08/07/2009 06:09 | By Kyle Fortune, contributor, MSN Cars

Ford Fusion Plus 1.6 16v review (2002-2005)

Ford Fusion (© Ford)

Bodystyle: 5-door hatchback
Engine: 1.6-litre 16V in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: September 2003

What is it?

The Fusion is as it says - a fusion of a traditional supermini with some of the more practical elements normally associated with MPVs. Based on the same underpinnings as the Fiesta, the Fusion is taller and more spacious than its supermini relative. The more boxy appearance and upright stance are slightly reminiscent of 4x4s - but the Fusion is only available in front-wheel-drive. This Fusion+ is the range topper, it coming with rear privacy glass, smart alloy wheels, some additional body styling and an integrated roof-mounted DVD system to entertain rear seat passengers.

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Where does it fit?

In the Ford line-up the Fusion sits just above the Fiesta. Aimed at those not too concerned about style and more interested in practicality. Ford consider its rivals models like the Honda Jazz and upmarket Audi A2, but its more likely to appeal to the kind of buyer that might normally have opted for a Citroen Berlingo Multispace, Fiat Doblo or one of the other functional family orientated vehicles. The Fusion betters this competition by not being based on a van, its styling is more pleasing as a result - though only just. The Fusion+ sits at the top of the Fusion range priced at £12,850 - if you're on a tighter budget and can live without this model's standard DVD package then there are cheaper trim variants available. Engines offered include the +'s 1.6-litre petrol engine, or a smaller 1.4-litre in petrol or diesels.

Is it for you?

If you're reading this then it seems that you're interested. That means, according to the marketing-type people, that you've either got a young family or you're the sort of person that likes to strap bikes, surfboards and the like to your car in the pursuit of your active lifestyle. Given the rear-mounted DVD package in the Fusion + it's more than likely that you're the former - the screen in the rear certain to keep the children distracted as you ferry them around. If you're after a practical, comfortable and discreet family runabout then the Fusion is a good all-rounder, but its van-based rivals offer more space - for less money.

What does it do well?

It'll carry you and your passengers around in decent comfort - which is exactly what it's designed to do. There's lots of space in the boot which has a nice large opening which is also usefully low too; inside the cabin is full of cubby storage. It drives like a tall Fiesta - which it is - meaning its quite good fun, and the 1.6-litre engine feels eager when revved. The steering is accurate and the gearshift easy, while the high driving position gives you a good view of the road ahead and over parked cars around town. Overall that sums up the Fusion, an easy, and relatively enjoyable drive that offers attractive features for family buyers.

What doesn't it do well?

The Fusion might offer a bit more space over its Fiesta sibling, but that's about all. The + admittedly adds the DVD package which is undoubtedly attractive to people who want to distract their passengers on longer journeys, but aside from this the Fusion is difficult to justify over its van-based rivals. They all offer more space, many including useful touches like sliding doors, the Fusion feels just like a tall Fiesta, and lacks the outright versatility of such competition. The 1.6 may be eager when revved, but driving it in this fashion can be tiresome - making the 1.4 TDCI turbodiesel, with its more impressive torque characteristics a more desirable proposition. The interior is uninspired, and although it's meant to be a practical car, why does it have to look so dull?

What's it like to live with?

Living with the Fusion should be a painless experience, Ford dealers are everywhere making mundane tasks like servicing a breeze. Around town the high driving position is a boon, though the Fusion doesn't feel out of depth on the motorway, cruising comfortably at speed. The big boot with its low sill allows easy loading of family paraphernalia like pushchairs and the like, but some bootspace could have been sacrificed to give a bit more legroom for adults in the rear seats. The numerous cubbies are useful for hiding the travel sweets, wet wipes, tissues and the like, and that DVD system and air conditioning will make even longer journeys more comfortable for all. As a driving experience it's competent, and even quite enjoyable, but so are its rivals.

Would we buy it?

When the Fusion was launched it was to a less than enthusiastic response. Certainly it's not the kind of car that you're likely to crave after - the nondescript styling part of the reason - but it's certainly not without merit. This model tested has a lot of appeal to the family buyer, though you do pay rather a lot for the DVD system and styling add-ons. Cheaper versions make more sense, the Fusion + coming uncomfortably close to Ford's own Focus 1.6-litre Zetec Estate which will give you similar practicality in a far more stylish and better-driving package. We'd consider the cheaper versions, though we'd also look closely at the van-based competition from the French and Italian manufacturers as alternatives.

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