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Ford Fusion review (Mondeo) (2013 onwards)
What - 2013 Ford Fusion / Mondeo
Where - Santa Monica, California
Date - September 2012
Price - TBA
Available - Autumn 2013
Key Rivals -Citroen C5, Peugeot 508, Honda Accord, Hyundai i40, Kia Optima, Toyota Avensis, Skoda Superb, Volvo S60, Volkswagen Passat, Vauxhall Insignia
Summary: the middle-market family saloon / repmobile sector may be shrinking in sales, but Ford has delivered a car that looks every bit as good as it is to drive. Here our trans-Atlantic correspondent gets to grips with the American Mondeo, badged Fusion.
We like: six-figure styling, solid road manners, smooth powertrains
We don't like: uutward visibility, MyFord Touch system requires getting used to
For the first time since its inception, the Ford Mondeo returns to its status as a true world car. As with the Fiesta and Focus, it will be sold globally including in American where D-segment saloons sell in positively massive numbers. There, the Mondeo's equivalent sold nearly a quarter million units last year, proving Mondeo Man really IS alive. He just happens to not live in Blighty.
Regardless of where you hail from the new Mondeo is definitely a head-turner. Its visage was heavily influenced by the striking Evos concept, while the swoopy profile is much more four-door coupe than humdrum saloon. If Aston Martin were to step away from the Xerox machine and be a bit more pragmatic, the Rapide would've looked more like this, and a lot less like every other Aston from the past decade.
Underneath its sharp new suit lies a brand new platform, which Ford says will eventually underpin 10 different global models. Despite looking massive in these photos, it's mostly an illusion as the car's wheelbase remains the same, and length is up by less than an inch.
Our first drive was of the Fusion, the US market version of what will be the Mondeo; a five-door hatchback and an estate will join the range by the time it goes on sale next year.
When it arrives, the Mondeo will be available with a plethora of engines, but our drive focused on two petrol motors: the 1.6-litre EcoBoost, and the range-topping 2.0 EcoBoost. Other noteworthy engines include a 2.0-litre TCDi which will be offered with all-wheel drive, the 1.0-litre turbocharged triple from the Focus, and a pair of hybrids including one with plug-in capability.
Ford expects the 1.6 EcoBoost to be the volume seller in North America, and to suit the country's open stretches, it has boosted power to 178 hp and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. It's a refined engine, offering ample torque (peak from 2,500 rpm), little lag, and low levels of noise. The six-speed manual it's paired to has a light, slick feel.
The 2.0 turbo has been carried over from the existing car, offering near V6-levels of performance with notably better fuel economy. While it may not lead the segment in any particular way, it's still a solid choice; it's smooth, tractable, and is considerably peppier than the 1.6.
Thanks to a strict noise-abatement program, this is one of the quietest family saloons we've driven. Both motors can barely heard even under full throttle, while wind, road, and tyre noise are well controlled thanks to a perimeter-sealed engine bay and acoustic underbody shields.
Ride and Handling
That a considerable portion of the Mondeo's development took place in North America might set off alarm bells, but Ford promises it'll be enjoyable to drive, whether you live in Brisbane, Boston, Berlin, or Bristol - no small task. Thankfully our route on Mulholland Drive, on the hills overlooking Los Angeles, has plenty of switchbacks and curves to test Ford's claims.
Initial impressions are positive. Despite a switch to electric steering in the name of efficiency, the rack is precise, sharp and doesn't have any gloopiness around the straight ahead. It works hand in hand with the stiff chassis and well-calibrated throttle and brake pedals. The 2.0 on uprated 18-inch wheels and firmer suspension feels better still; its steering is sharper and its ride tauter without compromising compliance.
Despite the fact that both our tester cars had fixed-rate dampers - adjustable units will be available on select models - body control and comfort levels are excellent. While we'll have to wait for UK cars to give the final verdict, out here, the car flowed from corner to corner and absorbed the biggest potholes California could throw at us with aplomb.
While the Mondeo is still the athlete of the class, at the wheel, you simply can't ignore the fact that this is a big, broad-shouldered car. Provided you're not expecting Focus levels of entertainment, you won't be disappointed.
While interior space is going to be one of the Mondeo's big draws, the cabin is also a nicer place to pass the miles. The new seats not only look great, they're comfy too, offering Volvo levels of plushness and support.
As for fit and finish, Ford benchmarked Audi; while it's not quite up to Audi spec with a few hard plastics, liberal use of nicely grained soft-touch plastics and narrow assembly gaps assure it feels a cut above class rivals.
One new addition is the MyFord Touch system, which combines an eight-inch touchscreen with cellphone-style capacitive touch controls to alleviate the typically cluttered Ford centre stack.
The system has been through a number of iterations in North America, and by and large it works fairly well, though some buttons are small and the screen can be a far reach away. Unfortunately, you can't wear gloves when operating it, though most commands can be executed via voice control.
Rear-seat room remains more than generous, and despite the low roof line there's enough headroom for those over six-feet tall. The saloon model has a large boot, despite a slightly narrow opening, but for maximum load-lugging ability, stick with the Estate model.
Trim levels have yet to be finalized, but the potential levels of equipment it could possess are quite impressive. Our US spec cars certainly weren't wanting for technology, and included a semi-digital instrument cluster with two configurable screens, push-button start, reverse camera, and a radar-based self-park function.
Economy and Safety
While Ford has looked after drivers' needs, it hasn't neglected the fleet manager's primary concerns: mpg and CO2. Without trying too hard, we were able to achieve just shy of 40 mpg on the hilly and brisk drive in the 1.6. Official figures are still a while away, but expect other variants to undercut the current car and be competitive with the segment.
Given that it rides on a state-of-the-art architecture and packs more airbags than you can shake a stick at, we expect nothing short of a five-star NCAP rating.
Its technology suite includes lane departure warning, LED headlamps, blind spot warning, and adaptive cruise control with Volvo-style auto-brake system to prevent low-speed shunts are all available. This will also be the first European Ford to feature airbags built into the rear seatbelts to protect against chest injuries.
MSN Cars verdict
From our initial taste, we can definitely say the new Mondeo is an impressive family car; we reckon it's one of the best regardless of which side of the Atlantic you call home.
By leveraging its global resources, Ford has given the Mondeo a makeover rivalled only by the Six Million Dollar Man; it offers more of what buyers expect and want, but it's the look that really sells it.
And while it might not stop the Teutons and compact crossovers from further nibbling away at the family car market share, Ford certainly stands the best chance at fending them off.
Need to know - Ford Fusion 1.6 EcoBoost & 2.0 EcoBoost
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, front-wheel drive
Power, hp: 178 - 240
Torque, lb ft: 184 - 270
0-62mph, secs: 7.5 - 6.8
Top speed, mph: tbc
MPG, combined: tbc
CO2, g/km tax: tbc
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