Ford, Road Test Reviews, Vehicles

2010 Ford Fusion SEL – Road Test

It’s been a number of years since I last drove a Fusion. For the 2010 model year, Ford have re-designed it from the ground up, so it was definitely time to put the new one through its paces.  I liked the first version, but didn’t exactly love it. This new one is certainly a real looker and turned heads everywhere we went. Like a woman – looks can be deceiving… so how does it stack up when under close scrutiny? Keep reading to find out….

Ford has been getting unprecedented accolades lately from just about every media outlet in North America for the Fusion Hybrid as well as the up-coming Fiesta and much anticipated Focus. Ford is profitable and they are about to launch numerous new or updated vehicles in the next couple of years – in addition to the ones already released.

The Fusion is in one of the toughest market segments – especially in North America. It’s up against solid competition from the likes of the Toyota Camry, Mazda6, Nissan Altima and the ubiquitous favourite – the Honda Accord. This is a tough crowd and the penalty for mediocrity is severe punishment, while glory results in the all-important huge sales and profits.

First Impressions
Getting behind the wheel, I was impressed by the look and feel of the Fusion. The top of the dash and the doors are covered in a good quality plastic – soft, but not squishy. Tapping on it I, didn’t get the usual horrible sound of cheapness that used to be a trademark of Ford vehicles of the past.

The instrumentation and dashboard layout is very classy looking – more like a top end Toyota or even a Lexus. The leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter were a nice surprise – I wasn’t expecting that, even though the seats were leather.

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be the usual penny-pinching appearance that has marred so many Ford products in days gone by … could it be that the bean-counters have been put back in their cubicles so that engineers and “car people” can actually build something of quality?

The gauge cluster is completely black until you start the car, and it comes alive with a very classy-looking blue backlighting – like something out of a car costing many thousands of dollars more than the Fusion.

Ford are obviously taking aim at the Japanese competition and poking them in the eye!

I try my best to judge a car on its own merits whenever possible and that goes as far as knowing as little as possible about it before I actually drive it – including prices and options. I knew in advance I would be testing the SEL model, but had no idea if it would be the 4-cylinder or V6 version… I assumed it was theV-6 because in most cases media vehicles are more content filled as opposed to bare-bones.

Everyone I asked to guess the price of the car (including myself) got it wrong by several thousand dollars – and in two cases they were off by $20,000! Friends and family all overshot their educated guess – even my brother-in-law who has just bought one last month!! This car gives the impression that it costs a lot more than it actually does.

Setting off, the Fusion felt solid and much quieter than I had expected – especially when we got onto the busy highway. Stomping on the accelerator, I was underwhelmed at the response – no big rush or any sense of urgency, just a continual rise in speed. Right away I put it down to the 6-speed automatic being programmed for fuel sipping and not fun.

Later I found out it was actually the 4-banger under the hood that was responsible for the leisurely trip to 120 km/h. When I say leisurely, I don’t mean slow as in “turtle-slow”.. just not as brisk as one would expect if it had been a 200 Kw V-6. The power from the 4-cylinder is more than adequate for 99% of the Canadian population where getting to 100 km/h in under 20 minutes is acceptable.

The 2.5-liter I-4 engine output of 130 Kw and 233 Nm (175 hp and 172 ft.-lbs. of torque) bests the outgoing 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine 119 Kw and 211 Nm (160 hp and 156 ft-lbs). As a result the 0-100 km/h performance improves by more than a second, now topping Camry and Accord, and also offers better fuel economy as well.

Once I realized I had a Ford’s Duratec 2.5-liter I-4 under the hood, I was more forgiving of the less than blistering pace I was expecting of the 3.0-liter V-6. The Fusion didn’t disappoint me for the 2 weeks we had it, in fact I was more impressed each day by the 6-speed automatic. We have a number of steep hills that we have to climb to get home. In a manual car you have to leave it in 3rd gear and go for it.

