First Test: 2013 Ford Fusion

Engine2.5L L4
Power170 hp / 172 lb-ft
TransmissionAutomatic
MSRP$21,700
Seats5 adults
MPGNot Available
Consumer ReviewsRate This Car
It was a struggle at times for Adrian Whittle. As the lead engineer for the 2013 Ford Fusion, achieving his team’s technical goals while maintaining the integrity of designer Chris Hamilton’s sexy silhouette was something of a rolling headache. “This exterior, which we love, was hard to deliver because it’s not very package-efficient,” Whittle explained. “There are a lot of curves and shapes and sweeps in it. And one of the things that we absolutely had as a hard point was that all of the interior dimensions had to be equal or better than the outgoing Fusion.” Despite the challenges, Whittle and Co. got the job done, thanks in part to the new Fusion’s increased dimensions. Its 112.2-inch wheelbase is almost five inches longer than that of the outgoing car, and it’s 1.2 inches longer, 0.7 inch wider, and 1.4 inches taller than before. Front passenger headroom, legroom, shoulder space, and hip room are all improved. Rear headroom remains the same at 37.8 inches, but leg, shoulder, and hip measurements have been upped. The only dimension that shrank was the trunk’s cargo space, which dropped by 0.5 cu-ft to 16.0 cu-ft. But we’ll give Whittle a pass there, as it’s technically not part of the interior.
On the powertrain side, choice is the name of the game. There are three gas-only options. The 2.5-liter Duratec four-cylinder with 175 horses and 175 lb-ft is essentially a carryover engine, and it’s mated to a six-speed auto gearbox only. Two EcoBoosted engines are also available: the 1.6-liter four with 178-horsepower and 184 lb-ft (six-speed auto or manual), and the 240 horse, 270 lb-ft 2.0-liter EcoBoost (auto only with front- or all-wheel drive). Then there’s the 2013 Fusion Hybrid. The system combines a 141-horsepower, 129-lb-ft 2.0-liter Atkinson cycle inline-four (replacing the 2.5-liter) with an electric traction motor producing 118 hp and 117 lb-ft using Ford’s planetary continuously variable transmission. Total peak output of 188 hp is down by 3 hp, but then the car is about 110 pounds lighter. Of course, the measurement that really counts for the hybrid is miles per gallon. At an EPA-rated 47/47 city/highway mpg, Ford is billing it as America’s most fuel efficient midsize sedan. In addition, a plug-in model called the Fusion Energi is on the way, and with a target efficiency number of 100 mpg-e, Ford is gunning for the title of the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in the world. Heady stuff.
Depending on trim, the Fusion lineup is slightly heavier than before, but Ford would argue the Fusion’s extra pounds are all muscle. Much of the additional weight comes from a larger body shell using high-strength steel mostly in its nose and A-B door ring. The new steel also greatly benefitted structural rigidity. Extra underbody cladding also packed on poundage but helped deliver the car’s 0.275 drag coefficient and fuel economy. The nose utilizes high tensile and hydroformed steel, which added rigidity and gave designers some leeway. Gone are ditches running lengthwise on the now 0.1-inch-thinner roof. Extra underbody cladding also packed on poundage but helped deliver the car’s 0.275 drag coefficient and fuel economy.
Customers can choose from three trims: S, SE, and Titanium. Base 2.5-liters can be had in S ($22,495) and SE ($24,495) levels. The 1.6-liter in the SE adds $795, and the 2.0-liter adds $2250 including some forced package items, and both are available with a six-speed stick. The 2.0-liter comes standard in the Titanium model (automatic only) for $30,995 with front drive, or $32,995 with all-wheel drive. Plastic paddle shifters are only available on cars with the 2.0-liter/auto mix. The auto-equipped 1.6-liter is the sole model available with Ford’s new start-stop technology ($250). The S trim brings Sync, power windows and locks, and AdvanceTrac to the table. Bump it up to SE and you’ll see SiriusXM radio, SecuriCode entry, and a power driver’s seat. Titanium models have all that plus push-button start, Intelligent Access, and a 12-speaker Sony stereo with MyFordTouch. Appearance and Luxury packages begin at the 1.6-liter level and offer things like 18-inch wheels, a trunk spoiler, and electrochromic mirrors. Moonroof and 19-inch footwear are Titanium-only options.
