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2014 Ford Fusion Test Drive Review
A solid chassis, strong brakes and responsive suspension make the 2014 Fusion feel and handle like a much lighter car.
Look and Feel
Form and Function
Now 1 year off a 2013 redesign, the Fusion continues to add tech to an already-attractive package. With the standard features of the Hybrid trim, it also does a great job of nipping at the heels of more luxury-minded competitors while still remaining a value in the class.
Look and Feel
A lot has been written about the distinct similarities between the styling of the Fusion and a certain British luxury make that was Ford-owned for a few years. They are not unfounded. And while there are worse cars to copy than an Aston Martin, the way to really look at the Fusion is in comparison to its competitors. Stack it up against the hybrid versions of the Toyota Camry, the Kia Optima or the Hyundai Sonata, and there’s really no contest. This is one of the best-looking hybrids on the road.
Crisp, assertive lines work hard to persuade you there’s something beefier than a 2.0-liter engine coupled with an electric motor under the hood, and an aggressive stance hints at the handling prowess this techno-terror possesses.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a Titanium trim for our test drive, which is the top-tier option above the SE and the new-for-2014 S trim. It looked menacing in Tuxedo Black Metallic paint and a Charcoal Black leather interior. In addition to the usual Titanium features, the car was also equipped with the optional active park assist ($895), heated/ventilated front seats ($495), adaptive cruise control ($995), navigation ($795) inflatable rear seatbelts ($195) and the Driver Assistance Package, which includes lane-keep assist and blind-spot alert ($1,140) for a grand total of $39,905 including delivery.
The Fusion Hybrid pairs Ford’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (141 hp, 129 lb-ft/torque) with an electric motor (118 hp and 117 lb-ft) yoked to a Lithium-ion battery, which replaces the Ni-MH unit that was used pre-2013. Together they deliver an unimpressive-on-paper peak of 188 hp and 130 lb-ft to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT). While this doesn’t represent a power jump with regard to numbers alone, it must be mentioned that the Li-ion pack generates more power than the old Ni-MH unit and weighs less, too. Consequently the current Fusion Hybrid is about 100 pounds lighter than the previous generation and allows electric-only operation at up to 85 mph, as opposed to 47 mph with the Ni-MH.
And while 188 hp/130 lb-ft don’t sound very fast, the Fusion rarely has trouble motivating. Power is immediate during electric operation and can be quickly supplemented with some extra weight on the accelerator. The 2.0-liter engine can sound very rough, however, and not only when pushed. There’s a distinct and raspy drone that erupts from under the hood as soon as the engine kicks in, which seems to be at no fixed point. Sometimes when leaving my house, I’d operate on electric-only power for blocks, climbing several Bay-area hills of no small stature before the gasoline engine would join in. Other days it’d contribute its fair share nearly immediately, with no regard to how much charge the battery gauge displayed. Still, this variance did nothing to inhibit use, and other than the noise and vibration, the transitions were quick and seamless, and the CVT delivered the power with crisp precision.
When the 2013 Fusion Hybrid was first released, it was rated with a class-leading “triple 47”—47 mpg city, highway and combined. After some complaints and lawsuits over the last year, and some independent testing that failed to reproduce those numbers, Ford finally came back this past June to address some discrepancies. Internal investigation revealed a miscalibration in some of its testing, resulting in a voluntary software update for the Fusion, C-Max and MKZ Hybrids, a downgrading of their mileage ratings and a “goodwill payment” to some 200,000 customers. While the software update actually did improve things such as increasing maximum electric-only operation to 85 mph from 62, optimizing the climate control and aero systems, and decreasing load on other electric systems, the mileage rating still had to be dropped to 44 mpg city/41 highway/42 combined. That said, the window sticker Ford provided us still listed the old “triple 47” as the EPA rating.
Speaking of economy, the Fusion's regenerative brakes have the usual bit of grabbiness at low speeds as they pour juice back into the battery, but operate confidently otherwise, feeling very capable of the reported 123-ft stopping distance. In fact, the Fusion handles confidently in all situations, feeling like a much lighter car. Front MacPherson struts and a multi-link rear soak up bumps and ripples without any sort of unnecessary drama or, more important in this segment, noise. That said, this isn’t a comfort-forward setup by any means, which is an easy trap to fall into, especially with the added weight of a hybrid. My one complaint comes from the steering itself, which falls victim to electric-assist numbness at center and disconcerting oscillations at other times, especially during trail braking. However, Ford has addressed these complaints previously, and this is not an issue repeated from most Fusion owners. Perhaps a quirk to this particular car?
Form and Function
As a kid, I remember my father being obsessed with car doors, specifically not leaving them hanging open, how hard you closed them, and especially the sound they made when they finally shut. Dad would be pleased with the Fusion, as it has one of the more satisfying closing sounds I’ve encountered. Not clunky or hollow, but solid and confident—the way a door should close.
