With its 2013 redesign, the new Fusion's taking the same bold design leap that the original Taurus did in 1986, and that leap cements the its place in the very top tier of family sedans. The good looks are now gorgeous; the road manners, if anything, have grown even more athletic. The packaging's better for adults, even in back--and with new hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, this isn't just the most fuel-efficient Fusion ever--it's the most fuel-efficient mid-size sedan you can buy, period.
We keep circling back to the Fusion's looks, because it's easy to spot the influences that accumulate to a very handsome, sleek whole. The front end bends and chamfers a hexagon grille between headlamps and foglamps in a way that's half-Aston, half-Hyundai. The roofline? Pure Audi A7 from at least the rear quarters, with the LED taillamps punctuating that point. The sideview's all Ford, though, and the other elements don't hang off it out of context--they flow seamlessly together. The interior's functional and sleek, especially with the touchscreen-driven MyFord Touch system and the other touch-sensitive controls that smooth out the center stack to a tablet-like finish. The transformation jolts the Fusion out of its vague anonymity into rock-star status.
The base 2.5-liter four likely won't live up to those air-guitar dreams, but either of the EcoBoost engines presents some tasty alternatives. The weaker four's standard on the two lesser Fusions; its 178 horsepower and six-speed automatic weren't made available by Ford for testing. Instead, we racked up a hundred miles plus in the EcoBoosts, first the 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. It's the replacement for the V-6 that's nowhere on the new Fusion's spec sheet, and it's fit for duty; it's quick to rev, and the automatic's shifts click quickly via paddle controls. The Fusion's a relative lightweight--with optional all-wheel drive on this model, it's about 3,700 pounds--so its nimble feel and well-tuned electric power steering make it more eager in driving feel than any other mid-size four-door we've driven. It corners firmly and flatly, with the right amount of give and travel, a combination that goes off-kilter in more than a few of the Fusion's top competitors.
There's also a 1.6-liter turbo four with 178 hp and an available six-speed manual; in the lightest Fusion, it also generates the best fuel economy numbers shy of the Fusion Hybrid (reviewed separately), up to an estimated 37 mpg highway. That's just 1 mpg shy of the best-in-class Altima, and several digits better than the outgoing Fusion.
A little longer overall than before, the Fusion has a much longer wheelbase, and it shows in better leg room, in any seating position. The seats themselves are thinner and firmer, just as in the 2013 Ford Escape, but we wouldn't mind sitting in them for hours, though we'd tilt the bottom cushion down in front on manual seats a bit more. Headroom's great without the optional sunroof, an unknown so far with one--Ford didn't make any glass-roofed vehicles available for testing. The trunk is 16 cubic feet, big for the class, and the Fusion has ample storage all around the cabin, with a stow space under the center stack, bottle holders in the doors, and a decently sized glovebox. The impression of quality is pretty high, especially with regard to noise damping and vibration quelling; the Fusion's doors close with the soft thump you feel more than you hear. Safety features include front knee airbags and standard Bluetooth, but no crash-test scores are yet available. The Fusion comes with climate and cruise control; the usual power features; a CD player and an auxiliary jack; cloth seats; tilt/telescoping steering; and steering-wheel audio and phone controls. At a base price of $22,495, it's a thousand dollars or more than its most value-oriented competition, a spread that grows wider when you're trying to match high-economy editions. The cheapest Nissan Altima with a 38-mpg highway rating is $21,500; the Fusion S gets 34 mpg highway, but to get to its best 37 mpg highway, you'll spend $25,290 for the smaller-displacement EcoBoost four. Power front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and a rearview camera are options, as are all-wheel drive and a suite of safety features like lane-keeping assist and active park assist.
Fully loaded, the Fusion barely tucks its nose in under $40,000, but there's a significant sweet spot in its powertrains and features at just under $30,000, where you'll find a 1.6-liter EcoBoost automatic with navigation, blind-spot monitors, leather seats, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors. At that price, the manual transmission's a no-cost option. We're just saying.
For more on the 47-mpg version of this new family sedan, see our review of the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid at thecarconnection.com.