The cars we loved.
Once upon a time there were two midsized sedans, all of the same parent, but living on different continents. Each was planned to meet the needs of different markets and did their jobs well. Over time they became more different, to the point that they no longer had much in common. This was the case of the North American Ford Fusion and European Ford Mondeo. To confuse matter even more, the Fusion name was used in Europe as a small van/truck-like vehicle.
Back in the 90s Ford of North America’s smaller mid sized family sedan the Contour was closely linked to the Mondeo in Europe. As Ford’s American arm was experimenting with New Edge design, its European division clearly went in a different direction. By the time the Fusion came along to replace the Contour, the Mondeo had a head start on the future with its evolved Kinetic design. Both factions argued amoungst themselves as to which of Ford’s design languages would win out New Edge or Kinetic?
Matters were further complicated as Ford’s then partner Mazda developed its 6 sedan alongside the Fusion. The 6 and Fusion would be built at the same Flat Rock, Michigan facility and share many common parts. The Flat Rock pair was nice, but some still dreamed of the Mondeo. For many Americans a glimpse of what they were missing was made startlingly clear in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale. The film featured a prototype of a Mondeo and other European spec Fords like the Fiesta.
The old Fusion could be something of a car lover’s family sedan. If configured right, it offered more for the performance enthusiast than the Malibu, Accord or the Camry. Despite that, a 2006 Motor Trend survey found that many enthusiasts preferred the Ford Mondeo over the Fusion. This kind of pent up demand no doubt helped influence Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally to push the One Ford program. One Ford would slim down and merge North American and European platforms to save money. Holdouts like the Fusion would dump its Mazda platform and hop on a new heavily revised Mondeo chassis, expanding the Mondeo’s formatible global reach.
There was only one problem with the One Ford concept. It failed to recognize the equity of the Fusion name. Ford’s mishaps with the Taurus taught it a lesson that it was not planning to repeat by slapping a new name on an old favorite. So when the new Fusion was being planned, it was to be an all-new car that looked nothing like either the old Fusion or Mondeo. While the Fusion name stuck, it was essentially a Mondeo for the North American market, designed by an Englishman in Detroit.
That was a good thing, because the Mondeo was one of Ford’s best selling cars in Europe. It was available in wagon and four door hatchback models. In America, it would stick to being purely a four door sedan. As such, the sedan configuration would be the flagship body style of the new car. Ford design director Chris Hamilton went through great lengths to make the Fusion look and feel upscale, down to the squinty headlights and tightly sculpted body contours.
Mid-sized cars priced for the wider market are typically the most difficult to get right. They must be everything to all people. This strict mandate dictated that there be a whopping six powertrain options. With something for everyone ranging from an electric hybrid to direct injected fours, the Fusion overlapped into compact and luxury car market fringes. Absent from the engine list were 6 cylinder options. In fact, Ford is not alone in shunning the 6 as Hyundai, Kia and the Mazda6 have followed suite.
The lack of a 6 cylinder will be lost on most drivers, as a more powerful and efficient 2.0 L four has taken its place. With 270 hp, its more powerful than the previous generations 3.5L V6 from the Fusion Sport and nearly as powerful as the old MazdaSpeed6. In addition to the 2.0L, the flagship Platinum model has all-wheed drive mated to a six speed automatic transmission. More common versions of the Fusion are likely to have the 2.5L Duratec 16v (175 hp) or the 1.6L EcoBoost inline four with 184 hp. Some even offer a six-speed manual, a rarety in the midsize class. Overall performance has improved, but Ford knows most buyers will choose a Fusion for its looks.
Ford borrowed cues from its 2011 Evos show car, which itself was influenced by Ford’s previous ownership of Aston Martin. The six pointed grille, now a staple in the Focus and Fiesta was enlarged and moved up, giving the Fusion the instant look of a fictional Aston Martin mid-sized sedan. Ford would milk the Evos for future inspiration, like the 2015 Mustang.
Ford would need all the style it could get due to the mid-sized sedan segment suddenly becoming hot with exciting designs from Huyndai, Kia and Mazda. Even formally boring cars from Chevorlet and Buick have stepped it up considerably.
The well laid out interior is one of Ford’s best, with cues borrowed from Volvo, another Ford association from the past. The curved console rises to a dash with simple and tasteful metallic accents. The overall package looks as impressive on the inside as it is out. The dashboard display features a well laid out info panel that makes it esier to concentrate on the road as opposed to glancing at the center console for entertainment options info. While still striking, the Fusion may no longer be the hotshot sedan of the moment but is still one of the most attractive in its price range. Its old partner, the Mazda 6 may have stole some of the Fusion’s limelight style wise, but the Fusion continues to outsell the Mazda 6 and holds up well against domestic competition like the newly restyled Chevy Malibu.
There are subtle differences between the Fusion and Mondeo. For instance the electric steering in the Fusion has been tuned for better response, while the Mondeo has a softer ride (suprinsingly). The current looks are everything market has moved style awareness up front just in time for the Mondeo homecoming. The Fusion continues to be a leader in performance and its use of advance technology. In the end it all comes back to looks. Americans finally have a Fusion they can be proud of. Thats a small concession to those who are forced to admit that Ford of Europe won the argument over which was better: New Edge or Kinetic design.