It’s no 1986 Taurus, but the Fusion four-door is making waves in the midsize sedan segment like few Fords in recent years. With competitive fuel economy on most trims and decent driving dynamics, the Fusion sedan is worth consideration for those who are tired of Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords.
The Fusion offers a number of different powertrain options for various budgets. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 175 horsepower is the basic and most popular option, with a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Those in need of all-wheel drive can get it with the 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 that’s an updated version of the V-6 on the pre-refresh Fusion. Fast lane drivers might opt for the Fusion Sport, which is powered by a 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Topping the line is the Fusion Hybrid, which uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and hybrid technology to achieve an EPA-rated 41/36 mpg city/highway.
Editors at Motor Trend magazine were so impressed by the redone 2010 Fusion that they made it the 2010 Car of the Year, citing rewarding dynamics from a Fusion SE in the low-$20,000 range to the loaded hybrid model at $30,000. Enthusiasts on a budget with a family should check out the Fusion SE with the monochrome appearance package. Sure, the $895 package adds expected touches like a rear spoiler, body color grille, and unique interior trim bits, but it also includes performance tires and a sport-tuned suspension.
On the other side of the Fusion spectrum is the new-for-2011 luxury package. Available only on the Fusion SEL, the luxury package makes the Ford's interior feel more classy with leather seats, unique stitching, premium floor mats, upgraded dash trim, aluminum pedals, and distinctive multi-spoke 17-inch polished aluminum wheels.
Fuel economy on the Fusion – aside from the hybrid model – is average for the segment. Some Fusions four-cylinders with a four-cylinder engine are rated 23/33 mpg while the Fusion Sport and front-wheel drive is good for 18/27 mpg compared to the Fusion Sport’s 17/24 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Of course, the Fusion Hybrid is the model to buy for consumers out to keep their environmental impact to a minimum. That acclaimed model drives like a “normal car” (a good thing) and incorporates Ford’s engaging SmartGauge technology. The hybrid's dual LCD cluster can actually help make driving efficiently a fun game. One display mode will "grow" leaf icons the more efficiently you drive. There's also room in the instrument cluster for information including the batteries' charge and the current fuel mileage.
Non-hybrid Fusions can be had with plenty of technology, too. A blind spot detection system uses radar to sense when there are moving objects on either side of the vehicle. If you're about to change lanes and the indicator light on the rear view mirror is lit, another vehicle may be lurking in your blind spot. A rear-view camera and parking sensors are also available, increasing safety in a car that already has decent outward visibility.
New for the 2011 model year, Ford is making MyKey technology standard equipment. MyKey could be a parent's dream, as it is designed to keep teenage drivers safe on the road. Authorized users can limit the car's maximum speed to 80 mph and the sound system's top volume level can be limited to 45 percent. Ford also suggests the MyKey system makes the Fusion burnout proof -- the stability control system cannot be turned off with the right settings.
Most Fusion trims offer Ford's SYNC technology without the automaker's controversial MyFord Touch controls now included on the Edge and Explorer crossovers. SYNC includes Bluetooth and controls music with voice commands. Certain versions of the technology can even send Google Maps or MapQuest directions sent directly to the car and read text messages aloud.
The Fusion has all the safety features you'd expect on a midsize sedan, from a number of air bags to standard traction and stability control. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Fusion a 2011 Top Safety Pick. In front- and all-wheel-drive forms, the 2011 Fusion was given a four-star overall rating (out of five stars) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- the NHTSA's safety tests were made more stringent for the 2011 model year.
No matter, the 2011 Fusion is up to the challenge. If Ford continues to refine and improve the Fusion, the automaker might just find itself in a sales battle with the Honda Accord in the midsize sedan segment.