Thursday, April 16, 2009
2010 Fusion is Ford's best midsize sedan in decades
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
I didn't think Ford could build a midsize sedan this good.
The 2010 Fusion midsize sedan jumps to the head of its class for fuel economy, features, value, looks and comfort.
At the point in a vehicle's lifecycle where most automakers tweak the grille and lights -- mid-cycle freshening is the industry term -- Ford rethought and reworked every part of the Fusion your eyes, hands and the seat of your pants interacts with.
The result is the first Ford midsize sedan since the original 1986 Taurus that you must test before you buy any of its competitors. Otherwise, you'll never know what you're missing.
The original Fusion went on sale just three years ago. The 2010 model keeps that model's platform -- the floor pan and basic structure -- but otherwise is virtually all new. A distinctive new exterior, a vastly improved interior, new engines and transmissions. A raft of features you can't get on any other midsize sedan.
Prices for the 2010 Ford Fusion start at $19,270 for a front-wheel drive model with a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission.
A six-speed automatic is also available, as are all-wheel drive and a 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 and 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Ford also offers a hybrid version of the Fusion that I reviewed in January.
The top model in the line, an AWD Sport model with the 3.5-liter engine, stickers at $27,675. All prices exclude destination charges.
I tested two Fusions, a nicely equipped SE with the four-cylinder engine, manual transmission and a $21,440 sticker price; and an option-laden Sport AWD with the 3.5-liter and automatic transmission that cost $30,670.
Both cars represent excellent values. The SE would compete with four-cylinder midsize sedans like the Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. The jaunty Sport takes on models like the Acura TSX and TL, Nissan Maxima and Subaru Legacy.
The Fusion's chassis is among the best in its class, providing a comfortable ride and very good handling.
Ford left those virtues unchanged, but gave the 2010 model a new trunk lid, hood, grille, headlight and taillights.
The changes pay off, injecting an elegant and refined look into what had been an attractive but somewhat bland car.
The interior got an even more thorough makeover. Every surface is now covered in high-quality soft-touch materials, with tastefully applied, lighter-colored accents.
The hood on the Sport model I tested was poorly fitted, with a noticeably wider gap to the right fender than the left, but fit and finish were otherwise excellent in both.
New features include the latest generation of the breakthrough Sync system Ford developed with Microsoft. In addition to hands-free control of mobile phones, iPods and other audio, Ford has added a voice-controlled navigation system that functions as well or better than what any luxury brand offers.
The Fusion also now offers blind-spot alert and an ultrasonic rear parking assist that peeks around the corner when you back out of a parking space to warn of oncoming cross traffic.
Both engines provide ample power.
The six-speed manual transmission had a precise and easy motion, while the automatic was smooth and quick. Brake feel is excellent, and the steering feel, which I found heavy in the original Fusion, is considerably better in four-cylinder models.
The AWD Sport has the looks, performance and features to make Audi, Lexus and Subaru nervous about the prices of their all-wheel drive sport sedans.
The SE hugged curves and demonstrated again how enjoyable a well-engineered front-wheel drive four-cylinder car can be.
The fuel economy with all powertrain combinations is at or near the top of its class.
The 2007 Fusion was a good car; the 2010 is an unexpectedly great one. Sometimes, the second time is the charm.
Contact MARK PHELAN: email@example.com or 313-222-6731.
Competitive EPA fuel economy ratings
(automatic transmission models)
Ford Fusion...23 m.p.g. city/34 m.p.g. highway
Chevrolet Malibu ...22/33
Honda Accord ...21/30
Nissan Altima ...23/31
Ford Fusion ...18/27 (All-wheel drive: 17/24)
Chevrolet Malibu ...18/29
Honda Accord ...19/29
Toyota Camry ...19/28
Ford Fusion ...41/36
Saturn Aura ...26/34
Toyota Camry ...33/34
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