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Test Drive Impressions

Test Drives with Colin Hefferon

Reviewed by Colin Hefferon

The Ford Fusion SEL V6
The Ford Fusion SEL V6.  We have a winner!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! First introduced in 2006, the Fusion looks, at first glance, to be essentially unchanged for 2007. Same styling and trim, same mechanicals and electronics, same engines and transmissions. But big changes are indeed afoot, including standard torso and side-curtain airbags and optional all-wheel-drive, SIRIUS satellite radio and navigation system. Base price (SEL V6): $23,430. EPA fuel economy 20/28 MPG city/highway.

First Glance:  Get it right the first time

J Mays, Ford's lead designer, got the Fusion right when the car was introduced in 2006. The Fusion was based on the 427 concept car, which was a runaway hit on the auto show circuit a couple of years ago. Ford simply picked the bits from the 427 that people liked and applied them to the Fusion. I'm glad to see that the exterior is unchanged for 2007. That bodes well for the company’s future. Winners like Honda and Toyota tend to get everything right the first time, because that's what savvy buyers demand.

The Fusion is only available as a 4-door sedan but it comes in three trim levels: Spartan 4-cylinder S model, SE, and loaded SEL. The SEL shares many of the design clues with its upmarket sibling, the Lincoln MKZ (formerly known as the Zephyr). But where the Lincoln gets bling like the chrome plated side mirrors, the Fusion goes for the utilitarian look, such as body-colored mirrors. Of course, into each life some bling must fall; I think the optional 17” five spoke aluminum alloy wheels are worth the extra cost.

In the Driver's Seat:  ...and comfort for all

Based on Ford’s new CD3 architecture, which is shared with the Mazda 6 (Mazda is a Ford subsidiary), the Fusion combines an ample but distinctly utilitarian interior with an understated and compact exterior (well, compact by American standards anyway). Front shoulder room and rear legroom are up there with the class leaders. The control panel is simplicity itself. A clear effort has been made to avoid electronic overkill, which I'm sure most buyers will appreciate.

Ford Fusion Dashboard The Fusion seats four adults comfortably, five in a pinch. However, I found the rear seat cushions to be a bit too close to the floor, making it difficult for passengers to see the road ahead.

The steering wheel in all models offers both tilt and telescopic adjustments. This is a feature that was until recently found almost exclusively in big money European imports. Combined with the multi adjustable driver’s seat (power available), just about everyone should be able to find a suitable driving position.

The trunk is immense even without the extra space available with the 60/40 rear seat backs folded forward. At 15.8 cubic feet, it’s big enough to hold at least four PGA bags as well as a soft-sided weekend bags for yourself and each of your three golfing buddies.

On the Road:  Surprising economy

I mentioned earlier that the Fusion shares its platform with the Mazda 6, one of the better handling family sedans out there. The double wishbone front suspension combined with an advanced multi link rear suspension keeps all four wheels planted firmly even during tight cornering over irregular surfaces. Although the Fusion is a bit large for my taste -- I'm a small-car fanatic -- I enjoyed driving it. I found it to be manoeuvrable and generally pleasant to drive.

The 3.0 liter Duratec 24 valve V-6 has variable valve timing and comes with a standard 6-speed automatic tranmsission It provides a decent combination of mid-range flexibility (acceleration from 50 to 70mph) and fuel economy. Considering the output -- 221 hp and 205 lb-ft of torque -- I was pleasantly surprised that my test car averaged almost 21 mpg during a week of mostly city-type driving, though I admit that high gas prices have me driving with an abnormally gentle foot.

Ford Fusion rear view Though my Fusion was a front-wheel-drive model, all-wheel-drive (AWD) is now optional. Frankly, I’d stay away from it; AWD can be a terrible gas waster. The Fusion handles well enough in the front-wheel-drive version. Live in snow country? You’d be amazed what a decent set of snow tires can do.

Journey's End:  Now I get it...

As much as I enjoyed the power of the V6, I’d personally choose the 160 horsepower 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine and 5-speed automatic in the interests of up-front cost and fuel economy. The 4-cylinder is far more economical in the type of driving that 90% of us do 90% of the time, which is 55% short hop, stop-and-go and 45% steady speed highway cruising. You don’t need a lot of horses for either. After test-driving the V6 Fusion Vancouver, I drove a four-cylinder Fusion several hundred miles across the Canadian prairies. On the flat, empty, dead-straight highway between Winnipeg and Dauphin, Manitoba, the 4-cylinder Fusion cruised with ease at 150 kph (92 MPH -- shhh, don't tell the Mounties).

My time with both Fusions led me to an understanding of what this car is really all about: It’s your basic, all-around reliable family transporter -- comfortable, rock-solid and economical. In short: Fusion is a winner.

Top photo © Ford.  Additional photos © Colin Hefferon

Vancouver-based Colin Hefferon regularly tests and reviews new vehicles. Though an automotive enthusiast by nature, Colin takes the perspective of the average car owner. Which, after all, is most of us! Colin Hefferon is the road test editor for About Cars where more of his car reviews may be found.

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