Svelte Sedan

2013-02-13T00:00:00Z Svelte SedanBy Jim Gorzelany CTW Features nwitimes.com
February 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Fordís Fusion stands out in a crowded field of midsize cars, though not entirely for the right reasons

The redesigned-for-2013 Ford Fusion midsize sedan is arguably one of the handsomest rides on the road. It also comes close to being one of the most improved models of the year, though a step or two in the wrong direction detract from the carís giant leaps forward.

We recently had the chance to take a Ford Fusion Hybrid for a weekís test drive, and found it to be everything a family-minded midsize car should be: responsive, roomy, quiet and fuel-efficient. The carís styling really stands out, with a dramatic front-end treatment that seems lifted from a $200,000 Aston Martin. A sleek roofline, thin roof pillars and subtle creases that reach front to rear give it an energetic profile.

The Fusion Hybrid is powered by a 2.0-liter 141-horsepower gasoline engine and gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT) thatís augmented by an electric motor-generator and self-charging lithium-ion battery pack, which delivers brisk V6-like acceleration. It can run solely on battery power for brief periods at speeds up to 62 mph and shuts down the gasoline engine while idle to save fuel. Unfortunately, while our tester registered an impressive 36.5-mpg in mixed city/highway driving, thatís far from the vehicleís official 47-mpg rating.

A plug-in Fusion Energi version comes with a larger battery pack that allows it to run for 20 miles on electric power before it operates as a standard hybrid. As the name implies, it must be charged via wall outlet to garner an EPA-rated equivalent of 100 mpg, and this drops to 43 mpg once the gasoline engine kicks in.

Otherwise, the Fusion offers a standard 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, or available turbocharged 1.6- and 2.0-liter fours at 173 and 231 horsepower, with most versions including a six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is sufficiently lively with either of those powerplants, and fuel economy ranges between 26 and 29 mpg city/highway.

The Fusionís suspension is tuned on the sporty side in the European tradition (itís sold overseas as the Ford Mondeo), affording crisp and capable handling with ample steering feedback while it maintains a decently smooth ride. Our tester was fitted with a full array of motoring technology, including blind-spot, forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems ñ the latter also helps nudge the car back into a lane if necessary. Active cruise control can maintain a set speed and distance from the traffic ahead. The Fusion also offers a novel ìactive park assistî feature that can automatically steer the car into a parallel parking space.

The sedanís cabin is spacious and elegantly designed. Thereís ample legroom and headroom front and rear for four adult riders, with a fifth rider able to squeeze in the backseat, though not as comfortably. The carís seats are trimmed with eco-minded fabric made of recycled sustainable yarns, though we found them to be unrelentingly hard and oddly bolstered, which makes an hourís trip to suburbia an aching proposition.

Worse, the Fusion comes with the latest incarnation of the automakerís MyFord Touch infotainment system that swaps traditional gauges, buttons and most dials with a confounding series of configurable LCD displays, a menu-driven touchscreen monitor and odd dashboard ìtouchpoints.î Suffice it to say, the system has a steep learning curve, and even when mastered, it can be frustrating to operate. Fortunately, many functions can also be operated via steering wheel-mounted buttons and voice commands, the latter via Fordís more-amenable Sync multimedia control system.

Prices across the line are competitive and start at $21,700 for a conventionally powered version and $27,200 for the hybrid. The fully loaded models reach into the $30,000 range. The plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi is more of a stretch, however, at a whopping $38,700.

© CTW Features

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