2014 Ford Fusion SE Review

Adding Substance to Style

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2014 Ford Fusion SE Review
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The Fusion is a hot seller thanks to its great styling and wide variety of options but it can’t compete with the top crop of mid-sizers when it comes to fuel economy. You might remember that in all our past tests, the Fusion returned worse-than-advertised mileage

FAST FACTS

Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 178 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: Rated at 23 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway. We saw 28 mpg.

Price: Starts at $25,555, as tested $29,905

For 2014, Ford almost entirely replaces the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine with a 1.5-liter EcoBoost unit. This small change aims to improve refinement and deliver consistent fuel economy closer to Fords advertised numbers. Curious to see if Ford’s minor displacement decrease would make a major difference, I spent a week with a well equipped Fusion SE.

In and Out

A quick walk around the Fusion reminded me of just how good it looks. The styling still seems fresh and is arguably better looking than its rivals. Two new color choices are available this year: a red finish called “Sunset,” and a darker blue-green color called “Dark Side.” The Fusion SE comes standard with 17-inch alloys and is available with 18- or 19-inch wheels to help it stand out even more.

Interior styling remains about average with the Fusion. There isn’t anything particularly fancy about the cabin, but it isn’t offensively cheap either.

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The company puts its MyFord Touch infotainment system on center stage and the eight-inch screen is the hub for everything in the cabin from entertainment to climate controls. The touch-screen works great for navigation and entering destinations, but sometimes we just wanted some knobs for tuning the radio and changing the climate control. Instead, Ford augments the MyFord Touch system with an endless array of buttons - which can be overwhelming at first glance. Fortunately the system features a voice-recognition system that is probably the best in the business, giving you the ability to change the climate settings without having to take your hands off the wheel, assuming you don’t mind talking to your car.

There’s little to complain about when it comes to the accommodations in the Fusion. Featuring plenty of space, Ford’s mid-size sedan comes with more front headroom, front legroom and rear headroom than the Mazda6. Sitting in the car for two trips spanning nine hours of driving time saw no whining, cramps or numb rear-ends. The big 16 cubic-foot trunk (again, more than the Mazda6) is plenty spacious.

New Engine

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Little has changed inside the Fusion, but all the big changes are under the hood. The 1.5-liter engine isn’t giving up much in terms of power, still putting out the same 178-hp as the 1.6-liter and 177 lb-ft of torque, which is only seven lb-ft less twist than the slightly larger mill. More importantly, peak torque in the new 1.5-liter engine comes on 1,000 RPM sooner than with the 1.6. Horsepower maxes out later in the rev range, but only by a little bit. The 1.6 is still available, but only with a manual transmission.

2014 Ford Fusion Review 1According to the EPA, the new engine performs just the same: 23 MPG in the city, 36 on the highway or an average 28. Last year, we struggled to squeak out 25 MPG with the 1.6-liter engine, but I managed to replicate the EPA results perfectly with the 1.5. The six-speed automatic transmission is a little bit slow to respond. If it would downshift a little more easily, the Fusion would probably consume even less fuel.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Mazda6 vs 2013 Ford Fusion 1.6

Believe it or not, Ford did a lot to help the engine return better mileage. A clutched water pump allows for quicker engine warm up times resulting in better cold-start emissions and improved fuel consumption on cold days. The engine also features a water-cooled, integrated exhaust manifold that is built to keep the motor light, while allowing for the turbocharger to be closer to the exhaust ports; something that Ford says improves throttle response.

Built for the Real World

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There isn’t much of an appreciable difference on the road, but it’s adequate to keep up with all motoring duties. Where it succeeds is with better insulation of noise, vibration and harshness. There’s far less chaos entering the cabin when the turbocharged engine gets going compared to the old 1.6-liter engine. The Fusion handles as sweetly as last year’s model with the same direct steering feel.

2014 Ford Fusion Review 12Our model came equipped with the $1,200 driver assistance package. Some features in this package, like the active lane-keep assist aren’t as robust and consistent as what you’d find in a luxury car, but will still try to prevent you from leaving your lane unintentionally by applying torque to the steering wheel to steer the car or by beeping and vibrating the steering wheel as a cue for you to move the car yourself.

A new option for 2014 is the $190 inflatable rear-seatbelts. The Insurance Institue of Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2014 Fusion as a Top Safey Pick Plus, which the highest rating a car can achieve. This extra focus on safety will certainly be appreciated by those looking for additional peace of mind.

Other features are available like active park assist, a neat addition that promises an easier parallel parking experience. Starting at $25,555 for an SE with the 1.5-liter engine, our model outfitted with extras cost $29,905 still comes across competitively in the market.

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The Verdict

The Fusion, equipped with the 1.5-liter engine is a great choice in the segment and is behind only to the fantastic Mazda6 and four-cylinder Honda Accord. Exciting to look at, but a bit drab to be in and drive, the Fusion has just a little bit of work ahead of it in order to leapfrog its rivals, but for now, it’s above average entry in a very competitive field.

LOVE IT
  • Refined engine
  • Improved fuel economy
  • Spacious
  • Available features
LEAVE IT
  • Bland interior
  • Not very exciting to drive
  • Sluggish transmission

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