By Kelsey Mays on January 8, 2012
Car shoppers returned to family sedans in December, and a fresh round of products will greet them in 2012. Ford kicks things off with the next-generation Fusion, which hits U.S. dealers this fall and international markets as the Mondeo in early 2013.
Ford says 70% of consumers see midsize sedans as a lookalike group, and 43% who trade theirs in say they did so just to have something different. The Fusion cuts through this, falling into Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata territory for outside-the-box styling. Design cues mirror the Evos Concept from last year's Frankfurt Motor Show, with thin headlamps that sweep clear toward the front fenders and a low, forward grille. The beltline stays visually flat — in contrast to the rising lines on most sedans — and the bumper runs flush with the trunk lid, with integrated tailpipes beneath. Wheels range from 16 to 19 inches, and trim levels include the S, SE and Titanium. There will also be Fusion Hybrid and plug-in Energi models; the Energi arrives closer to the end of the year.Inside, the Fusion adopts MyFord Touch with a few more physical keys, as well as detents to help your fingers find the touch points. Thinner seats free up rear legroom, and Ford says it moved the dash closer to the windshield for an "airy, open environment" — a different tack from the larger Taurus, which is anything but. High-tech safety options rival many luxury cars, with lane departure warning and mitigation systems, drowsy-driver detection and adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning. A blind spot warning system, cross-traffic alert and Ford's automatic parking system are also optional.
Engines nearly match the Escape, with a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder standard. Ford markets the Fusion's two turbo four-cylinders under its EcoBoost banner: a 179-hp 1.6-liter and a 237-hp 2.0-liter. The latter will serve performance enthusiasts, as Ford has no plans for a V-6. A torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system will be optional on the 2.0-liter turbo. Across the board, Ford says it redesigned the Fusion's multilink rear suspension and improved its hood sealing, which should help quiet the cabin. The Fusion Hybrid and Energi get active noise cancelation.
All three engines team with a six-speed automatic, and the turbo 1.6-liter will have a six-speed manual option. Ford expects similar gas mileage with the base setup to last year's 2.5-liter Fusion, which ranged from 22/30 mpg city/highway to 23/33 mpg, depending on the trim — uncompetitive numbers for a base model. But Ford pulled out the stops with the 1.6-liter Fusion, which gets a start-stop system and 26/37 mpg. Ford expects the turbo 2.0-liter will rate 23/33 mpg. All three engines will run on regular-grade gas.
The Fusion Hybrid teams a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that runs on a more efficient Atkinson cycle to an electric motor, with 185 total hp. A lithium-ion battery powers the motor, which allows the Fusion Hybrid to cruise on electric power at speeds up to 62 mph. That's a 15-mph improvement over the last Fusion Hybrid. Ford maintains performance will be similar between the 2.0-liter Fusion Hybrid and its 2.5-liter predecessor, with overall gas mileage at 47/44 mpg — besting the outgoing car's 41/36 mpg, as well as the 2012 Camry Hybrid (up to 43/39 mpg) and Sonata Hybrid (35/40 mpg).
Ford anticipates the plug-in Fusion Energi, meanwhile, will get more than 100 mpg equivalent, beating quasi-competitors like the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius plug-in. With a full tank and battery charge, Ford estimates a 500-mile total range. Like other plug-in hybrids, the Energi car runs in EV mode until battery depletion, but standing on the gas calls up engine power — albeit at much higher thresholds than in the Fusion Hybrid. Total system output remains the same 185 hp.
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2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid
2013 Ford Fusion Energi
Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey