The heat of summer this week was a perfect time to take the keys to a new 2013 Ford Fusion SE EcoBoost to see how well this car backs up its drop dead sexy looks with fuel economy, performance, and ease of use. And of course being in Phoenix, AZ we wanted to see how well the air-conditioning worked.
Hopes were high for the Fusion as it has been one of Ford’s top sellers and their bread and butter. At first glance, the new Fusion really impresses. Its styling is reminiscent of an Aston Martin, long and low, its lines sophisticated.
The interior design is clean and crisp with a flowing center console that sweeps forward giving a substantial sense of space. The materials are better than before in feel and touch, the switchgear being identical to that found in Ford’s European cars.
Our Fusion had the luxury package which gave us heated leather seats that were comfortable and supportive. The boat load of driver assistance features like blind spot warning and lane keeping assistance were well done without being overly sensitive.
While we liked the overall design of the interior, it did seem a bit stark and lacking warmth. The “piano black” trim on the console looks great when clean but stores more fingerprints than stainless steel refrigerator. Our tester also had a number of fit and finish boo boos inside which are less than you’d expect from competitors like Honda or Toyota.
The main gripe however we had with the driver’s den was the My Ford Touch interface. It’s distracting from the road at best, and frustrating to anger at worst. The touchscreen system is difficult to use as the screen itself does not react well to your touch. Secondly, the menu structure is not intuitive at all, leaving you to hunt and peck to find the most common controls for HVAC and the radio.
Worse, the center stack forces you to go back and forth between the hard controls and the touchscreen for HVAC settings among other things. For instance if you want to set the defroster or send air to the floor you must use the touchscreen only, where other controls are on the hard buttons.
There are so many tech features in this car, some of which work well, others not so much. Ours had the engine start/stop feature which we rarely noticed at all. When it did stop and start, it was very abrupt and lacked refinement. Luckily there is an off button for this optional system.
It also has auto hi-beam headlamps which come on at the wrong time, and don’t go off like they should. One night they came on just as we were coming up on a police officer on the side of the highway. They refused to go off and we had to manually toggle them to stop blinding him.
Many of the car’s settings like those for the driver assistance features like lane keeping and start/stop are located in a yet third separate place, the instrument cluster. It’s just downright confusing to have three separate places to have to search for things. A good interface would put all things in one place, or at least give you redundancies so you could choose one.
Our Ford Fusion SE was equipped with the 1.6 liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated up to a six-speed automatic transmission. This engine is an upgrade over the standard 2.5 liter normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, offering a slight bit more power and promises better fuel economy.
It produces a healthy 178 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft of torque which is more than adequate in power delivery. The engine is smooth and refined too, with little or no turbo lag. It’s EPA rated at 24 mpg city and 37 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined which sounds good, but unfortunately we never got close to these claims in our testing.
We achieved a 23 mpg combined average in our week with the Fusion. This is a full 5 mpg less than its combined rating and less that its city rating of 24 mpg. Even on a static highway stint, the best we could muster with hyper-miling techniques was 33 mpg, which is 4 mpg less than advertised.
In fairness, we did have the air-conditioning on at all times, but we do this with all cars we test and most still meet or exceed EPA estimates. The only thing we can suggest is that the air-conditioning taxes the smallish 1.6 liter engine disproportionately. The mpg performance was a disappointment none the less.
On the road the Fusion is a handling gem however. The chassis is well damped and steering feels of precision. Brake and handling response are above its peers like the Camry and Accord in sporting feel, with a more Germanic character. Road noise however was higher than we expected on the freeway.
Up in the twisty mountain roads we found the Fusion well able to offer up some enthusiastic tossing around, however the made for mpg tires outfitted were less than interested in providing grip. Still, the Fusion gives you plenty of predictable feel that gives the enthusiast a smile when pushing it harder.
Aside the disappointments with fuel efficiency and its tech for tech’s sake driver assistance features, we came away impressed with the 2013 Ford Fusion’s style and driving character. The good news is you can option the Fusion with a better powertrain and without My Ford Touch.