At $27,995 to start, the Fusion Hybrid is its own trim. It’s available with optional Hybrid Appearance and Luxury packages that offer heated leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, electrochromic mirrors, and 18-inch alloys. The 2.5 S didn’t make it to the recent press event we attended, and given that Ford is banking on the 1.6-liter mill to be the volume choice, it also didn’t make it to our 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year program. But we did try out the rest. First up: the expected big seller. Step into the 3312-pound Fusion 1.6 SE manual and the first thing you’ll notice its center stack. It’s a puzzling, hard plastic and button-littered oasis juxtaposed with a sea of soft, curvaceous materials and matte metals that have a higher grade look and feel. There are plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin. The instrumentation is clear; forward visibility is great; and the charcoal-black wetsuit-like material covering the seats is soft and comfortable. The front interior space is very much driver-oriented, and given that, feels somewhat tight and constrained. Rear seat space and legroom, however, were substantial for this 5-foot, 9-inch scribe. But replace me with a 6-foot-something rider and you’ll likely get complaints about side visibility and headroom. The Fusion’s 39.2/37.8-inches of front/rear headroom barely beats that of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu (39.0/37.5) and the Honda Accord (39.1/37.5). Its 16.0 cu-ft trunk is also more spacious than those found in the 2013 Nissan Altima (15.4), Toyota Camry (15.4), and Honda Accord (15.8). Once on the road, the light and sometimes communicative, sometimes numb electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) is immediately noticeable. The 1.6-liter EcoBoost, though raspy and somewhat weak at the low end, offers plenty of smile-inducing grunt and attractive mechanical growls once the turbo spools above 4000 rpm. Shifts from the 6F35 manual are crisp, but throws are long; its brake pedal has an immediate pickup and progressive feel thereafter. Getting it up to 60 mph takes 8 seconds flat, and braking from the same speed to a standstill happens in 120 feet. Strap into a 1.6 with the six-speed automatic and start-stop, and the car’s attitude changes a bit. Thanks to the heavier automatic ‘box, the 1.6 isn’t as eager to jink into bends and has a floating sensation mid-corner. More than once, the otherwise smooth transmission couldn’t find the ideal gear for optimal power delivery. One 1.6 feature worth looking forward to is the start-stop system. It’s the first system of its kind on a Ford vehicle with an automatic transmission, officials say, and it’s good. Smooth, near-instant, and quiet startups were the norm during my drive. BMW, take note: This is how you do start-stop. Comparing stats comes natural when talking about this Fusion trim. While less powerful than the potent 197-hp 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, the 178-horse Fusion SE, with an EPA rating of 23/36/28 city/highway/combined, sips less fuel when both are equipped with automatic gearboxes. (The Chevy is rated at 22/34/26). However, the Ford has a $2140 more expensive base price when put against the Malibu LS ($23,150); that price difference shrinks to $520 when compared to the better equipped 1LT. Throw in the Toyota Camry LE’s credentials — 25/35/28 city/highway/combined fuel economy and $23,395 base price — and you’ll understand just how cutthroat this segment really is. The Titanium with a 2.0-liter heart, automatic gearbox, and all-wheel drive is the top dog. At 3711 pounds, it’s nearly 400 pounds heavier than the 1.6 manual, and 34 pounds heavier than the Fusion Hybrid. Its EPAS has a weightier tug at all speeds, and the chassis, with 19-inch wheels wrapped in Continental rubber (rather than standard 17- or 18-inchers), transmits a lot more of the road’s imperfections directly into the leather seats.
MyFordTouch with Sync and an 8-inch screen is part of the Titanium getup. Buttons are less in-your-face; the layout is cleaner; and controls are easy to find. High-tech extras like Ford’s Lane Keeping and Adaptive Cruise systems beep, tug, and visually warn you when pertinent things need attention. Though it plows into corners, there’s a nice amount of grip once the chassis settles and all 240 horses and 270 lb-ft find their way to the pavement. Ford’s all-wheel drive system splits power 70/30 percent between front and rear wheels in normal driving situations, but once traction is lost, the split can change to a maximum 60/40 percent using torque vectoring via the ABS.
The automatic’s paddle shifters add to the sportiness of the Titanium, but the 1.6 manual has a better fun factor because of its chassis feel and powertrain liveliness. Still, there’s no denying the Titanium is the fastest Fusion on the block at 6.8 seconds to 60. The quarter-mile passes in 15.1 seconds at 91.6 mph, and despite the added AWD heft, its beefier brakes stop it from 60 mph in 117 feet. The Fusion Hybrid is the most technologically advanced car in the lineup until the Energi arrives. Engineers worked tirelessly to tune and improve every exterior bit in the name of aerodynamic efficiency. They upped sound deadening and paid special attention to the smoothness of gas engine-to-electric motor transitions. Active Grille Shutters and full underbody coverings better direct the passing air. New menu screens on the digital dash coach drivers in the ways of mpg maximization, and yes, the dark green leaves still flourish or fall depending on your driving style. It’s tough to notice the Hybrid’s transitions. They’re tabletop smooth and the interior is almost bank-vault quiet. The Hybrid rides as if it were a street-legal Lay-Z-Boy. Its steering has the most artificial assist of the lineup, and it gently rolls and bounds when pushed hard into corners. Sure, stabbing the throttle gets you to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds, but who really cares? You’ll be achieving mega mpg ratings and can cruise in complete comfort on electric power at speeds up to 62 mph. At the end of the day, Whittle shared an interesting observation. “I’d say the Fusion is the first ground-up example of One Ford. It’s kind of the ultimate (model) that we’ve done. It sets the standard for us internally. It’s also the one that we had to get right. The Fusion is so critical to North America. This is the one that we knew we couldn’t make any compromises with.” In other words, it’s the one model that has fused all the best ideas and technology from Ford’s worldwide operations. Will that be enough to best its competitors? Like you, we can’t wait to find out.
2013 Ford Fusion SE 2013 Ford Fusion Titanium 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid SE
BASE PRICE $25,290 $32,995 $27,995
PRICE AS TESTED $26,040 $37,670 $35,365
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 1.6L/178-hp/184-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/240-hp/270-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4 2.0L/141-hp/129-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 118-hp electric motor, 188 hp comb
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual 6-speed automatic Cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3312 lb (58/42%) 3711 lb (59/41%) 3677 lb (58/42%)
WHEELBASE 112.2 in 112.2 in 112.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 191.7 x 72.9 x 58.1 in 191.7 x 72.9 x 58.1 in 191.8 x 72.9 x 58.2 in
0-60 MPH 8.0 sec 6.8 sec 8.5 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.1 sec @ 88.1 mph 15.1 sec @ 91.6 mph 16.4 sec @ 87.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 120 ft 117 ft 116 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.85 g (avg) 0.84 g (avg) 0.79 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.4 sec @ 0.58 g (avg) 27.2 sec @ 0.64 g (avg) 28.7 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 25/37 mpg 22/31 mpg 47/47 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 135/91 kW-hrs/100 miles 153/109 kW-hrs/100 miles 72/72 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.66 lb/mile 0.77 lb/mile 0.41 lb/mile
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