By KBB.com Editors
To compete in today's midsize sedan arena a car needs to stand out, in both style and performance. The Ford Fusion is just such a cara 180-degree turnabout from the lackluster Ford Taurus it replaces and a major homerun for Ford. Although designed here in the U.S., the Fusion borrows much of its chassis and drivetrain from its Japanese cousin, the Mazda Mazda6. It is the merging of American styling and Japanese hardware that makes the Fusion such a terrific value, offering superior handling, good fuel economy and low emissions (rated as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle or PZEV in California). However, almost certainly due to an anticipated lack of much market demand, Ford didn't see fit to place a manual transmission in the V6-powered models, essentially cutting short the Fusion's potential as a bona fide driving enthusiast's car.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a five-passenger sedan that doesn't dissolve into obscurity when left in a parking lot, check out the Fusion. It offers more distinctive styling than the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, yet it's priced closer to the Civic and Corolla.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a sedan with higher fuel economy figures or more resale value, the Accord and Camry are better choices.What's Significant About This Car?
Front side-impact airbags and side-curtain airbags become standard, as does an auxiliary audio input jack. The SE model receives a fold-down passenger seat, 16-inch wheels, fog lamps and a six-disc CD/MP3 player, while an all-wheel-drive option is made available on the V6 SE and SEL trim levels.Driving It Driving Impressions
With a chassis that offers what Ford claims is class-leading torsional rigidity, the Fusion is a solid performer. Its sophisticated short- and long-arm front suspension, which offers geometry that's superior to the nearly-ubiquitous MacPherson strut arrangement, helps the Fusion deliver handling that rivals a European sports sedan. That feeling is enhanced by the power rack-and-pinion steering that is mounted to a front sub-frame to minimize vibration and noise. Even the four-cylinder-equipped Fusion has more-than-adequate power, but we recommend the 3.0-liter V6, because there is very little fuel economy penalty for its greater power and superior drivability.Favorite Features
One of the reasons for the Fusion's immediate popularity is that it provides a lot of interior room and cargo space for the money.
Despite Ford Motor Company's significant operations in Europe, the Fusion has Mazda underpinnings, but the chassis and suspension capture the European feel for which its engineers were aiming.
The Ford Fusion's interior continues the "bold American" theme of the exterior with an added twistfreedom of choice. While most other cars in the class offer just two or three color choices for the same basic interior, Fusion offers three different interior themes (the S trim offers two), including Charcoal Black with oatmeal-colored stitching. The round analog instruments are easy to read, and the steering wheel includes integrated cruise control switches as standard equipment. Headroom, legroom and shoulder room are all very representative of the segment as a whole, while the trunk spaceat 15.8 cubic feetis substantially larger than many competitors, including the Accord.Exterior
The Fusion's exterior design began with the dynamic exterior of the Ford 427 concept car, including the three-bar grille and trapezoidal, multi-element projector-beam headlamps. In the current production idiom the wheels are pulled out to the corners of the car but, unlike conventional practice these days, the shape features some fairly sharp edges and a "box-on-wedge" profile. Even on its base 16-inch wheels the Fusion looks properly grounded, but it looks even better with the P225/50R17 tires on the alloy wheels with the five split-spoke design, and the front end has an artful appearance that features a well-integrated, nearly flush bumper below the chrome grille.Notable Standard Equipment
The base S model features front side-impact airbags, side-curtain airbags, power door locks with keyless remote entry, power mirrors and power windows with "one-touch-down" function for the driver's side, 16-inch wheels, AM/FM stereo with single MP3-compatible CD player, air conditioning and rear-seat armrest with built-in cup holders. The base 2.3-liter engine can be paired with a five-speed manual transmission or the optional five-speed automatic. Also standard are niceties like halogen headlamps, tilt/telescopic steering wheel and cruise control. The SE adds aluminum wheels, fog lamps, six-disc CD changer, power driver's seat and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. The SEL adds 17-inch wheels, automatic climate control and heated mirrors.Notable Optional Equipment
As an alternative to the standard four-cylinder engine, a 221-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 is a key item on the option list, and it is backed by a six-speed automatic transmission. Anti-lock brakes (ABS), leather seats, a moonroof and all-wheel drive (V6 only) are also among the available options. A pair of premium audio systems is offeredboth feature six-disc CD changers and MP3 capability. Shortly after the model launch, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, DVD navigation and a rear spoiler will be offered, but only on the SE and SEL trim levels.Under the Hood
The standard 2.3-liter in-line four-cylinder engine delivers good drivability and more-than-acceptable acceleration. It is a good choice if you want to keep the initial outlay low or you must have a manual transmission. For most buyers, though, we recommend the 221-horsepower 3.0-liter V6. It's matched with a six-speed automatic that helps contribute to its laudable fuel economy.
2.3-liter in-line 4
160 horsepower @ 6250 rpm
156 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 (manual), 24/32 (automatic)
221 horsepower @ 6250 rpm
205 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28
The Fusion S has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $17,995, while the V6-powered SE stickers for $21,580 and the V6 SEL is $22,675. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows the typical transaction price being paid for a Fusion in your area, so be sure to arm yourself with this figure before you begin negotiating. Although a great initial bargain, the Fusion's only downside is its average resale value. While the Ford Fusion should do about as well as its domestic competitors, top Japanese-brand models will return higher resale values over time.