The 2013 Fusion is the latest Ford to get the less-is-more treatment, at least when it comes to what's under the hood. Like the best-selling F-150, the Edge and Taurus, Ford is using smaller engines in its revamped midsize sedan while gaining both fuel efficiency and power in the process.

For the 2013 Fusion, on sale now and priced from $22,495 to the mid-$30,000 range, the V6 engine choices have been discontinued altogether, replaced by three different gasoline engines and a gas-electric hybrid. In coming months the Fusion lineup will grow further with the Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid that can be driven farther when using electricity alone.

For its second generation, the 2013 Fusion makes its entrance in a slightly larger, wonderfully svelte suit whose front may lead you to believe it's an Aston Martin at first glance. Particularly striking is its gaping grille and a hood that features multiple creases running to the windshield to create a sense of motion.

But Ford knows it will take more than just dazzling looks to compete in the bread-and-butter family sedan segment that includes the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu, and Volkswagen Passat, all of which have also undergone recent redesigns. Thus the 2013 Fusion debuts with two new small-displacement turbocharged 4-cylinder engines and a 4-cylinder gas-electric powertrain in addition to a carryover 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. Do the Fusion's new powerplants have the fuel economy and power to compete? Ford invited us to Santa Monica, California, to find out.

Thankfully, none of the new engine setups feel underpowered. In fact, with 240 horsepower, the top-line 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder has as many ponies and even more torque (270 lb-ft) than the 3.0-liter V6 of the outgoing model. Fuel economy, meanwhile, is rated at 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway for front-drive models, versus 20/28 for a similar V6 setup in the 2012 model. Connected to a mostly smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission and available in front- or all-wheel-drive, this 2.0-liter EcoBoost Fusion felt quick in a straight line and was among the most dynamic family sedans we've driven.

But you don't have to go full-boat to get a Fusion that's truly fun to drive. Enter the 1.6-liter EcoBoost. This engine can also be linked to a 6-speed automatic, and is now the sole Fusion available with a manual transmission. And what a manual it is. We really were not expecting such a light-yet-solid stick shift in a family sedan. Throws were short and effortless, and the clutch pedal was immensely easy to operate. The icing on the cake? Fuel economy. In this case, the 1.6-liter Fusion with manual transmission is rated at 25 mpg city/37 highway, or 23/36 with an auto transmission. If you're at the point in life where you need a 5-passenger midsize family sedan but are still clinging to the notion of owning a dynamic driver's car on a family-friendly budget, here's your match.

Last but certainly not least, we had a chance to put the 2013 Fusion Hybrid through the paces, and were just as impressed with its driving behavior. While not as quick as the others and with noticeable engine drone at full throttle, the hybrid powertrain is among the smoothest we've tested. The bane of some lesser hybrid powertrains is that you can feel the switch between the gasoline engine and electric motor. In stop-and-go traffic the continuous, perceptible cycling can make a bad commute even worse. That wasn't the case for the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, whose powertrain proved nearly seamless in its transitions. The setup pays off in both driving pleasure and the satisfaction you can have at the pump. With an EPA fuel-economy rating of 47 mpg combined for the hybrid, Ford proudly touts the Fusion as "the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in America."

Overall, we found very much to like in all three of the Fusions we tested. Our gripes were confined to the cabin, where the driver's space is narrower than most and the A-pillar - the side frame of the windshield - seems to get in the way more often. The latest version of the MyFord Touch telematics system that controls everything from climate to the radio is better but can still be frustrating, especially when you're trying to make changes on the screen at highway speeds. Other than those nits, our initial tests confirm that the all-new Fusion lives up to its name: Ford's 5-passenger midsize sedan is a true fusion of power, comfort, creature comforts, and fuel economy in one gorgeous package. 

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