Ford is introducing a new midsize sedan for the 2006 model year. Named the Fusion, the new four-door was inspired by design elements in Ford's 427 concept car, which toured the auto show circuit in 2003.
The Fusion slots between the company's compact Focus and flagship Five Hundred sedan and comes with a choice of four-cylinder or V-6 power. The car's new architecture will be used for as many as 10 vehicles in North America.
Fusion sedans are manufactured in Hermosillo, Mexico. Sales of the Fusion begin in fall 2005, and Mercury is introducing a related Milan sedan this year. Lincoln's new Zephyr sedan is also similar to the Fusion.
An all-wheel-drive version of the Fusion will be launched about a year after the front-wheel-drive model goes on sale. A Fusion sedan with a gasoline/electric hybrid powertrain that promises greater gas mileage is planned for 2008.
Design cues adapted from the 427 concept sedan include a chrome three-bar grille and multielement projector-beam headlights. A chrome strip decorates the lower edge of the side windows. The mirrors are designed to deflect air downward. Five-spoke alloy wheels are installed.
Three distinct interior themes are available for the Fusion, which seats up to five occupants. Standard equipment includes a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable driver's seat. The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold flat with spring assistance, which provides a pass-thru to the trunk.
Available features include heated front seats and an in-dash six-CD changer that can read MP3-encoded discs. Trunk capacity is 15.8 cubic feet. Ford claims the trunk has a flat load floor and a low liftover height for the trunk opening. The Fusion's compact trunk hinges won't crush cargo.
Ford says interior designers wore size 14 shoes to affirm that a larger person could enter and exit the Fusion without difficulty. They achieved such a goal by moving the rear door as far back toward the C-pillar as possible. An optional charcoal-black leather interior with oatmeal-colored seat stitching and Piano Black trim was inspired by the 427 concept.
Under the Hood
The Fusion's 2.3-liter four-cylinder develops 160 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. The available 3.0-liter V-6 produces 221 hp at 6,250 rpm. Both dual-overhead-cam engines have intake variable camshaft timing, four valves per cylinder and electronic throttle control. The four-cylinder can team with either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic, but the V-6-powered Fusion works only with a six-speed automatic.
All-disc brakes are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are optional.
While it's not quite as earthshaking as Ford marketers suggest, the Fusion is a credible four-door sedan that's priced reasonably, has appealing fuel economy and delivers satisfying road behavior. Performance with the V-6 is better than the midsize norm, and the Fusion's six-speed automatic functions capably. Some gear changes are virtually seamless and others are mildly noticeable, but none are awkward or bothersome.
This sedan maneuvers smartly through narrow, curvy roads and follows the driver's lead without much fuss. However, when a curve is especially tight and speed is relatively high, the Fusion does start to lose its confident sure-footedness. On smooth highways and expressways, the Fusion rides comfortably. When the surface gets bumpy, the sedan can transmit quite a few jolts to occupants. The brakes behave well in demanding driving and are easy to modulate.
Curious-looking gauges aren't the easiest to read at a glance, and the fuel and temperature gauges are tiny. Slipping into the front seat is a breeze, and space is abundant. Well-cushioned, supportive seats are installed. Backseat space isn't quite as ample as expected from a midsize sedan; some passengers' knees could touch the front seatback, and the center rear position is no pleasure.
Visibility is a little limited by the modestly sized back window and wide rear pillars. The sizable glove box is easy to reach, and the spacious trunk is easy to load.
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