Driven: 2013 Ford Fusion

By John Beltz Snyder

October 05, 2012

—Santa Monica, California
 
Understandably, the first thing we were stricken by upon being reunited with the new Ford Fusion was the same thing that caught our attention when it was first unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show: its outward appearance. The new grille gives the car a much more upscale vibe. It looks somewhat muscular, and the creases in the hood and character lines that run along the sides help give it this image. It definitely has a bit more flair than the outgoing model, yet it doesn’t seem overstated.
 
Inside the car, we had mostly positive feelings, with some exceptions. We liked the space and openness of the cabin, and it was immediately comfortable upon sitting down. Finding a natural seating position was easy, and we had no issues with the distance or placement of the steering wheel, pedals, and other controls. Right away, our view was good, and we felt like we could see well in every direction. No complaints here.
 Driven: 2013 Ford Fusion Picture Interior
The interior design felt a lot fresher than that of the old Fusion. There appeared to be a lot less surface area covered in flat, drab plastic, and the dash was attractively and modestly broken up by little design elements like the thin plastic wedge insert on the passenger side. There were a couple small oddities, like the little bit of piano black plastic surrounding the cup holders and door handles (but nowhere else we could see), and the oddly shaped, deep storage compartment under the center stack, which is difficult to retrieve anything from. The stack itself angles out as it descends, and the MyFord Touch controls offer very little visual relief. In all, though, it’s a very comfortable space that is more aesthetically pleasing than before.

[Click here to read our review of the 2013 Honda Accord.]
 
We had the chance to drive the Hybrid, 1.6-liter EcoBoost, and 2.0-liter EcoBoost versions during our time in California (Ford will also offer a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four in the Fusion S, as well as the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid). The range-topping 2.0-liter EcoBoost is available in SE and Titanium trim levels, with the Titanium also offering it with all-wheel drive. This turbocharged engine offers 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, and is only available with a six-speed automatic transmission. With front-wheel drive, it gets a claimed 22 miles per gallon in the city, and 33 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel-drive version gets 22 mpg city, and 31 on the highway.
 
The 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine only comes in a front-drive SE version, but is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed auto. It produces 178 horsepower, and 184 pound-feet of torque. With the automatic transmission. The 1.6 features automatic stop-start, which shuts off the engine to save fuel when the car is stopped. With the auto trans, it achieves 23 mpg in the city, and 36 on the highway. The manual-equipped 1.6 gets an even better 25 mpg city, and 37 mpg highway.
 
Also on hand at the event for a shorter, in-town drive loop was the 2013 Fusion Hybrid. It features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor mated to a continuously variable transmission. It is expected to achieve 47 mpg both in the city and on the highway. Besides its powertrain, the experience in the Hybrid, even when it came to appearances, was very similar to that of the traditionally powered Fusions. It’s exceptionally quiet, yet offers the same family-sedan experience. Read our Quick Drive of the 2013 Fusion Hybrid, here.
 
The first car we drove was the 1.6 automatic. The engine was very quiet, but didn’t feel strained as we drove it up steep grades. Its torque peak is a relatively low 2500 rpm, which made it feel adequately quick in acceleration. There was just a little hesitation before the turbo could build up pressure and help get things flowing a bit more quickly.  The automatic transmission seemed very keen on keeping the revs as low as possible, which certainly helped with noise and fuel economy. In character, it offered a little bit of that peaky feeling many turbo engines offer, but it wasn’t dramatic. Power delivery was mostly linear feeling.
 
After a short drive in the SE, we were able to get behind the wheel of the 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium with all-wheel drive. In this car, power delivery felt very uniform. To us, the character of this engine seemed a lot more like that of a V-6 than a typical 2.0-liter turbo. The engine note was a bit more noticeable, and was also a lot more of a pleasing sound than the 1.6, giving it a bit of a muscular tone. The car was quick to accelerate. It had no trouble getting up to highway speeds, nor maintaining them, nor pushing them higher for passing maneuvers. The automatic transmission, though, still liked to keep the revs low for the most part.
 
