1. What’s new for 2015?
A rear-backup camera is standard across the line and the combination of all-wheel drive and the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available on more than just the top-line model. In other changes for this midsize sedan, a Terracotta package is newly available on the SE and Titanium trim levels and includes specific leather seats, door inserts, floor mats and painted/machined 18-inch alloy wheels. A new 10-way power driver’s seat is added to the Titanium edition, while a new six-way power passenger’s seat is included with the SE version. Residing in the crowded and competitive midsize car market, the Fusion is handsomely styled and is one of the better-handling vehicles in its class, though rear-seat legroom is subpar. Front-wheel-drive base S, and front- and all-wheel-drive midline SE and top-trim Titanium models return. Also available in a gas/electric Hybrid model as well as the plug-in Hybrid Fusion Energi, this is Ford’s top-selling passenger car and is among the 20 best-selling vehicles in the U.S.
2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?
Base prices for non-hybrid versions range from $23,325-$33,605 (all base prices in this review include Ford’s $825 destination charge).The gas/electric-powered Fusion Hybrid starts at $27,400 in SE trim and at $33,155 in Titanium form. The plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi tops the range with a base price of $35,625 for the SE Luxury model and $37,455 for the Titanium. You should be able to wrangle a good deal. According to Kelley Blue Book, a fair price on an SE with the optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is $25,709 or less (including destination charges); that’s almost $1,900 below suggested retail. Energi versions, unfortunately, carry a price premium many buyers would struggle to recover in gas savings, unless fuel costs skyrocket back near or above $4.00 a gallon.
3. When will the next big change be?
Don’t expect a major redesign until the 2018 or 2019 model year. Meantime, look for a midcycle makeover for 2016 to help keep Fusion fresh in an increasingly competitive market segment. The car’s basic size and shape won’t change. But there will be revised styling cues inside and out. And Ford is likely to dump the vilified MyFord Touch multimedia operating system for a new system called Sync 3 that promises to be easier and more intuitive to use. What’s more, the base 2.5-liter engine could be dropped in favor of the current 1.5-liter turbo-four as the standard engine.
4. What options or trim level is best for me?
The midrange SE model offers all the most wanted items without necessarily busting the budget, as would be the case for many shoppers with the top Titanium model. In addition to the essentials included with the base S version, the SE includes amenities like heated door mirrors, a six-speaker audio system, power driver’s seat, rear-seat armrest, and 17-inch wheels and tires. The SE also offers additional options over the base model, including heated leather seats, a self-parking function, heated steering wheel, all-wheel-drive, and the top-performing 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine.
5. What engine do you recommend?
Along with the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Buick Regal, and Kia Optima, this is a midsize cars that no longer offers a V-6 engine. Instead, Fusion is available with a choice of three four-cylinder engines, a base 2.5-liter with 175 horsepower carried over from the previous version, and either of two EcoBoost turbo-fours, a 1.5-liter with 185 horsepower and a 2.0-liter with a more robust 240 horses (not including the gas/electric combination in the Hybrid and Energi models). The standard engine is dated and is out-shined by the smaller and more-efficient 1.5-liter EcoBoost. Our choice here would be the 2.0-liter turbo-four that delivers V-6-like acceleration with 270 pound-feet of torque. It’s a $1,000 option on the SE and is included with the Titanium version. A six-speed automatic transmission is included across the line.
6. How does the Fusion handle?
The suspension is tuned on the sporty side in the European tradition (it’s sold overseas as the Ford Mondeo), affording crisp and capable handling with ample steering feedback while maintaining a decently smooth ride over all but the most pockmarked pavement. It’s far from being a sports sedan, but modestly enthusiastic motorists should be satisfied with its energetic driving dynamics. For those who find parallel parking to be a chore, the car offers an optional Active Park Assist feature that can automatically steer the car into a parallel parking space.
7. How is the fuel economy?
About mid-pack among midsize sedans in this regard, with the 2.5-liter engine rated at 22/34/26-mpg city/highway/combined. Meanwhile, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo four is EPA-rated at a more-economical 24/36/20 mpg. The top 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo-four engine is rated at 22/33/26-mpg and 22/31/25-mpg with all-wheel-drive. The 2015 Fusion Hybrid is rated at 44/41/42-mpg, while the plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi is rated at the electric equivalent of 88 mpg when riding solely on battery power (about a 20-mile range) and at a combined 38 mpg when subsequently operating as a conventional hybrid.
8. Are the controls easy to use?
The dashboard is busy-looking but logically arrayed and the buttons and dials work with pleasing precision. Ford’s nicely sorted Sync hands-free audio and info control system is standard. But too many Fusion models are equipped with the much-criticized MyFord Touch infotainment system. It swaps traditional buttons and most dials for a confounding series of configurable LCD displays, a menu-driven touchscreen monitor and odd dashboard “touchpoints.” The system has a steep learning curve and even when mastered can be frustrating to operate, with slow and sometimes uncertain response. Fortunately many functions can also be operated via steering wheel-mounted buttons and voice commands, the latter via Ford’s more-amenable Sync multimedia control system.
9. Is it comfortable?
The European design roots result in a passenger cabin that’s less spacious than in rivals such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, and Volkswagen Passat. The quality of most cabin materials is excellent, and while leather upholstery is standard or available on upper-trim versions, the seats in most Fusions are upholstered with an eco-minded fabric using recycled sustainable yarns. We found them stiff and oddly bolstered, making a long road trip an aching proposition. Some front seaters may also find the angle of the head restraints intrusive. It took us a while to find an adjustment that didn’t force our head forward in the name of whiplash protection.
10. What about safety?
The ‘15 Fusion receives a perfect five out of five stars for occupant protection in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, the Fusion receives top (“good”) marks in frontal, side impact, roof crush, and head protection crash tests conducted by the insurance-industry-supported Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, it receives just an “acceptable” rating in the Institute’s stricter “small overlap test,” which is designed to replicate the effects a car’s left-front corner colliding with a pole or other obstruction. The Fusion can be fitted with a full array of motoring technology, including blind-spot, forward collision and lane-departure warning systems (the latter also helps nudge the car back into a lane if necessary).
11. How’s the reliability and resale value?
Fusion earns an “above average” four out of five “power circles” in the latest long-term reliability survey (of model-year 2011 owners) conducted by the influential market research firm J.D. Power. It receives an “average” three-circle rating from JDP in both design/performance and initial quality surveys among new-model owners. It’s resale value is rated to be about average, with a three (out of five) star rating in that regard from the automotive valuation experts at ALG. Among other models in its class, the Honda Accord, Mazda Mazda6, and Toyota Camry can be expected to return slightly more cash at trade-in time with “above average” four-star ALG ratings.
12. Is it better than the competition?
This is one of the top sellers in one of the industry’s most popular market segments with good reason. It’s styled to look like a far more expensive vehicle, handles well, delivers a reasonably smooth ride, and offers a long list of both practical and comfort-oriented features. While we like the car’s available 2.0-liter engine, there’s no substitute for displacement, with the hearty V-6 engines offered in the sales-leading Camry, Accord, and Altima offering smoother and quicker acceleration. The Mazda 6 and possibly the Accord could be judged sportier choices for enthusiasts, but Fusion holds its own, and the 2.0-liter EcoBoost/all-wheel-drive combo offers a level of performance and road manners worthy of cars costing far more. Pricing across the line is competitive, with only the Hybrid and Energi versions likely to stretch a mainstream buyer’s budges. Unfortunately ,MyFord Touch is so onerous to operate it could be a deal-breaker for the less technically inclined.