Gas-powered cars have made exceptional strides in fuel economy in the past few years. Maybe the most striking progress has been made by the mid-size sedan, where a 30-mile-per-gallon combined gas mileage rating is no longer out of reach--it's reality for at least three of the four top sellers.
One of the most striking examples of the class is the 2013 Ford Fusion. Like other mid-size sedans, the new Fusion has removed the V-6 engine from its equation entirely. It now relies entirely upon four-cylinder engines, with or without turbocharging or hybrid add-ons, to generate power across its lineup.
Yet, even in the standard-issue models, the Fusion sedan aimed squarely at the mass market nails the 30-mpg EPA-combined hurdle we've set here at Green Car Reports. Not only that, the Fusion with the 1.6-liter turbocharged four is rated at up to 37 miles per gallon on the highway cycle, a gas-powered achievement in the segment surpassed only by the CVT-equipped Nissan Altima sedan.
It isn't all about fuel economy, though. The 1.6-liter Fusion is also the most entertaining family sedan in its class, thanks to a firmly tuned suspension, quick electric power steering, and an available six-speed manual transmission that plants the idea of "sport sedan" firmly in mind before it carves the first corner. It simply feels more eager than any of its direct competitors, even if you opt for the six-speed automatic instead of the manual transmission--it always corners with authority, with a flat, firm responsiveness that's all but absent in the best-selling family four-door.
The Fusion's efficient and engaging--and it's strikingly handsome, too. The previous generation was more humble all around, with a plainer appeal and more inexact styling cues, except for a bright, brash grille. This one's a completely realized piece--a grown-up with confident lines and curves, and aesthetic appeal far beyond its class. There's a pinch of Audi in its roofline, a scoop of Aston Martin at the nose, but it all reads as a cohesive piece. It's true inside as well, though basic versions have a slightly more cluttered dash with buttons and switches for radio and climate controls--while more expensive versions have the LCD-driven MyFord Touch system that cleans up the center stack, honing it down to a smooth tablet-computer look and feel.
A little longer overall than before, the Fusion has a much longer wheelbase, and it shows in better leg room, in any seating position. The seats themselves are thinner and firmer, just as in the 2013 Ford Escape, but we wouldn't mind sitting in them for hours, though we'd tilt the bottom cushion down in front on manual seats a bit more. Headroom's great without the optional sunroof, an unknown so far with one--Ford didn't make any glass-roofed vehicles available for testing. The trunk is 16 cubic feet, big for the class, and the Fusion has ample storage all around the cabin, with a stow space under the center stack, bottle holders in the doors, and a decently sized glovebox. The impression of quality is pretty high, especially with regard to noise damping and vibration quelling; the Fusion's doors close with the soft thump you feel more than you hear.
Safety features include front knee airbags and standard Bluetooth; the IIHS calls the Fusion a Top Safety Pick.
The 1.6-liter Fusion carries a base price of $25,290, and includes climate and cruise control; the usual power features; a CD player and an auxiliary jack; cloth seats; tilt/telescoping steering; and steering-wheel audio and phone controls. Power front seats, leather upholstery, a navigation system, and a rearview camera are options, as are all-wheel drive and a suite of safety features like lane-keeping assist and active park assist.
A 38-mpg highway Altima can be had much more cheaply, but it's not quite as alluring, or as nimble. And for just a little less than $30,000, the 1.6-liter Fusion can be had with a six-speed automatic, navigation, blind-spot monitors, leather seats, a rearview camera and rear parking sensors--not to mention the manual transmission at no cost. A premium pricetag is earned by a premium feel.
For more on the 47-mpg version of this new family sedan, see The Car Connection's review of the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid.
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