What is it?
This is the new US-market Ford Fusion, which will become the next-generation Ford Mondeo when it arrives in the UK next year.
When Ford rolled out the Evos concept car a year ago, it was meant to signal some big changes coming from the mainstream maker. Ignore its impractical quad gullwing doors and the Evos offered a sneak peek at what will soon be showing up in Ford's dealerships around the world. Indeed, what European buyers will see in the form of the new Mondeo is just now landing in US showrooms.
What is it like?
A quarter of a century ago, Ford revolutionised the midsize market with jellybean styling featured on models such as the American Taurus. The new Evos-based Fusion and Mondeo promise to have a similar impact on automotive styling trends. The new model is distinctive and bold, maintaining a number of the Evos show car’s distinctive design cues, including the almost slit-like headlights that are a welcome relief from the almost comic proportions many makers have adopted with their oversized, 'jewel-like' lamps. There’s a hint of Audi A7 in the coupé-like roofline and Ford’s upscale feel is further enhanced by a trapezoid grille which bears a strong resemblance to an Aston Martin's.
The roomy interior has an equally upmarket feel. Instead of so many plastic panels that speak of excess cost-cutting, even the base Fusion boasts a rich and well appointed cabin with grained, sumptuous, soft-touch finishes.
That’s not to say all is perfect. The 2.0-litre Titanium package we drove boasts a high-feature Sony-based multimedia system with the latest version of Ford’s Sync technology. Techies will love it but techno-phobes will be less pleased by the lack of a knob for tuning and the need to work through touchscreen menus to turn down the seat-heaters.
The new Fusion is offered with an assortment of advanced safety features too, including AutoPark and a Lane Departure system that can gently nudge the vehicle back into its lane and warn a weary driver that it might be time to pull over. The Mondeo will offer even more high-line features, including an electronically controlled suspension that, in the US, Ford decided to save for the MKZ model sold by American luxury brand Lincoln.
In the States, Ford will offer the Fusion with five different powertrain packages. While the European diesels are absent, that includes a new petrol-electric hybrid and an upcoming plug-in. We focused, however, on the 2.0-litre EcoBoost driveline also due for the Mondeo lineup. It's a turbocharged package that, while not segment-leading, delivers an impressive balance of fuel efficiency (40mpg on the highway) and power (237bhp and 275 lb ft).
That translates into near-V6 acceleration when you need it but four-cylinder fuel efficiency when you’re just cruising. Unlike Detroit’s traditional four-cylinder powertrains – which have a tendency to be rough and noisy – the 2.0-litre EcoBoost is smooth and surprisingly quiet under normal driving conditions, with a refined exhaust note under a wide-open throttle.
The engine’s refined behavior is matched by reasonably solid road manners. Steering is precise and confident enough that you might forget it’s electrically assisted, with a light feel at car park speeds and notably less boost on open roads.
Our drive was too short to put the new Fusion through a real test, but the overall road feel was impressive, especially the way it soaked up the deep potholes common on Michigan roads without numbing and dumbing down the suspension as many American models sadly resort to.
Cornering is smooth, the suspension remaining well-planted and delivering a much more sporty feel - as we’d expect from models more tuned to European specifications, such as the Volkswagen Passat. That would suggest an even more invigorating experience with the Mondeo.
Should I buy one?
Compared to our recent drive in the new 2013 Honda Accord, as well as both the American and European Passat models, the Fusion is likely to come as a pleasantly well balanced surprise for Americans and should deliver all or more of what Europeans will expect. The car is a stylistic trend-setter, is well equipped, fuel efficient and fun to drive. It suggests that Ford is determined to be a significant player in the midsize segment, and regardless of which side of the Atlantic you live on, it’s a car to overlook at your peril.
Paul A. Eisenstein
Ford Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost Titanium
Price: £16,000 (est); 0-62mph: TBC; Top speed: TBC, Economy: 40mpg combined (est); Co2: TBC; Kerb weight: 1554kg; Engine type: 4 cyls, 1999cc, turbocharged petrol; Installation: Front, transverse, front-wheel drive; Power: 237bhp at 5000rpm; Torque: 250lb ft at 1700rpm; Gearbox: 6-speed automatic; Fuel tank: 62.4 litres