While sales of mid-size cars are on the downturn in Canada, the stylish Ford Fusion ended last year atop that crowded pack – which includes such major competitors as the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry. It was also Canada's best selling mid-size car in 2013.
When the Fusion arrived on the scene a couple of years ago, it brought some style and grace to the mid-size segment. Its distinctive Aston Martin-like front end, smooth flanks and conservative rear styling stand out without standing out. The look suggests something several price grades higher.
In addition, the Fusion brought an emphasis on driving dynamics to a class where that term doesn't apply very often. That combination of style and grace while in motion has proven highly effective judging by the sales numbers.
Three trims and loads of options
There is very little new about the 2015 Fusion, apart from greater availability of its all-wheel-drive system – a feature that may account, at least in part, for its success in Canada.
The Fusion is available in three trim levels, S, SE and Titanium and there are three engines and both hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions.
My test car, in range-topping Titanium trim, boasted a broad array of options, including: power sunroof, $1,250; active park assist, $600; heated & cooled front seats, $600; heated steering wheel, $200; adaptive cruise control, $1,500; navigation system, $800; inflatable rear seat belts, $190; brick red interior package (includes painted 18-inch alloy wheels), $795; driver assist package (includes lane keeping and blind spot assistance systems), $1,500. A rear view camera is standard.
Stylish and contemporary inside
The Fusion's interior is as stylish and contemporary as the exterior with contrasting but not conflicting colours, quality materials and excellent fit and finish. In a unique touch for the class, drivers are able to configure the instrument panel to their personal taste using controls on the steering wheel.
The usual twin instruments for road and engine speed are flanked by a pair of 11-cm colour displays that can be adjusted to show more than a dozen clear arrays.
The one on the left deals with engine and vehicle-related functions while that on the right let’s you scroll through a variety of other readouts, most related to infotainment activity.
MyFord Touch fails to impress
I’m not as impressed with the big display in the centre console and its MyFord Touch system. Continual upgrades have improved things and I am sure one would get used to it as an owner. But as someone who swaps vehicles every week, I find it a long way from intuitive. Ford has taken a lot of flack for this complex Microsoft-based touchscreen infotainment system and has announced it will drop Microsoft for the next generation.
The front seats are wide and comfortable, flanking a very wide centre console with a lot of storage capacity. The rear seat has plenty of space for two large adults, including a decent amount of leg room. Rear seat occupants might also, depending on trim and option levels, benefit from Ford’s inflatable seat belts, which inflate in a crash to cushion the impact on the torso.
The deep trunk is readily accessible but the opening fairly narrow.
Drivetrain and driving dynamics
There are two distinct areas where the company’s global “One Ford” policy becomes evident, and appreciated: drivetrain and driving dynamics.
Rather than have dozens of platforms, engines and systems, different ones for each part of the globe, Ford decided to pursue commonality. As a result we get a Fusion with European-like driving dynamics rather than the willowy efforts of previous American mid-size family cars.
The suspension tuning is exemplary. Even with the low profile rubber wrapped around its fancy 18-inch wheels, it absorbed both major and minor bumps with ease.
The ride was supple and well-controlled but when asked to hustle through the turns the Fusion ddid so with alacrity that's rare in this segment. The nicely-weighted steering adds to the experience with lots of feedback and heft.
Three four-cylinders – no V-6
The engines offered in the Fusion are the second sign of that “One Ford” policy. The base engine is a normally-aspirated 2.5-litre four produced in Mexico. A 1.5-litre turbocharged four from Romania fills the middle slot and a turbocharged 2.0-litre four from Spain sits atop the pack – and under the hood of my Titanium test vehicle.
Like most of its competitors, the Fusion does not offer a V-6 engine. The top-rated 245-horsepower engine has the same fuel consumption rating as the base 175-horsepower engine – an example of the advantage of turbocharging.
But, while the engine can provide plenty of power, like other EcoBoost engines it seems to deliver one or the other: either Eco or Boost.
On long flat stretches of open road I saw consumption as low as 7.0 per litres /100 km. But most of the time, it was in double digits, partially due to nasty cold winter conditions but also because the roads on my test route are rarely flat and, if so, not for long.
As is often the case, the six-speed automatic has been programmed to upshift early and resist downshifting too easily in the interest of maximizing fuel economy. The result is a slight delay between ask and answer when one dips into the throttle for some more grunt.
Overall, however, the Fusion brings a welcome combination of style, ride, handling and all-wheel-drive to a category where dull and boring are the norm.
Model: 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD
Price: $33,299 base, $42,434 as tested, including delivery charge
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-litre four cylinder engine, 240-horsepower, 270 lb-ft of torque; premium fuel recommended
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Consumption (NR Canada rating, city / highway): 7.1 / 10.6 L/100 km
Length: 4,869 mm
Width: 2,121 mm
Wheelbase: 3,078 mm
Mass: 1,737 kg
Competitiors: Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat