Richard Aucock
08/07/2009 06:09 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

Ford Fusion 1.4 TDCi review (2002-2005)

On test:Ford Fusion


Bodystyle:5dr hatchback
Engine:1.4-litre in-line 4 cylinder
Fuel type:Diesel
Transmission:5-speed manual
Date of test: 2002

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What is it?

It's an 'UAV'. That's Urban Activity Vehicle, if you're not familiar with Ford-speak?or a Fiesta-on-stilts, if you're a little cynical. Ford is convinced it's created a new market sector with the Fusion though, and certainly the prospect of Fiesta running costs mated to high-rise reassurance will be tempting to many. The interior is touch more flexible too, though Ford has limited revolution in the quest for affordability. That's also why the dash design is, essentially, that of a Fiesta's, as is the chassis, engine range, gearbox?

Where does it fit?

As it's a 'revolutionary new concept', Ford reckons there are no direct rivals for the Fusion. However, if we were buying this 1.4-litre turbodiesel variant, we'd certainly also consider a Peugeot 206 SW, Skoda Fabia estate, Toyota Yaris Verso or Honda Jazz, even though the latter is not available as a diesel. And, as it's basically a flashy supermini, we'd also look at the Citroen C3, MINI, Volkswagen Polo and, indeed, the standard Fiesta.

Is it for you?

It looks a bit like a 4x4, with slightly raised ground clearance, but doesn't off-road. It'll get stuck on a slippy field, yet alone a mountain range. Best treat instead as a roomier supermini; there's 16% more boot space than a Fiesta, as well as more overall interior room for occupants sitting on high-set (if unsupportive when cornering) seats. It features the same economical engines, manual and automatic gearboxes and decent levels of safety kit, though may perform less-well in NCAP pedestrian safety results due to the higher nose. In all, a more practical hatchback for those who are prepared to pay the extra, and who don't expect anything revolutionary.

What does it do well?

In its favour above all is that height; you sit above most other car drivers, which imparts a wonderful feeling of security upon occupants. Visibility is first-rate, too, as is the impression that you're a bit special. It's like being in a 4x4, without all the negative connotations. The Fusion is also a very easy car to drive, as you'd expect from the Fiesta underpinnings. The gearshift - mounted high-up next to the driver - is brilliantly-slick and smooth, and is mated to an easy clutch. The diesel engine is quiet (if slightly rattly at tickover) and though it's not fast, it's a solid-enough performer once up to speed. It handles reassuringly, can be slotted around town with ease, yet also copes well on longer journeys. Essentially, the Fusion is a slightly 'different-looking' hatchback which is, if anything, even less-compromised than the model it's based upon.

What doesn't it do well?

There's little innovation here. Those expecting features to surprise and delight will be disappointed; save for a fold-down passenger seat, the Fusion is completely conventional inside, even down to retaining the Fiesta's basic architecture. It's also not 'special' to drive, while the diesel engine lacks any sort of performance below 2000rpm; don't get caught off-boost. And for a styling exercise, the looks are disappointingly conformist. It looks too much like the Fiesta it's based upon - itself hardly a dramatic-looking car - which may limit the Fusion's appeal with the hip and trendy buyers Ford's aiming it at.

What's it like to live with?

As you perhaps will have gathered, pretty painless. The diesel engine is very economical, meaning it'll be cheap to fuel, while Ford's huge dealer network and three-year warranty helps keep service costs down. Then there's the associated mass-manufacturer bonuses of cheap parts prices, low insurance groups and easy resale, which, coupled with the Fusion's extra high-rise practicality, make it a satisfying vehicle to use on a day-to-day basis. It may lack stylish drama, but this means there are no compromises in the 'real world'.

Would we buy it?

The Fusion's usability is admirable, but there's no denying it's lacking 'something', that little extra which makes the Ka and Focus so desirable. The styling seems too plain, the interior fails to offer any real advances, and while it's competent and reassuring on the road, it's no driver's delight. Ford will argue this is exactly what customers hanker after, and we've no reason to doubt its claims. It's just a shame the Fusion doesn't continue the newly-accepted trend for brilliant new Fords - and for this reason, we possibly wouldn't buy one ourselves, despite the obvious attractions of that commandingly-high driving position.

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