Ford’s latest salvo in the war against the annoyingly-dominant Honda Accord and Toyota Camry has been turning heads, and it’s easy to see why with just one look. Is the Fusion more than a pretty face, though? To find out, we drove it in a very unorthodox environment: a frozen test track in rural Michigan. Sure, the Fusion can tackle the morning commute, but will it lose its cool on ice?
The Fusion really steps ahead of the pack with its styling. In a segment that includes lookers like the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Mazda6, the Ford’s chiseled lines and sleek profile still stand out. The 2013 Ford Fusion is so good looking, buying one could almost be considered a public service because it would give everyone else something nice to look at while they’re stuck in traffic.
Unfortunately, that peerless design fades away when you open the door. The interior is a mix of different plastics, including tacky wood-like material and a glossy black material that looks like it will scratch and smudge easily.
The center stack’s touchscreen is enclosed by ridges like on some other Ford models, which does improve usability. However, between the touchscreen, center stack, buttons, steering wheel buttons, and the multifunction gauge display, there’s a lot for the driver to take in.
The (optional) MyFord Touch infotainment system has probably received as much criticism as the Fusion’s styling has received praise. It looks like that will remain the case for the time being. While Ford has tried to fix the system’s lag with software tweaks, the system still behaves erratically, and remains sluggish when rifling through various menus.
Infotainment aside, the seats were comfortable, but also do a good job of holding the driver in place during cornering. It was easy to find a good driving position, and the rear seats were also surprisingly roomy.
We drove a front-wheel drive Fusion SE with the 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, and an all-wheel drive Fusion Titanium with the 2,0-liter EcoBoost. The 1.6 produces 173 horsepower (178 hp on premium) and 184 pound-feet of torque; the 2.0 bumps those figures to 231 hp (240 hp on premium) and 270 lb-ft. Both cars had six-speed automatic transmissions and wore all-season tires.
While the Fusion’s natural habitat is a Starbuck’s parking lot, it also handled quite well on the snow and ice in Michigan. We were able to hold a stable drift in the all-wheel drive car around a snow-covered circular track, and it was very predictable and controllable on the short handling courses we tried.
Even the front-wheel drive SE was able to maintain its composure. It was able to reach the same speeds we got out of the all-wheel drive car, albeit with much more effort and for shorter periods of time.
Both Fusions were very lively, with quick steering and engines that were eager to rev, allowing us to make the most of what limited traction we had. With Ford’s electronic all-wheel drive and torque vectoring systems at work, we felt pretty comfortable, even while sideways. If you want to drive through a nuclear winter in style, this is the car for you.
Ford relies on its turbocharged EcoBoost engines to do the job of a naturally aspirated V6, with a resulting fuel economy payoff. The 1.6-liter/six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive combination is rated at 24 mpg city, 37 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined by the EPA. The 2.0-liter engine with an automatic and all-wheel drive is rated at 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.
With so many choices, it’s not surprising that the Fusion covers a wide price range. A starting price of $20,995 buys a base Fusion S with a 2.5-liter Duratec four; upgrading to an EcoBoost SE like our test car will raise that number to $25,060 before options. The all-wheel drive Titanium starts at $32,745. There’s more: a loaded plug-in Fusion Energi Titanium starts at $39,495.
Every time an American manufacturer takes on the lauded Camry and Accord, it makes for an interesting story, mostly because it never seems to work out. With the 2013 Fusion, Ford tried to hit the Japanese titans where they are weakest by concentrating on style, handling, and tech.
The Fusion’s gorgeous exterior is hampered by its underwhelming interior and complex infotainment interface. Hardcore techies might find that enticing, but other buyers may not want to deal with the tech bells and whistles.
However, as a car, the Fusion works. It’s fuel efficient, comfortable, and surprisingly nimble on snow and ice. With such a good base to work off of, let’s hope Ford can fix the ergonomic issues and turn the Fusion into a midsize sedan that is more than just a pretty face.
- An ordinary car with extraordinary styling
- Frugal yet powerful engines
- Available all-wheel drive
- Fun to drive
- A unique choice in a sea of Hondas and Toyotas
- Chintzy interior
- Too many buttons
- Optional MyFord Touch can cause headaches
- Gets expensive very quickly with options