Near the end of April, long after one could credibly throw an ‘April Fool!’ into the media mix, Ford execs announced a new plan to reduce their model mix to but two cars – at least as we currently define ‘cars’. The Mustang – Ford’s perennial provider of automotive Viagra – will remain, as will a new, passive/aggressive variant of the Focus hatchback. Apparently gone by the end of 2019 are the Fiesta, Fusion, Taurus and C-Max.
Since Ford’s Taurus hasn’t moved the sales needle since ‘41’ slid into the Oval Office (that, if you remember, was almost 30 years ago!), and the C-Max hybrid never found its market momentum, their joint demise doesn’t surprise. But the Fiesta – especially the Fiesta ST – is an engaging 4-door hatch, while Ford’s Fusion has the makings of a world class sedan. If only Ford would continue to make it…
Our test Fusion, in Platinum trim with available all-wheel drive, was left for us at LAX. With plans to hang around Los Angeles through the July 4th holiday, I wanted a car large enough for five adults, yet small enough to park in front of our daughter’s North Hollywood home. The parking’s not tight, but neither is there any excess; in short, a midsize sedan seemed about right. And with news of the Fusion’s apparent demise, I wanted to see what we’d (eventually) be missing.
At the curb, the Ford 4-door continues to look good. Finished in a blue metallic (we’ll call it Keith Urban blue), and with what Ford dubs a ‘Medium Soft Ceramic’ leather interior, the Fusion’s appearance was almost in keeping with its $40K window sticker. But then, this Platinum trim is Lincoln-esque in its execution, and the optional all-wheel drive is a $2K bump over the standard FWD platform. It’s also one way to differentiate the Fusion from Accords, Camrys and Altimas, now available only in front wheel drive.
Subjectively, we’ve always thought the Fusion’s 4-door beltline a bit too high, and its 4-door greenhouse a tad too constricted. It’s almost as if the design team had a ’49 Merc – make that a chopped ’49 Merc – in the studio while modeling the Fusion. But the car’s sheetmetal has worn well. And given that the design is mature it doesn’t suffer the excesses (and we don’t suffer those excesses) seen on current Accords, Camrys and Civics.
Inside, interior materials demonstrate few signs of cost-cutting, although I’m fairly certain that cost-cutting is there. Front seats were both heated and cooled, and with LA’s temps firmly in the 90’s, the cooled seat is an attractive idea. And the seats were also comfortably supportive, with adjustability that made it easy to get ‘right’ behind the wheel.
Behind the wheel, we were again reminded how well-balanced a ‘good’ sport sedan can feel, especially when the suspension is planted, the center of gravity is relatively low, and the total mass is this side of 4,000 pounds. With 245 horsepower from its turbocharged 2.0 liter four, driven through all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic, acceleration is responsive while any and all highway speeds are relaxed. And while the Fusion Sport offers the 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6, we’re thinking that might be excessive – the turbo four has a rightness to its lightness we like a lot.
While there was no rain during our visit, the Fusion’s all-wheel drive supplies a balance the front-wheel drive Fusion is hard-pressed to emulate. And awd is more than just about snowfall; we like it in the wet, and we certainly like it when you find yourself in gravel or on asphalt’s marbles.
With pricing startling in the low $20s, and around $3K in incentives on a moderately equipped Titanium trim, you can buy the base Fusion for around $300 per month (with 20% down), or lease a Titanium for around $300 per month. In any guise the Fusion offers substantial bang for the buck. Drive this, drive Ford’s comparable – we’ll guess – Edge crossover, and then do the math.
But do it while – of course – you can still do the comparison.