Editorial: The 2010 Ford Fusion – Why It's Good. But Only Good.

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

At today’s LA Auto Show, Ford revealed its refreshed Fusion. In large part, the midsize sedan’s in synch with one of TTAC’s core philosophies: evolution before revolution. Manufacturers should continue to improve existing decent products rather than swing for the fences– especially when it’s the bottom of the seventh. That said, plenty of pistonheads reckon the Fusion isn’t a patch (or is) on the Euro-Mondeo. In Fantasyland, that’s the Blue Oval mid-sizer on dealer lots. And if there’s still a Ford America in 2013, we’ll have our Mondeo and drive it too. In the meantime, good is good enough. Or is it?

The Fusion we’ve got now is a decent car. It’s not perfect. The turning circle is poor. The quality of interior plastics ranges from impressive to horrendous, especially in the cheaper models. The existing engines trail Japanese competitors a bit in horsepower and fuel economy. The back seat is missing headrests. Little things, that add up to a car that wasn’t totally there.

So what has Ford done here? They redid most of the dashboard, installing a better center stack of controls and display. It’s still not an Audi, and you’d be hard pressed to call it inspired design. From the photos, it looks like a significant improvement. Cost? Probably fairly low. Ford’s also dishing-up some low-cost, high profit options for the interior. SYNC is the best audio and/or nav interface on the market, in terms of ease of use, and a Sony-branded stereo means added profits merely because Ford is using a system from an established name brand.

As for the engine upgrades, well, much respect. The 2.3-liter 4-cylinder is bounced for a 2.5-liter 4, and it’ll still offer a manual transmission– now up to six gears. The automatic is also a six-speed. Incremental improvements; way to go, Ford.

Ford’s PR sheets claim mileage will be up a few MPGs, but honestly, even if it’s better than the Camry’s, that’s not Ford’s image. The 3.0-liter 6 is up to 240 horsepower, which is less than the V6 engines from Honda and Toyota, but so what? It’s a great amount of power for the Fusion and for a front wheel-drive vehicle. The top engine– only offered in the Fusion Sport– is Ford’s 3.5-liter V6. It has the more class-competitive horsepower rating of 263. I’ve never warmed up to this engine in the Edge, Flex, and Taurus; perhaps it’s the transmission tuning, but it always feels lazy and dumpy.

The Fusion hybrid is a separate debate– and the topic of Robert’s other post– but hey, at least Ford is in the game.

The biggest issue for these cars, aside from some moderate flaws, is that Ford has zero image right now. Other than seeing one on the street and saying “I like the look of that,” I don’t know why someone would be attracted to the Fusion instead of the dozen other competitors.

Ford’s marketing to journalists tends to argue that they have the best “thought out” vehicles. This usually means creature comforts, as well as some ergonomic improvements. For instance: SYNC, capless fuel fillers (cleaner hands), clever doors on the Flex (cleaner pant legs), power moving pedals (saves from short people sitting on top of the airbag). But so what? Can you really sell cars on nebulously defined “technology?” Well, no. That’s what Acura has been trying to do for years, and it doesn’t work for them.

Ford probably doesn’t have the money or resources to develop a clear brand image. So they’ll do what Toyota does: incrementally improve cars that are pretty good. It’s a good long-term strategy, but not a great one. And tough to do when you’re playing against the clock. We’ll bring you a review of the upgraded Fusion as soon as possible.

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Njnikusha Njnikusha on Nov 20, 2008

    davey49 Yes :) so does mercury milan. what do u know it turns out Ford still is able to make good cars

  • Jerry weber Jerry weber on Nov 21, 2008

    Isn't it funny, we are praising this new Ford jsut one year after GM got accolades for their new malibu. It seems these halo models go so far in their help for their parent companies, but don't hit the home run out of the park. It is a shame, because I read how Ford took a mediocre 500 and made the new taurus a much nicer car. In the Fifties and Sixties, VW made a science out of incremental improvements on the bug. They sold these improvements as substitutes for a new model every year (or ten). Can Ford, improve it's way out of the doldrums? I hope so.

  • V16 I'm sure you could copy and paste most of the "NO" responses to 1960's Japanese sourced vehicles.
  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market