2013 ford fusion rear pictureThis tester, however, was equipped with a nice pair of paddle shifters mounted to the back of the steering wheel. Using them, we were able to keep the revs a lot higher, which gave the 2.0-liter EcoBoost a rather racy sound. With the windows down, we could easily hear the whistling of the turbocharger as it built up and released pressure. Shifts came very quickly from the transmission when shifting with the paddles, which made using them feel especially rewarding.
 
We had significantly more time to drive the Titanium AWD, and we started to get a sense of the car’s handling (which, from what we could tell, wasn’t drastically dissimilar from the SE). The ride was very smooth and quiet, and not a lot of motion from the road transferred into the cabin, whether as jolts through the suspension or noise from the tires. The steering felt nicely weighted, and was rather progressive through the turns. We did notice ourselves having to make small mid-corner corrections through many of the longer, sweeping turns. The Fusion felt very planted, though, without much in the way of roll or wobbliness. With the all-wheel drive, it felt especially grippy, and we had a lot of lateral traction to work with.
 
Visibility was good in most driving situations. The only trouble we had was in left-hand corners of a certain angle, when the average-sized A-pillar would fall into the center of our vision, obstructing the view of the road ahead. Otherwise, though, the view felt commanding and inclusive, leaving little guesswork on our part.
 
The brakes in all the Fusions we drove took a little getting used to. They just didn’t have as sharp or progressive a response as we would have initially liked. We often found ourselves closing the distance on a stop sign having to feed in a lot more brake pedal as we got closer. Eventually we got used to it, but we prefer not to have to work so hard to get a vehicle to slow down in a more linear fashion.
 
As the miles piled on throughout the day, we didn’t find ourselves getting uncomfortable. The sturdy leather seats of the Titanium model still felt supportive after a couple hours of driving (as did the cloth seats of the SE models we drove) We found using the controls to be easy and intuitive, whether we were setting the temperature, choosing a radio station, or navigating the menu screen. It was all very understandable, and didn’t require us to take our eyes off the road for any significant amount of time. This was a place we didn’t mind spending time.
 
2013 Ford Fusion Side Motion PictureWe liked the sound system in the Titanium quite a bit. The music we listened to had rich bass, and clear, distinct middle and high frequency sound. Even as we turned the music up, it remained clear and undistorted.
 
After a while, we switched back into a 1.6 SE, this time equipped with the six-speed manual transmission. Instantly, this was our favorite of the new Fusion lineup. Having a manual gearbox on hand, we found it to feel nicely quick, and we were better able to take advantage of the 1.6’s full power. It really didn’t feel like we were sacrificing much from the 2.0, and we had no trouble building or maintaining speed. We found it no difficult task to chirp the front tires shifting into second gear, and even scubbing them a little bit as we switched into third. With this transmission, the 1.6 felt a lot more lively, and more pliant to our commands.
 
The shift throws were average in distance, but the operation of the shifter was so light, it was no problem shifting through the gears quickly. Every toss of the lever was sure-handed, and there was nothing vague about going from one gear to the next, nor about landing in the gate. It was all nice and tactile, solid, and most importantly, extremely trustworthy.
 
Plus, this car, with a little less weight to hold it back, felt just slightly more tossable in the turns than the Titanium we had just gotten out of. It was unequivocal that this would be the version of the 2013 Fusion we’d prefer to drive, and we think most enthusiast drivers would tend to agree. It just felt like it was more under our control, and that there was more going on between driver and vehicle.
 
We were definitely not disappointed by our experience with the new Fusion. It is very solid in both feeling and character, and offers all the practicalities we expect from a family sedan. It’s a nice car to drive, and affords users a lot of comfort and convenience. And, for drivers, it really doesn’t hurt to be able to have a bit of fun getting from point A to point B.
 
2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6 EcoBoost 6MT
Engine: Turbocharged inline-4, 1.6 liters, 16v
Output: 178 hp/184 lb-ft
Weight: 3333 lb
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy: 25/37 mpg
Base Price: $23,700