There’s No Refusin’ the New Ford Fusion

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Michael Toscano

2013 Ford Fusion SE

The Ford Motor Company would probably hate this, but if you pried the Ford logo, with its old-timey, swirling lettering, off their new Fusion SE, and replaced it with the logo from a more upscale auto, there’s a chance nobody would notice. The upscale logo would look right at home, and only you would know you are driving a car with a base sticker price of less than $24,000. But, of course, don’t try this at home.

Now, you could pay more if you wanted to get all the fun options available, upgrade the engine or go hybrid, or even move on to a more expensive member of the Fusion family, such as the Titanium model. But that’s not really necessary if you’re looking for a comfortable, well-performing mid-size sedan, and want to stay within your budget.

The car looked good in our driveway at first sight: the bold “Deep Impact Blue” color on the one we hosted for a week makes a striking first impression, the rich color contrasting dramatically with the 17-inch alloy wheels. (Although why a car company would in any way associate their product with “impact” is beyond me!) The next thing that catches your eye is the prominent grille, which blends into subtle, elegant curves. Ford says the 2013 Fusion is longer and wider than older models, enhancing its almost sporty look. But the new road stance is more than eye candy; Ford says their new platform provides additional rigidity, leading to better handling and increased safety.

This is a five-passenger sedan, and it seems as though three adults can comfortably fit in the rear seat. The driver’s seat features a 10-way power drive, so it’s easy to get real comfortable while taking in the uncluttered dashboard and center console stack. Headroom is adequate for average-sized grownups, and it’s more than roomy enough for our almost-eight-year old son to gleefully bounce around back there before buckling up. Of course, there were a few admonitions not to bounce around too much, because the interior is so nicely appointed. Hey, if Ford can go to all the trouble to make the cabin so stylish, with surface materials nicer and softer than one might expect for the price, the least we can do is keep the boy’s muddy sneakers off the seats.

Our Fusion SE was pretty close to the base model, with the only extras being an upgrade to a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque ($795) and a “reverse sensing system” ($295). That, and the usual dealer add-ons, brings the total MSRP up to $25, 585. It comes with automatic engine stop-start functionality, helping the car achieve 23 mpg city/36 highway/28 mpg average fuel efficiency. Joined with the 6-speed Selectshift transmission, acceleration and ride are smooth. All Fusions come equipped with electric-assist power steering, providing good tactile control of the car, a feature all can enjoy but which may be especially attractive to older drivers. The trunk provides 16 cubic feet of storage space, a bit more than one might expect for this size car.

The interior remains fairly quiet, even at highway speeds. And speaking of speed, while one can hear the engine revving and almost feel it working when pushed to make that quick Beltway lane change, acceleration is steady and quick. I appreciate the slightly stiff handling, and the tight cornering control the sporty new platform allows.

This year’s Fusions all have antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, and airbags for front seat side, front knee, and side curtain. Ford’s Sync system will automatically dial 911 if you pair it with your cell phone. Crash tests from the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rate the Fusion as “good,” its top category.

If we were going to live permanently with a Fusion SE, I know we’d want to take advantage of the options. We’d go with all wheel drive and probably one of the bigger engines. We’d want an upgraded sound system, even though this one comes with satellite radio. Unfortunately for our ears, the standard system pumps out only basic sound quality. We’d add the back-up camera and the leather interior package. There’s a long list of items to choose from, but you can do that on your own. Our model came with the now-standard voice-activated Sync audio and cell phone interface, but it, frankly, did not seem user-friendly and not worth the trouble to fuss with when we would have the car for just the week.

The Fusion SE is in the middle of Ford’s Fusion family, one step up from the basic Fusion, and a step below the Fusion Titanium. Based on our time with the SE, it seems Ford is taking the right steps, providing a comfortable, well-performing car, at a comfortable, well-performing price.