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2010 Ford Fusion SEL I4 Review

2010 Ford Fusion SEL I4  (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Ford Fusion SEL I4

SEE ALSO: Ford Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Ford Buyers Guide

By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

The mid-size sedan market constitutes the largest segment of the car market and is perhaps the most competitive. Think of the new Malibu, Altima, Camry, Accord, Sebring . . . on and on. Even Suzuki is entering the market with a slick new offering. Ford is competing head on against all these great cars with this Fusion - freshly redesigned for 2010.

Fusion came to the market in about 2002 as a replacement for the long-in-the-tooth Taurus, one of Ford’s most successful cars ever. Though the Taurus name has been resurrected it now identifies a full-size car. The 2010 Fusion is the second generation of this front-wheel drive, 5-passenger, plain-Jane built off what began as the Mazda6 platform. It’s more than just a freshening. Although it looks little different, it’s really a substantial redesign.

While I’m not usually fond of dark red or maroon cars, this one caught my eye in the parking lot where I picked it up. It was backed into its slot so the bold new front end jumped right out at me. The more intense chrome, three-bar grille and dramatic new treatment around the fog lights and lower air intake stand out as much improved over the past Fusion. A bulging hood and sharpened body creases improve its appearance as well.

We can’t say the same for the rear treatment however. The old triangular taillights were surrounded by rather garish chrome trim on the old one, but these are unembellished. From the rear this Fusion is plain as white bread. The side profile shows just a modest update with the rear flank resembling Malibu, which means it reflects many of the freshened mid-size sedans out there.

Inside we found a few fresh ideas. Fusion’s gauges have an attractive three-dimensional, multi-colored glow resulting from an electroluminescent design that got our attention right away. You don’t have to wait for night driving to enjoy this feature – it’s always lit this way, making for an attractive easy read of the information right in front of you. The center stack of conventional design, though reasonably attractive, and is a tad busy with all the buttons and switches. Climate controls are mounted low on the stack making them a bit hard to manage and part of the controls are only accessible through the generous 8-inch navigation screen. I’m quite fond of the little, shallow cubby built into the top of the dash immediately above the stack. I’m not sure what I would use it for but it’s pretty slick.

The rear seat has plenty of room and is reasonably easy to get in and out of. The seat back is fixed so we don’t have the utility of flopping it down for larger cargo. Interior and trunk volume is just about the same as the major competitors.

This Fusion I4 SEL shows a base price of $23,975. The entry-level S model starts at $19,270 and the top-of-the-line Hybrid will set you back about $27, 270 before adding any options. This one comes standard with 17-inch aluminum wheels, automatic headlights, a new capless fuel filler, chromed exhaust tips, fog lamps, keyless entry, heated mirrors, 8-way power seats, ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, leather wrapped steering wheel, nice leather seats, Sirius satellite radio, Ford’s popular Sync voice activated system, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, and all the other stuff we now expect.

Our test car has a few options including blind spot indicators, premium Sony sound system, power moonroof, rearview video camera and the $1,775 voice-activated navigation system. With the $725 destination charge we’re looking at a sticker price of $29,175.

Fit, finish and materials are otherwise OK – but nothing special, though the black leather seats with bold grey stitching are very nice. Over all, I think the Malibu’s interior design is much better. Ford has paid particular attention to softening the touch points on the inside making it feel more classy. They’ve also done an admirable job of sound deadening and insulation to minimize road noise and improve the quality of the other noises you hear. The doors close with an exceptionally solid kerthunk.

Handling is good – not race-track good, but good. Front suspension design and geometry have changed from conventional struts to an independent, short and long arm system with double lower ball joints and stabilizer bar. Rear is still a multi-link independent with twist blade and stabilizer bar. This all makes for a conventional feel on the road. I found the brakes a bit touchy and light until I got used to them a bit and found most of the tactile elements to be a bit soft for my liking, including the steering feel.

The blind spot warning system works well and is unobtrusive. In city traffic I didn’t notice it working until I was ready to change lanes and looked toward the mirror where the little amber dot told me when a car was within range. Some blind sport warning systems, I’m thinking Volvo particularly, have indicator lights that are unnecessarily bright and distracting.

Power is adequate in most circumstances for this 3,600-pound car. Ford added about 15 hp to the previous I4 to make 172 hp in this 2010 Fusion. With 175 lb-ft of torque it’s good for a 0-to-60 time of 9.5 seconds – nothing to write home about but enough to keep up well with most traffic. You can have this four-banger mated to either a six-speed stick or six-speed automatic. The automatic does not have a manual mode. Our test car is the automatic and the EPA rates it at 22-mpg in the city and 31 on the highway using regular fuel. We drove it a lot this week without babying it at all in a variety of conditions and managed a good 31.8-mpg. I was impressed.

Two V6 engines (240 and 264-hp, respectively) can be had if you want a little extra power and both come with the six-speed automatic only. This automatic does have a manual mode. You can also have an all-wheel drive option if you like. I’ve read rumors of a plan for a “GT” version of the Fusion featuring a 340-hp EcoBoost engine but I wouldn’t hold my breath given the current industry’s troubles.

The IIHS has named Fusion as a Top Safety Pick and NHTSA gives it five stars (max score) for front driver and passenger protection including side impacts and four stars for rear seat and rollover protection.

The Mexico-built Fusion has been a popular choice of folks taking advantage of the government’s cash for clunkers deals so production has jumped considerably, but it still sells well below the numbers of Camry and Accord.

Ford’s new car warranty covers the Fusion bumper-to-bumper for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The I4 Fusion is a comfortable, competent mid-size sedan without polarizing design elements. With over 30-mpg easily attainable and a cruising range of over 400 miles it will appeal to lots of folks who need a good, solid, well-built car without a lot of fluff or frills.

Henry Ford would be proud.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

SEE ALSO: Ford Specs, Prices and Comparisons-Ford Buyers Guide