season tires don’t squeal much as they approach their reasonable limits.
Ford knows how to do electric steering. The Fusion is blessedly free of the on-center disconnectedness and off-center oscillations that can characterize electric steering systems, feeling completely natural and even transmitting hints of genuine road feel. The car’s standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel is a bit small, however, in terms of both diameter and the width of the rim.
If there’s room for improvement in the driving dynamics department, the Fusion’s brake pedal could benefit from further refinement. The one in our pre-production test car felt a little too stiff and exhibited longer-than-expected pedal travel. During one rapid transition to the brakes in city driving, they didn’t bite as quickly as desired. However, during a genuine panic stop, the pedal and the brakes worked flawlessly, and I was able to modulate heavy pressure in an appropriate fashion.
Thanks to the 1.6-liter EcoBoost’s torque curve and the Fusion’s composed chassis, perfectly weighted steering and ultimately faithful brakes, the Fusion is easy and fun to drive. The experience isn’t quite as giggle-worthy as it would be in a dedicated sport sedan, but choosing the mainstream model with the mid-grade engine and the smaller wheels and tires certainly doesn’t equate to compromise.
Form and Function
Out of 10
Ford needs to spend more money on the Fusion’s interior. The silver plastic trim looks exactly like silver plastic, and the roof pillar covers ought to be textured to match the headliner. Wrapping the windshield pillars in the same cloth used for the headliner would be a simple way to upgrade the cabin, similar to what Volkswagen does in the Jetta.
Otherwise, the Fusion’s cabin represents a clear improvement over the vehicle it replaces. The single-piece soft-touch dashboard and soft-touch upper door panel materials are excellent in terms of gloss levels and graining, and though the cabin emphasizes simplicity over glitz, elegant design solutions abound, like the inclusion of front quarter windows, the artfully executed forward console storage well and the tweeter speakers integrated with the door-handle pulls in the upper door panels.
The Fusion’s optional 10-way power driver’s seat is very comfortable, providing a perfect driving position and long-distance support. Our test car’s 4-way power front passenger’s seat, however, proved awful. Mounted too low, the seat made me feel like I was sitting on the floor, and I really did not enjoy riding shotgun in this car. Passengers who prefer a supportive seat with a good view out are advised to ride in the Fusion’s back seat, which offers an elevated position combined with good leg and foot room.
The Fusion’s trunk is well-shaped and roomy, providing 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Inside the lid, there is a grab handle designed to assist in closing the trunk without dirtying one’s hand on the outside of the lid. When using the handle to close the lid, be sure to choose an underhand grip. I almost snapped my wrist using an overhand grip to close the trunk.
As an aside, note that like all Ford products, the 2013 Fusion is equipped with a capless fuel filler system, which means you don’t need to screw a fuel cap off and then back on when filling the tank with gas. Until you live with this feature, you don’t realize how terrific it is to go capless.
Out of 10
Every 2013 Fusion is equipped with Ford’s Sync connectivity and voice-control technology, which provides Bluetooth pairing for smartphones and a USB connection for digital music players. Sync allows the driver to make and receive phone calls and to play music over the car’s stereo system. Vehicle diagnostics and emergency services are included, and owners can subscribe to traffic, weather, news and travel updates.
Ford’s next-generation MyFord Touch infotainment system is available for most Fusion trims and represents an improvement in terms of intuitiveness and responsiveness over the first version of this technology. I also think the Fusion’s haptic feedback touch-panel climate-control system is more responsive and requires less accuracy than similar technology in other vehicles.
An Active Park Assist system is optional for more expensive versions of the Fusion and can identify parallel parking spaces into which the car will fit, and then steer the car into the space while the driver operates the transmission and pedals. Fusion Hybrids have a SmartGauge with EcoGuide system that displays a vine of green leaves that multiply as the driver achieves greater levels of fuel efficiency.
Out of 10
Ford equips every 2013 Fusion with 8 airbags, 4-wheel disc antilock brakes with emergency brake assist, traction and stability control, and an SOS Post Crash Alert system that activates the hazard flashers, sounds the horn and unlocks the doors following a collision. MyKey technology is also standard, allowing the Fusion’s owner to program vehicle speed and volume limits, to sound incessant seatbelt reminder chimes and to defeat the ability to turn off the stability control system, all features that are useful to parents with teenage drivers in the house.
Sync connectivity is also standard for the 2013 Fusion, and when a smartphone is paired with the system and the airbags deploy, a 911 Assist feature automatically puts an emergency operator in touch with the Fusion’s occupants. The operator can also send rescue personnel to the Fusion’s exact location, even if occupants are unable to respond. Safety-related options for the Fusion include a reversing camera, a Lane Keeping System, a Blind-spot Information System, a Cross-Traffic Alert system, and an Adaptive Cruise Control system with Forward Collision Warning technology.
On paper, the 2013 Fusion looks like a safe car. What about in practice? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), all 2013 Fusion variants except for one receive a 5-star overall crash-test rating, the highest rating possible. The NHTSA has not yet performed crash tests on the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also bestows its highest rating upon the new Fusion, calling it a Top Safety Pick Plus. This rating applies to Fusions built after December 2012. New 2013 Fusions assembled prior to January 2013 are called a Top Safety Pick.
Out of 10
The new Ford Fusion competes in the midsize family sedan segment, one in which consumers have many excellent choices. To increase market share, Ford will need to remain aggressive in terms of pricing, and as this article is written, the automaker is offering a variety of appealing programs to entice buyers, including low lease payments, 0% financing for 60 months, up to $1,500 in rebate money and more.
Oftentimes, the money saved when buying a car is lost when it comes time to sell a car as a used vehicle. The Fusion, however, is expected to hold its value well over time, according to ALG, which sets residual values for the industry.
If there’s a cause for any concern with regard to cost effectiveness, it pertains to the Fusion’s official EPA fuel economy estimates compared to what happens in the real world. During our test drive, the majority of the miles covered were on the highway, yet we didn’t even achieve the EPA’s projected combined driving average in terms of fuel economy.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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