Automatic transmissions inevitably gear up one and even two gears at the half-way point, resulting in the car bogging down and dropping from 60 km/h to less than 40 km/h before the transmission kicks down, your head snaps back and the car picks up momentum for the last 100 meters or so of the incline. Not so with the Fusion… I just kept pressing the pedal and the car never once got bogged down or geared down. To me that was quite remarkable!  Other than CVT transmissions it’s always been a painful excursion unless you shift the gears yourself – nice job Ford!

On that note, you can’t really shift the gears in the Fusion because you only have a choice of “D” or “L”. The L is way too low for going up or down hills at any speed greater than 10 km/h, so it’s pretty much pointless. I mentioned this to my sister -in-law and brother-in-law who just bought a Fusion (they LOVE it), and my sister-in-law asked if I’d used the little button on the shifter when going up or down hills.

“What button on the shifter?!” I said. The next opportunity I got, I pushed the button as we went down the hill… wouldn’t ya know it! The car held its gear all the way down!! This Hill-descent works waaay better than the one in the Lexus RX we drove in the winter! You can actually drive at a reasonable speed and adjust it as you go… terrific.

One other odd thing about the shifter – Ford has been doing this for years and until now I thought they’d corrected a serious default in their system- you can’t nudge the shifter into Neutral from Drive unless you press the shifter button. Think about that, if your throttle sticks open (like that other manufacturer) you can’t just bang it into neutral and coast to the side of the – you have to push the button and shift it into neutral, hoping you don’t got too far and shift into reverse or even park. Seriously Ford, that was an issue back in the ’80’s and it’s still not corrected yet? Time for a change!

We had plenty of seat time in the Fusion – more than the usual test drive because we had it for two weeks and we ended up doing a LOT of drive in those two weeks. We did six stints of 2+ hours/ 200+ kilometres of driving, as well as a lot of around town and shorter stints on the highway. This was probably more indicative of our usual driving habits than we usually encounter while test driving vehicles. To that end it’s very important that the seats be comfortable – both the front and back ones.

The driver’s seat is 8-way power-adjustable with manual lumbar support adjustment. The front passenger gets by with a 2-way manually adjustable seat. With the lumbar adjustment all the way out, the driver’s seat was quite good, but a little bit more would have been great. As for the passenger seat, my wife complained that it lacked back support and at the very least a lumbar adjustment might make it a little better. The seat cushion was better than average once she’s adjusted it properly.

The longer we had the Fusion and the more we drove it, the more we loved it. It’s got plenty of room for four and even a fifth passenger in a squeeze. The trunk/boot is huge and nicely shaped for maximum storage. Flipping the rear seatbacks is as easy as it gets – pull a lever and the seat flips forward laying almost perfectly flat. The front passenger seat also flips forward offering enough room to store a ladder with the trunk lid closed. The rear seats are comfortable and I heard no complaints from our rear-seat passengers. Leg, knee and hip room is very good, with headroom more than acceptable, even for taller people.

The Fusion excelled at containing wind and road noise, making me wonder how they could possibly improve on the sound-deadening on the more expensive Lincoln version of this car. The electric power steering is nicely weighted – not quite as heavy as I prefer it, but certainly not over-boosted. The suspension was well planted, tackling bad potholes and train tracks without any fuss, and remaining well-planted while taking sharp corners at faster than posted speed limits.

On one particular S-bend that I like running the cars through as fast as possible (without making passenger uncomfortable), the limit is usually just under 80 km/h, but in the Fusion I got to just over 90 km/h without having anyone lean into the corners… very impressive for a car that doesn’t bill itself as a sports sedan.

The audio system is the Ford Sync system by Microsoft. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with it unless you go with the base model, because it’s standard across the Fusion line up. I’ve had the opportunity to interface with this in the past and other than the Bluetooth/telephone benefits I can’t see what use this system serves in the automotive landscape. My wife plugged in a USB drive loaded with mp3 songs into the system and it said it didn’t recognize the files – you’re kidding me right – I have to change everything into a Windows Media file (WMA)??!!!

