would like to sell more large, profitable trucks, but one of its biggest success stories is its Fusion
sedan, introduced in late 2005 as an early 2006 model. It’s offered with all-wheel-drive and extra features for 2007.
The solidly built mid-size Fusion
fits between Ford
’s full-size Five Hundred and compact Focus. It’s enjoyable to drive partly because it’s based on underpinnings of the Mazda 6. (Ford
owns part of Mazda.) Although it’s a Japanese car, the Mazda 6 provides a lively, European-style driving feel. Fusion
steering is precise and nicely weighted, the ride is supple with the all-independent suspension and the car is happy to tackle twisting roads. The brakes are OK, worked by a pedal that feels rather soft but has a progressive action.
models have front-drive, but my test top-line Fusion
SEL V-6 came with the car’s new traction-enhancing all-wheel-drive system. Other new features for 2007 include standard side air bags, which accompany front side air bags, an available navigation system, fold-down front passenger seat and audio upgrades.
has a forward-leaning stance, and its bright front end features prominent chrome grille bars and shimmering rectangular projector-beam headlights. The top and window area (the “greenhouse”) look rakish and sit atop a flowing, wedge-shaped body. The trim back end has chrome taillight trim and chromed dual-exhaust outlets that help give the Fusion
a high-performance look.
My test Fusion
looked especially good because it had a newly available dealer-installed “3-D Carbon’’ body kit that Ford
says costs approximately $2,000. It contains such items as a front spoiler, special rocker panels and a rear spoiler, besides lower rear fascia with more-pronounced integrated dual-exhaust outlets.
The interior is quiet, except for some highway speed wind noise. It has supportive front bucket seats and crisply styled gauges that have a custom appearance. A tilt/telescopic wheel and manual or automatic height-adjustable driver’s seat provide a comfortable driving position for people of various sizes.
On the downside are small, nearly flush audio and climate control buttons. And the windshield wiper controls on the turn signal stalk to the left of the steering wheel are a little difficult to work.
The lack of a lock on the door of the fairly large glove compartment shows cost-cutting, but each front door has a pocket and beverage holder. Dual front cupholders are nicely positioned on the front console, which contains a deep, two-level covered storage bin. But the shallow, covered storage area atop the dash is too shallow for much more than maps or tollway change.
comes in base S, mid-range SE and top-line SEL trim levels. It is aggressively priced, compared with Japanese rivals such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Prices range from $17,295 for the base four-cylinder S to $23,825 for the new top SEL V-6 version with all-wheel drive. (The front-drive SEL V-6 is $21,975.)
Even the S is fairly well-equipped, with items including air conditioning, cruise control, split-folding rear seat, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and power windows, mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry.
The SE adds such items as a leather-wrapped wheel with radio controls, power driver seat, fog lights and alloy wheels. The SEL adds automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, automatic headlights and wider 50-series tires on 17-inch (vs. 16-inch) wheels.
Anti-lock brakes are a $595 option for Fusion
s and are required for the all-wheel-drive system. Traction control is offered for front-drive V-6 models for $95, but requires the anti-lock brake option.
A $795 power sunroof is optional only for the SE and SEL, and leather upholstery costs $895 for only those models. You can get the SEL with $295 heated front seats if it has leather upholstery.
The Mazda-sourced 2.3-liter four-cylinder has 160 horsepower and delivers an estimated 23 mpg in the city and 31 on highways with its five-speed manual gearbox and 24 and 32 with its $850 five-speed automatic transmission.
The manual doesn’t have the best shift linkage, and the dual-overhead-camshaft, 16-valve four-cylinder provides just adequate performance on highways. Ford
’s ubiquitous 3-liter, 221-horsepower Duratec V-6 delivers more torque and faster acceleration.
The V-6 is available only with an alert six-speed automatic, which has no manual shift feature. Estimated economy is 21 mpg city and 29 highway with front-drive and 19 and 26 with all-wheel drive. Both engines require only 87-octane gasoline.
There are large outside handles on long doors, which open wide to allow easy entry/exit to both front and rear seats. The Fusion
easily accommodates four 6-footers, or five in a pinch. However, the rather hard center of the back seat is best left to a fold-down armrest.
The large trunk has a low, wide opening. Its lid raises well out of the way on hydraulic struts, but has a felt-type liner that looks and feels flimsy. Rear seatbacks drop flat to considerably increase the cargo area when they’re released via levers in the trunk. But the heavy hood must be held open by a prop rod.
Approximately 125,000 Fusion
s were sold during the first 10 months this year, which shows that people are receptive to above-average American cars.