This approach seems to have bled over to the design of the rest of the Fusion, at least at this trim level. A thick, chunky steering wheel leaves plenty of room to see large, bright gauges and displays, and multiple soft-touch surfaces almost make you forget that plastic is the bane of our current existence. Look a bit closer, and it’ll start becoming more evident, but this interior definitely speaks to Ford’s desire to butt the Fusion right up against its loftier rivals.
The seats are all-day comfortable, and with 10-way power for the driver, there are enough options to find nearly the perfect position. Passengers need to make due with 4-way power, but I heard nary a complaint in a week of offering rides. My one issue was a door sill positioned too high for proper elbow resting, but otherwise there was enough room that even with my 6-foot, 4-inch frame, I didn’t need to have the seat positioned all the way aft. And with the right (short) front-seat occupant, I could even live in the rear seats for a time.
Piano black trim is attractive and classy, although wood would look just as nice here, and small details like the tweeter/door handle combo and the leather stitching stand out. It’s only once you spend a bit of time with the Fusion that some of the plastic really starts to bother, especially when looking at the rather chunky stalks on the column and the multitude of function buttons on the multifunction steering wheel. Even so, all operate with appropriate damping in order not to feel cheap.
The regular Fusion gets plenty of tech, the Hybrid version more so, and the Titanium trim most of all. This particular version had every box checked except the heated steering wheel and the sunroof—the former's pretty unnecessary in northern California, but the latter would be a great addition to the Fusion. The Active Park Assist operated flawlessly, although it was still a bit unnerving to let go of the wheel and have the car “take over,” and the reverse warning beeps seemed a bit too insistent in nearly all situations. Blind Spot Assist is a welcome leg up in merging a larger midsize sedan like this, and the adaptive cruise worked well enough to make my involvement in the driving process feel a bit peripheral at times.
A 12-speaker Sony audio system proved well up to the task of intelligible radio listening, even at highway speeds with all 4 windows down, and did a phenomenal job at the drive-in as well. Connecting my phone was simple and quick, and the menus were easy to read and navigate. Of course, being a touchscreen, it was immediately covered in fingerprints, which made reading less enjoyable. The touch feedback was marginal, but it’s hard to compete with the tech we find in today’s phones and laptops, especially when this year’s new drivers have been utilizing the technology nearly their entire computer-using lives. I had similar frustrations with the Sync system. While its mystery could be untied with familiarity, even at its best, it’s an unnecessarily complex and sometimes dangerous system. More than once I found myself arriving at my test destination long before I’d wrung an address out of the navigation system, and changing destinations on the go requires an alarming amount of time looking at the screen.
Given that it’s “Powered by Microsoft,” I was discouraged it doesn’t have the same level of sophistication of Cortana—Microsoft’s VR Assistant software on their new phones. I suppose this speaks to a limitation of the car industry as a whole: The newest media/tech you’ll find in a car is still likely to be at least a year behind your phone/tablet. Factor in added subscription costs for something your phone/tablet already does, and perhaps it’s time to leave some features to third-party manufacturers.
With seemingly every available safety feature under the sun, it’s hard to believe anything bad could happen behind the wheel of the Fusion. Eight airbags, inflatable rear seatbelts, traction and stability control, blind-spot alert, 4-wheel disc brakes, adaptive cruise control and lane keep all make it hard to get in an accident and easy to survive one. SOS Post Crash will fire up the hazards and the horn as well as unlock all the doors after an accident, and if you’ve synced your smartphone, 911 Assist will notify emergency personnel and send them your way following airbag deployment.
However, even with all these goodies, there were some weak points in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests. While overall the Fusion scored a 5-star rating, the test for a frontal crash involving a passenger and the rollover test both received 4 stars. Even more shocking, side crashes for the front seat got only 3 stars. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Fusion its highest rating of Good in all tests.
Is the Hybrid worth the money? Driving the Fusion Hybrid Titanium, it feels every bit worth its sticker price. However, at a premium at least $5,000 more than the conventional Fusion (and that’s before you start ticking off the options boxes), it seems an investment that would be hard to recoup. The Fusion has held its value quite well overall in the used market, and the dealer sticker claims a fuel savings of $6,000 over 5 years with the Hybrid compared to the “average” new vehicle. But that’s with the now-debunked “triple 47” rating, so we’re left to guess what the updated figure would be. The “Brake Coach” to the left of the speedometer really helps maximize your fuel use, but it also promotes such smooth acceleration and braking that I could see it helping to save quite a bit of money on tires and brakes, so factor that into the potential savings.
A CarGurus contributor since 2008, Michael started his career writing about cars with the SCCA - winning awards during his time as editor of Top End magazine. Since then, his journalistic travels have taken him from NY to Boston to CA, completing a cross-country tour on a restored vintage Suzuki. While his preference is for fine German automobiles - and the extra leg room they so often afford - his first automobile memories center around impromptu Mustang vs. Corvette races down the local highway, in the backseat of his father's latest acquisition.
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2014 Ford Fusion Top Comparisons
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