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First Drive: 2013 Ford Fusion Takes on the Midsize Sedan Segment (Review)

2013_Ford_Fusion_Review
20 years ago Ford dominated the midsize sedan segment with the Ford Taurus, but then by the mid-nineties Ford lost its footing with the 1996 Taurus. Today the Accord, Altima and Camry continue to lead the segment, but is Ford ready to take back the top spot with the all-new 2013 Fusion? The Ford Fusion was first released back in 2006 and since then Ford's midsize sedan has been steadily gaining market share. Now Ford is pulling out all the stops to take on the its rivals.

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How Does It Look?
The first thing you will notice about the new 2013 Fusion is its much sexier styling. Of course the first thing that everyone calls out is the Aston Martin-like face, which does work well on the Fusion, but the rest of the sedan also makes you take a second look. Compared to the more less aggressive new Honda Accord, the Fusion brings a level of style that is needed in the midsize sedan segment.

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What's the Interior Like?
The 2013 Fusion's interior comes with everything you expect today in the segment. It's quiet, spacious and comfortable. The materials inside feel a class above and definitely better than the new Altima, but the new Accord has a bit more interior room. Overall the Fusion's dash has a simple layout that features all the latest technology that you expect. Buyers can choose the MyFord Touch system with its eight-inch screen that houses all of the controls for the Bluetooth system, navigation and audio systems. The system also houses the controls for the climate control system, which could be a bit annoying for some less techy drivers. For example it took us too long to figure out how to adjust the seat heaters. The Fusion also is full of new safety technology like the Blind Spot Alert System, Lane Keeping System, and Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Warning. Speaking of the Forward Collision System... it was really cool that it alerted us to a tree branch in the road during our quick drive around Manhattan.

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What's Under the Hood?
Ford is going to offer the 2013 Fusion with five different engines, three four-cylinders and two hybrids. Ford is joining Hyundai, Kia and Chevy who all no longer offer a V6 engine in their midsize sedans. Instead of a large V6, the top engine in all of their midsize sedans relies on a turbocharger to make things fun. In this case the top engine in the Ford Fusion is the turbocharged 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that generates 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft. of torque. The 2.0L is rated at 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. Compare this to the new Accord's top engine, which is a 3.5L V6 with 278 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque. The Accord V6 is rated at 21 mpg city and 34 mpg on the highway.

The other two four-cylinder engines are the turbocharged 1.6L EcoBoost that generates 184 horsepower and the naturally-aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder that generates the least horsepower in the Fusion with only 175 horsepower. The 2.0L and 2.5L engines come standard with a six-speed automatic, while the 1.6L can be equipped with either a six-speed automatic or manual transmission. The 1.6L EcoBoost with the six-speed manual is the most fuel-efficient of the non-hybrid Fusions with a 25/37 mpg rating, while the automatic equipped 1.6L is slightly lower at 25/36 mpg. The 2.5L is rated at 22/34 mpg.

Ford is also offering a new start/stop system on the1.6L engine for $295. "We expect the average Fusion driver with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and Auto Start-Stop will save about $1,100 more than other midsize sedan owners during five years of driving," said Samantha Hoyt, Fusion marketing manager. "That's cash in their pocket and time saved with fewer trips to the pump."

The other two powertrains in the Fusion are a standard hybrid model and a new plug-in hybrid. Both are powered by a new 2.0L Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine and an electric motor with a combined output of 185 horsepower. The Fusion Hybrid has a rating of 47/47/47 mpg making it the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan in America. Ford hasn't announced the ratings for the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid, but it is expected to deliver more than 100 MPGe. The Fusion Energi will arrive early next year and will go head to head with the Accord plug-in hybrid.

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How Does it Drive?
On our quick drive around Manhattan we were able to get some time behind the wheel of the Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion equipped with the 2.0L engine and the optional all-wheel-drive system.

The Fusion Titanium with the 2.0L engine was a joy to drive. It's turbocharged engine had more than enough power to blast us up the West Side Highway. The engine had a sweet sound and it's six-speed automatic transmission never had a problem selecting the right gear. Compared to the Accord V6 we tested last month, the Accord still felt a bit stronger, but the Fusion drives like a smaller car. We kept commenting on how small and nimble the Fusion felt behind the wheel.

The Fusion Hybrid is rated at 47 MPG, which is not that far off from the popular Toyota Prius. While the Toyota Prius may be able to squeeze out a few extra miles, the Fusion Hybrid is a lot more fun to drive. The Fusion Hybrid canreach speeds up to 62 mph in electric mode and with the pedal to the floor, the Fusion Hybrid has more get up and go than a lot of other hybrids on the market.

Would We Buy One?
The 2013 Ford Fusion starts at $21,700, while our fully optioned Fusion Titanium with all-wheel-drive carries a price tag around $38k. The Fusion Hybrid starts at $27,200. With its new stylish exterior, upgraded interior materials and turbocharged engines, the 2013 Fusion is a highly competitive midsize sedan that should help Ford battle the Camry, Accord and Altima.

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