Car Test   R0273
 
October 2002
First Drive Ford Fusion
Printer Friendly Page
Buyers of smaller hatchbacks are spoilt for choice nowadays. The ordinary supermini (of which the Fiesta is a classic example) is now challenged not only by elongated estate versions like the Skoda Fabia, but also taller hatchbacks with an MPV-style stance. Most stay faithful to folding but non-removable back seats and are about four metres long, but they manage to find more interior space and offer easier access, thanks to their taller build. The new Fusion is Fordís attempt to capture a significant slice of this market.
  
   Our tape measure and a couple of hours at the wheel of the 1.4 diesel and 1.6 petrol versions confirmed that the Fusion succeeds in offering more room for rear passengers, an extra 2.4cu ft of luggage space behind (with no load sill), as well as a loftier, Ďin-controlí driving position.
  
   Women at the wheel particularly like sitting higher (why else would so many drive around locally in four-wheel-drive and sports utility vehicles?). Some men may feel that the rake only adjustable wheel is set too close, but we canít see many women complaining about this and we think they, in particular, will like the driving position.
  
   The gearchange is superb; thereís no problem when parking because of the bodyís cubic shape and unobstructed all-round vision and the seat supports well, despite the absence of lumbar adjustment.
  
   Oddments spaces arenít over-generous, but the front passengerís seat cushion can be raised to reveal a wonderfully commodious hidey-hole. The backrest also folds forward to give a hard, flat surface, as well as providing extra-long stowage, through the cabin to the facia.
  
   Back seat folding does require the front seats to be slid forwards a bit to make space for the rear ones, but the recessed rear head restraints donít have to be removed and you can achieve a flat, uninterrupted load deck on the Fusion, nicely trimmed throughout.
  
   All this adds up to a spacious yet still compact small car (just 10cm longer than Fiesta) which adds about £1000 to the asking price, similarly engined and equipped.
  
   Unfortunately, its road manners donít match its showroom promise. Not surprisingly, as with most MPV-style offerings, the unchanged 1.4 Fiesta engines (both petrol and diesel) have insufficient puff to cope with the Fusionís extra weight and bluffer shape Ė even before you fill the extra space inside. The diesel doesnít complain or feel harsh, but the Fusion really needs the 92bhp version of this Peugeot-Citroen-derived engine; currently itís only available in the Citroen C3. So, itís only the 1.6 petrol version of the Fusion (£500 dearer than the 1.4) that shows any semblance of liveliness for overtaking.
  
   This choice does nothing for the Fusionís ride and handling, however. On even reasonably smooth surfaces the car fidgets and its fretfulness develops an even harsher edge over secondary surfaces, when its directional certainty is compromised, as well.
  
   Itís also prone to veer off-course in response to a determined stab (or sudden release) on the accelerator. This torque-steer and poor suspension control harks back to the Fiesta two generations ago and is a real disappointment.
  
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • excellent all-round view
  • rear head restraints recess flush with backrest
  • extra delayed single wipe after screenwash
and GRIPES
  • minor instruments/digits illegible
  • no space for left foot beside clutch
  • steering wheel set close
VERDICT
The Fusion looks like a really good idea, but its showroom promise isnít matched on the road, where it feels like a Fiesta on high heels. It also lacks seating versatility; a big player like Ford should have moved the game on further than the accommodation features on offer in the Fusion. Most of them are in the Fiesta, as well Ė albeit in slightly more cramped surroundings.


THE FUSION RANGE
size and type supermini-sized MPV-style estate car   trim levels 1, 2, 3
engines petrol: 4cylinder/1.4litre/80bhp, 4/1.6/100
diesel: 4/1.4/68
  drive 5-speed manual; front-wheel drive (5-speed autoshift synchromesh gearbox optional extra)
notable features electric windscreen heating, fold-flat front passenger's seat, load-deck net

VITAL STATISTICS (cm)
length x width (folded mirrors) 402x178
front
- legroom 87-108
- headroom (no sunroof) 95-102
rear
- typical legroom 104
- typical kneeroom 74
- headroom 95
- hiproom 127
load space
(all seats in use)(litres/cu ft)
412/14.5
load length
(seats up/folded/to facia)
66/130/236
load width 99-130
load sill height (inside/outside) 1/53
boot/load aperture height 57-89
© The Automobile Association Limited 2014