Ford Fusion: Fordable.

By The Car Family

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Price, appearance, and utility make the Ford Fusion a potent new player in the compact car field where powerhouses in the form of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry have frolicked unchallenged for a decade. And, if your order the Fusion V6 model, you are also going to also have a price advantage over competing models from Volkswagen, Mazda, and Nissan when comparable equipped. In other words, this affordable Ford offers amply rewards for the price, but beware, you get what you pay for.

Call us crazy, but we liked the Ford 500 even with its limited output engine. It was comfortable, compliant, and well priced. Available as an all wheel drive vehicle, it provided a family friendly vehicle that could be used year round with plenty of room for everyone and everything. Of course, we also think that the Ford Crown Victoria is a sleeper and a bargain of first-rate magnitude if you want more power. So when Ford presented us with its Fusion we were eager to test its merits. We weren’t disappointed. In fact, if Honda had not brought out its zippy Civic the Fusion would be our car of the year.

Clearly, this isn’t your father’s Taurus as it is more eager to please, not nearly as bean shaped, and quite capable of cornering without drama. It is, in fact, a combination of Mazda 6 and Honda Accord for well under $20,000 (US). And, if you are a good shopper, you can have one for far less.

Of course, there is some need for improvement starting with the very large turning circle that is nearly 40 feet. That means tight parking sports are best left for patient drivers. Secondly, the engine is noisy at full throttle and the interior is not as quiet as its rivals over unkept roads. The furnishing in the cabin are in need of enhancement and so if you desire a little more attitude try the Fusions more upscale sisters, the Lincoln Zephyr and the Mercury Milan. We highly recommend you drive all of these models because although they are similar under the skin, they have distinct personalities. We actually like the Milan better.

Mom’s view: An attractive new model moved into our neighborhood and I was a bit smitten by him. The fact that he looked different, not strange in a Taurus way, but dignified and different made me eager to test his merits. I quickly realized he was frugal, averaging 23-mpg average in mixed driving and offered very good insurance rates. Yep, this Fusion is a player alright.

Inside, the seats were fairly comfortable and easy to adjust, and I sat higher than in many sedans. A tilt/telescope steering wheel was easy to grip, but it could have used a better quality leather cover. Unfortunately, the interior materials looked and felt dated and the storage compartment on the top of the dash was very hard to open. The steering wheel controls were difficult to find without taking your eyes off the road, the windshield wiper stalk settings were too sensitive, and the turn signal lever takes getting used to. The key remote worked well, but not at great distances, and the trunk popped up enough to get your hand under, but not without getting it dirty. Ford really needs to get a woman designer to help with its ignition key as it snags on most everything in your purse.

Storage room is very good with a two tiered center console, good-sized cupholders, ample, but shallow door bins, and an easy to access rear trunk with nearly 16 cubic feet of room. The backseats are easy to fold flat and more than double the cargo area. Unfortunately, the trunk does not allow for big boxes due to its height which is why a station wagon would be so nice.

I never could get the Fusion to accelerate from a stop smoothly as it was way too playful. Once underway it behaved better, but the automatic transmission took too long to make up its mind when climbing small grades with the family onboard. Otherwise, driving the Fusion was a pleasure. I never felt like the 3300 pound Ford wasn’t eager to please and with a better tire choice would be good in the snow. I wouldn’t call it a sporty car compared to the Mazda, with sportish being a more applicable name for this new Ford.

In the future look for a hybrid model and also an all wheel driver version. Unfortunately, the side crash test scores weren’t that good, but Ford has asked to have the model retested with the optional airbags. I would never buy a vehicle without this option anyway, so I await the new testing results with more optimism. Other crash test scores were good. Personally, I really don’t get V6 engines in cars in this size and weight category. The four cylinder model with its 160 horsepower engine has plenty of poke and I found that the V6’s 221 horsepower wasn’t that remarkable different in real life driving. You also get about ten percent better fuel economy with the four cylinder.

Dad’s view: If you want to go fast go elsewhere. Even with the 221 horsepower rated V6 the acceleration isn’t up to the competition and most of that is caused by a lack of low-end grunt. The plus side is fairly good fuel mileage ratings on regular. Since I don’t consider the Fusion as anything but a family sedan, I would opt for the four-cylinder engine and save money and gas. The Fusion does handle smartly considering its mission in life, and comes with very good four-wheel disc brakes. The optional ABS, a must for snow driving, is a little to touchy for my tastes, but once you make clear you want action there is no mistaking that this Ford knows when to hold-em.

You can figure on getting to 100 km in under nine seconds, but if this is intended to be a sporty sedan there needs to be an autostick feature to help the six speed automatic make up its mind. The 17-inch rims and tires look sharp and help control the tall Fusion. I would try to Lincoln and Mercury models if you really want to see the difference suspension makes to basically the same car.

Essentially, this is a winner for Ford. It offers more than the Japanese and German competition at a better price point and only lacks some refinement to make it a class leader. Clearly, Ford made some trade-offs in its decisions such as going with a 3.0-liter engine V6 versus the 3.5 liters others offer. But as a whole this is good value.

College going male’s view: Poor radio reception negates a potent audio system in the Fusion. The stereo unit offers plenty of power and offers MP3 versatility and an available 6-disc changer and 8 speakers with its Audophile system. I like the urgency of the sound, but I would shop around to upgrade.

Always on the lookout for new cars priced under $20,000, I found the Fusion tempting with a base two grand under that MSRP and Ford dealers very willing to deal even for those of us with low 600 credit scores (don’t ask). Of course, you can drive that price up by selecting the SEL model and its V6 with six-way power driver’s seat, upgraded speakers, steering wheel cruise and audio controls, trip computer, fog lights, leather steering wheel, automatic climate control, 6-disc CD, and 17-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust, and antilock brakes standard. Options are the extra airbags plus an alarm, antilock brakes, traction control, moonroof, leather seats and seat Audiophile stereo, alloy wheels, and the Premium Package of heated mirrors with puddle lights, auto-dimming mirror, compass, and automatic headlights. The pricing of these is quite good so it would be hard for me to resist any of them.

Now, would I want one? Yes, indeed. In black and with the SE features. Cheap to insure, good gas mileage, and distinctive enough to show my individuality.

Young working woman’s view: You can’t help but like the look of the Fusion, but the interior was too bland and the ride too oh hum. I want to make a statement with what I drive and this Ford is too mainstream. However, for a working family, young couple, or as a daily commuter it works well. Regardless, it is fair value and I only hope that those with Toyota/Honda hideboundness are willing to give it a drive.

Family conference: A new vehicle well timed and well needed by Ford, the Fusion only lacks some additional models such as a station wagon, all wheel drive, and planned hybrid to make it a staple of the North American driveway. For a complete list of vehicle websites go to and click on business.