Pros: Much more attractive styling than Camry, Accord, and Malibu.
Cons: Ergonomic errors. Torque steer. Some interior materials.
A little over two weeks ago, my girlfriend and I experienced our worst Valentine's Day ever. First of all, Philadelphia was hit with a combination snow / sleet storm that shut down all schools and many businesses during an otherwise mild winter. Second of all, my girlfriend drove all the way to her job only then to find out work was cancelled. My girlfriend is very punctual and allowed herself extra time to account for the bad weather. Her boss called her home number 10 minutes after my girlfriend left to tell her work was cancelled. Upon arriving at her building, some maintenance workers told her the office was closed due to the inclement weather. She then begins her return trek home when her blue 2005 Buick LaCrosse is rear-ended by a white van which also clips an orange 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier in the process. The van's driver doesn't stop but leaves her and the Cavalier's occupants explaining to the situation to the cops while standing in cold slushy snow on the shoulder of Roosevelt Boulevard for over an hour. Upon arriving home, my girlfriend has a headache and wants to go to the emergency ward of the local hospital. I'm waiting for hours at the hospital which leads me to cancel our reservation for dinner at a fine steakhouse downtown.
We rented a 2007 Ford Focus from Enterprise while her car was being repaired. This car was a base S model finished in maroon with a beige cloth interior. The most striking feature of this car is its styling with a bold chrome grille featuring four thick bars and canted stacked headlamps behind a clear cover. These features were cribbed from the beautiful Ford 427 concept car. I find the styling somewhat reminiscent of a 1965 Ford Galaxie. It's a compact/midsize car slotted between the Focus and the Five Hundred, a spot formerly occupied by the Contour. The Milan is the Fusion's Mercury cousin.
The base Fusion S is a front-wheel drive vehicle powered by a 2.3 litre fuel-injected dual overhead cam inline four-cylinder mated to a 5-speed automatic transaxle with overdrive. A five-speed manual is also available. A 221 hp 3.0 V-6 is available on the Fusion SE and SEL and standard on the all-wheel drive Fusion SEL.
The Fusion S is shod with P205/60R16 T all season blackwall tires on 16 x 6.5 inch steel wheels with plastic full wheel disks that do a poor imitation of alloy wheels. It features four-wheel independent suspension, front and rear stabilizer bars and double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension. What? No MacPherson struts? Hallelujah! I've always despised struts as they are a cheap cop-out for a suspension. It has four wheel disc brakes with ventilated front and solid rear disc rotors. ABS, however, is optional. This is cheap and dumb of Ford not to offer it as standard considering its current sales situation.
The car also features front and rear head airbags and passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation.
The driver faces an instrument panel with four easy to read round gages in a semicircular binnacle - a large tachometer and speedometer on each end with smaller fuel and temperature gages near the top center and a constellation of idiot lights below the smaller gages. In the center are controls for the AM/FM radio with CD player above three circular dials and three oblong buttons for the HVAC controls. A handy covered storage bin is on top of the dash panel. My girlfriend couldn't find the headlamp controls as they were placed far down on the lower left hand side of the dash panel. As a result, she drove home sans lights after dusk until I showed her the location upon her arrival home. This might seem like a careless goof on my girlfriend's behalf, but it's Ford's ergonomic error.
I was impressed with the crisp, clear sound of the stereo, but the HVAC seemed a little slow clearing fogged windows.
An amusing discovery was a Quixtar CD left in the player from the last person who rented the car. To those who are unfamiliar, Quixtar is the current incarnation of Amway! AAACKKK!!!
The car is shifted via an attractive chrome accented lever with leather-clad knob. What I found curious is that the indicator only showed P-R-N-D-L making me believe the car only had a two-speed transmission like my old 1968 Buick Special Deluxe. Where are the letters indicating the other gears? Left of the gearshift is the handbrake. Behind the shifter and handbrake are molded cupholders and a storage console that seemed set back so far I couldn't reach it. Ahead of the shifter console is a slanted cubbyhole and a 12-volt power outlet in place of what would be occupied by an ashtray and cigar lighter from less P.C. times.
The steering wheel has buttons left of the hub for cruise control functions and is adjustable via a crude tilt lever located below the steering column. I've seen these levers on a lot of current cars. I always fear the tilt "lock" will eventually wear out allowing the wheel and column to drop into the driver's lap.
The drivers seat position is adjusted by a metal bar below the lower cushion. The rear passenger compartment has adequate space for at two adults or three children. There are three mounting points for infant seats on the package shelf and the rear seatbacks lower to access the trunk area or double cargo capacity. The trunk seems wide and deep, but somewhat shallow. Of course, a dumb donut tire was the spare.
Fit and finish seems very good and is galaxies better than that of its Contour ancestor. The chrome accented interior seems much more inviting than the acres of bland flat-colored plastic of Ford's recent past. Body panel gaps were tight and even. Some of the attractive-looking controls feel flimsy to the touch. The chromed inside door handles feel light, plasticky and hollow. The HVAC dials turned smoothly, but seemed to lack some "heft."
The Fusion seems to have decent power despite its 4-cylinder powerplant. Hitting the gas pedal I was startled at how quickly the car reacted as I'm used to a lethargic response from most 4 poppers. The 2.3 liter four delivers a decent 160 horsepower at 6250 RPMs with 156 ft./lbs. torque at 4250 RPMs. Pretty impressive considering the much larger 3.8 V-6 in my 1988 Buick Park Avenue delivers only 5 more horsepower. I wasn't too impressed with the car's wrenching torque steer. I haven't experienced this much torque steer since I drove my friend's 1980 Chevrolet Citation.
The car's ride seems smooth as it swallowed up cratered Philly streets. It handled quite well in last night's pouring rain with short, quick, controlled stops despite lack of ABS.
I haven't driven the car far enough to determine its fuel economy, but the specs report 23 city and 31 highway on regular fuel. The fuel tank holds 17.5 gallons. We've driven the car with slightly less than 1/2 tank when we received it and filled it last night when it was down to 1/4 tank. My girlfriend's has been driving the car all week with a ten-mile commute in city traffic one way, so the figures are probably accurate.
Though this car was a rental, research shows the base MSRP at $17,295 with a little over $16K dealer invoice. The car has a basic 36,000 mile warranty, a 60 month / 60,000 mile powertrain warranty, and a 60 month / unlimited mile rust warranty.
All in all, I believe it would be worth checking out the Fusion at your local Ford dealer during your next new car shopping excusion. My girlfriend thought it was "cute and sporty" but I believe her current Buick LaCrosse is a more substantial car. Still, I wouldn't pass up the Fusion as a daily driver.