She pressed the enter button and the mp3 songs started to play… go figure!  However, you have no control over how you want them played or displayed on the screen and pressing the >>I button sends it into the next random track. Unless you label the songs just right (no numbers at the beginning) the system is useless.

She tried using a different batch of songs without numbers and it worked reasonably well. On a more positive note, the AM/FM single-disc CD/mp3/WMA player with satellite radio offers outstanding sound and is better than I’ve heard in many high-end cars such as Audi.

The Fusion SEL came with the optional Driver’s Vision Package ($1,400) and if you buy no other options on the Fusion,  you HAVE to buy this package!!  The package consists of: BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA) as well as Rear Park Assist (which are segment-exclusives), Rear camera (displays in the rear-view mirror).

BLIS with CTA uses two multiple-beam radar sensors in the rear quarter panels (one per side) for two different, but important purposes. BLIS checks the defined blind spot zone, which is about 3 mitres from the back of the bumper to the outside mirrors. When a vehicle is detected, an amber light in the outside mirror of whichever side the vehicle is on, lights up. According to Ford “The driver is still responsible for any lane changes, but the Blind Spot Information System is there to help.” It works well and isn’t as annoying as the same system that Volvo uses where it constantly beeps at you.

The rear camera is a very useful feature – especially when reversing into parking spots. You can get very close to walls or other vehicles without worrying if you’re going to hit them or not. Since the rear deck of the Fusion is quite high, this was invaluable for the duration of the test. Having it displayed it the rear view mirror is much better than on a screen in the dashboard.

The Rear Park Assist works exceptionally well in parking lots where it picked up a car coming towards me from a long way off as I was backing out of a spot. The car was moving quite fast, but I had the warning beeps long before a potential hazard would have ruined someone’s day.

All Fusions come with the following safety features: Four-wheel power disc brakes with anti-lock braking system (ABS), 4-sensor, 4-channel and electronic brake force distribution (EBD), AdvanceTrac® Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control, Overhead airbag, Seatbelt pre-tensioners, Security system and Ignition disable.

The Conclusion
Other than the stupid Sync system, there is a lot to love about the Fusion. It looks great, drives great and offers a 4-cylinder and two 6-cylinder options for you to chose from – you can even get AWD. The Ambient Lighting System is pretty cool and allows you to customize the interior lighting (including the cup holders) at the push of a button – ice blue, purple, blue, orange, red, white and green.  There’s plenty of power for most people and the fuel economy is right up there with a hybrid.

Priced right – even without any dealer incentives
Perfect-sized four door family car
Is available with way more horsepower and AWD if you wish

Unfortunately only the base car can be had with a six-speed manual transmission

Immediate Competition:
Chrysler Sebring/Avenger, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Magentis, Mazda6, Mitsubishi Gallant, Nissan Altima/Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Suzuki Kizashi, Toyota Camry

By The Numbers…
Please visit your local dealer for the latest prices and incentives.
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Powertrain:                  2.5 L 16-Valve, I-4; 6-speed automatic transmission; FWD
Horsepower (Kw):      175 (130) @ 6,000 rpm
Torque lb-ft (N.m.):   172 (233) @ 4,500 rpm
0-100 kph:                   8.9 seconds

Curb Weight:              1, 165 kg  (3,342 lbs)
Cargo Capacity:         467 litres (16.5 cu.ft)
Towing capacity:       N/A

Fuel Consumption:
City: 9.5 L/100 kms  //  Highway: 6.3L/100 kms

I averaged 9.0 L/100 kms during mostly highway driving over the course of 2 weeks and 1,576 kilometers. The on-board computer said I averaged between 7 and 8 L/100 kms the whole time. I got down to 7.8 L/100 kms on one tank.

Pricing for the 2010 Ford Fusion SEL (Options: Vision Group; Rear Spoiler; Block Heater; Leather interior)
Base Price: $25,799
As Tested: $28,954
Destination & Delivery: $1,350

The warranty is a Basic 3 years/60,000 kms that includes a 5 year/100,000 kms Powertrain warranty. Roadside Assistance is also 5 years/100,000 kms.

Copyright © 2010 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland

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