By Kelsey Mays on January 8, 2012
Last year, Ford design chief J Mays said he thought headlights on cars were getting out of hand. They're functional elements; there's no reason they need to be huge, Mays (no relation to me) said.
You can see the results for yourself on the 2013 Ford Fusion, whose thin headlights are only as big as they need to be. The Fusion's grille, on the other hand, is huge and slung forward, perched atop a lower inlet. At least most of it is functional, which is something I couldn't say for the grille on Ford's 2013 Lincoln MKS.
All in all, the Fusion looks sharp. Ford skipped the rising beltline — the norm on most sedans — for flatter lines, which make the C-pillars stretch even more rearward or at least appear to. The trunk sits flush with the bumper, an interesting cue that should keep the bumper from collecting dirt that ends up on your luggage or fingers. You might think this would lead to pricey repairs as there’s no clearance from behind before the trunk itself takes a hit, but Ford officials point to the "sacrifice panel." It's essentially a thick lower chunk to the trunk lid that serves as a top half to the bumper. Unfortunately, that adds weight to the trunk itself. It's heavy to lift, and the lid wants to close if you don't hold it up. For the sake of loading groceries, Ford says these are early, pre-production cars and they'll bolster the Fusion’s trunk arms by the time this car hits dealerships.
Inside, the Fusion has a thick center console, but it doesn't inhibit knee room as much as the Taurus' mammoth console. There’s room to stretch out, and tall drivers should find enough adjustment range in the driver’s seat. Except for a lot of silver-colored plastic trim in the show cars, cabin materials are good. Padding lines all the places you touch, even parts of the console your knees brush against. MyFord Touch, never a favorite of ours, works better than its earlier versions — climate and audio controls on the touch-sensitive panel responded readily — but a few menus on the Fusion’s touch-screen lagged. We’ll have to evaluate it in a production car, of course.
The Fusion’s backseat isn't as roomy as the backseats in the Honda Accord or Volkswagen Passat, but it sits high off the ground. Adults' knees won't dangle in the air as they do in too many family cars. Visibility from the driver’s seat is decent, with rear head restraints that stay mostly out of the way.
Ford says that the turbo 1.6-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder Fusion should get an impressive 26/37 mpg city/highway, and officials told me at last month’s auto show preview the 2.5-liter four-cylinder would attain something near the outgoing 2.5-liter Fusion (22/30 to 23/33 mpg). Here’s hoping Ford can move the needle on that. EcoBoost notwithstanding, I’d like to see the base engine, which comes standard on two of three trims, compete.
Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price. Email Kelsey