– Unique front-end styling
– Safe and economical
– Good ride and handling
– Boring rear-end styling
– Multimedia system needs work
– Some weird ergonomics
The first-generation Ford Fusion lasted in the GCC for maybe one year before it was replaced by the new-for-2010 model. That’s because the Fusion nameplate has been around in the U.S. since 2006, but only made its debut here recently, ironically sold alongside the European-built Ford Mondeo, on which the Mexican-built Fusion is somewhat based. Considering the latest Mondeo is rather invisible on the streets of Dubai, perhaps Ford needs another contender in the hotly-contested midsize segment.
The new Fusion is a facelifted version of the outgoing one, with a rakish new snout featuring a larger chrome grille, as well as a conservative new butt. The mirror-finish face is complemented by smatterings of chrome around the car, and topped off with a subtle rear spoiler and 17-inch alloys on our SEL tester.
The interior is as plain as it gets, although subtle touches have been added to light it up, literally. The cabin has pretty mood lighting at night, in the footwell and around the cup-holders, and there is even a choice of various lighting colours at the touch of a button. But there isn’t even a hint that the centre console houses Ford’s much-touted high-tech entertainment and communications system, except for a small “SYNC by Microsoft” badge.
The overall quality is very good, with as much soft-touch trim as any other in this class, although we found a few cheap bits, like the flimsy coin-holder and some misaligned rubber trim on the doors. The ergonomics are not particularly impressive either. Some a/c buttons are just behind the shifter, and the trip computer buttons are below the coin holder, while the indicator stalk is mounted rather high and also made to handle the wiper functions.
The front seats are downright sporting, with matte leather and solid side-bolstering. We found the rear legroom to be very good too, although it is visibly less than that of the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. But the luggage trunk is absolutely massive for a midsizer, with no weird protrusions reducing the useable floor space, and the rear split-folding seat-back can go down to create more room. There are also a fair number of drink-holders and cubbies around the cabin, although we would’ve preferred the front cup-holders to have a retractable cover rather than the aforementioned fancy lighting.
All other features are on par with the competition, such as power windows, mirrors, locks, sunroof, cruise control, rear parking sensors and keyless entry, but no starter buttons or xenon headlights. However, a big plus is the SYNC computer, if you get along with it. Since Ford does not offer navigation in the GCC, the SYNC system has to be controlled with a bunch of buttons on the stereo, using only a small digital readout as well as voice prompts. The system can also be controlled using voice commands, but it does not understand anything other than pure American accents, so we quit talking to it and started punching buttons. The CD/MP3 stereo controls are easy enough to figure out, and are complimented by decent Sony speakers and AUX/iPod inputs. The Bluetooth phone worked perfectly, while the dual-zone a/c worked pretty well during our October testing, although we can’t seem to remember it having rear a/c vents. It did come with a full complement of front and side-curtain airbags, as well as a little keypad on the driver’s door to open it without a key, if you know the code. Our one-of-a-kind tester also came with high-tech features such as a rear camera, blind-spot monitor and cross-traffic monitor, but we didn’t particularly like how any of them worked, and it seems neither did Ford Middle East, because none of those are offered in the GCC-spec model.
What will be offered is a single 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine, good for a respectable 175 hp at 6000 rpm and 233 Nm of torque at 4500 rpm, mated to a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel-drive. Those figures were good enough to catapult the Fusion past the Toyota Camry in our testing, as we ran a 0-100 kph time of 9.5 seconds. Our Fusion also managed a class-leading fuel economy of 11.5 litres per 100 km during our run, as far as we could estimate from the basic trip computer. Even then, the gearbox never seemed to force high gears and smoothly chose the best gears. But it did lack manual-shifting capability, and didn’t even have a “P-R-N-D-L” selection display in the gauge cluster.
The ride and handling are what sets this car apart from the common midsize choices. It rides almost as smoothly and quietly as any Japanese midsizer, but without the bounciness over large dips and potholes that seems to define a Toyota Camry, and without the firmness that afflicts the Nissan Altima. The steering feel is soft and offers only mild feedback, while there is moderate body roll during sharp turning movements, making the front tyres squeal early. But the body roll is unnoticeable in smooth long curves and the 225/50 tyres on 17-inchers offer a lot of grip on these sweeping higher-speed corners. Even when the tyres start squealing again, the Fusion just safely understeers at the limit, allowing us to back off long before the car wants to go towards the outside of the turn, all without losing confidence. It even comes with a proper handbrake, should you want to do some untoward things with it.
In regular driving, the rev-happy engine is just about adequate, with better torque than a comparable Honda Accord, which allowed us to chirp the front tyres at random times on take-off, even with the standard stability control turned on. As with others in this segment, the ABS-assisted four-wheel disc brakes are average, but they stop the car straight even with stability control turned off. Good for casual cruising, about the only concern we had were the halogen headlights at night, which could’ve been better.
But the Fusion’s strongest selling points include the driving experience and uncompromising safety features. The SYNC system is appreciated, even if it partially loses out in this region, while the corporate face has enough character to overcome the rest of the conservative styling. Even with stiff competition from the Japanese, the Americans and even from Ford’s own stable, the Fusion would do well — if enough people knew it existed.
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