2006 Ford Fusion SEL
Sized and equipped to go head-to-head with the most popular midsize imports, the 2006 Ford Fusion is the first Ford to be completely developed digitally--designed, engineered, and tested for manufacturing in computer simulations before being physically constructed. The Fusion fits between the smaller Focus and the larger Five Hundred, and in ancestry, it demonstrates Ford's global orientation and current way of doing business. Ford owns controlling interest in Mazda, Mazda has a good if undermarketed sedan in the Mazda6, and so the Mazda6 structure was widened, lengthened, and strengthened to become the Fusion's architecture.
Like the import brands that are its direct competitors, the Ford Fusion is offered with both four-cylinder and V-6 engines. The four-cylinder is the 2.3-liter, 160-horsepower unit also found in the Focus, matched to a five-speed manual or automatic transmission. The 221-horsepower V-6 comes with only a six-speed automatic. The list of standard equipment for the three trim levels is long, including AM/FM/MP3-compatible CD sound systems. But don't look for a nav system, cell phone integration, satellite radio, or MP3 player compatibility in the factory option list.
Our test car was a top-of-the-line Fusion SEL V-6, with a very reasonable base price of $21,710. Even after adding leather seats for $895, antilock brakes for $595, heated front seats for $295, the $395 Safety and Security package (with front side-impact air bags, full-length side curtain air bags, and a perimeter alarm), the $595 SEL Premium Package (with heated outside rearview mirrors with puddle lamps, an electrochromic inside rearview mirror, and automatic headlights), and the $650 destination charge, the total was $25,135.
An all-wheel-drive model is planned for introduction late in the 2006 calendar year, with a hybrid in 2008.Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With the 2006 Ford Fusion, Ford reached into its global parts bin, mixing, matching, and modifying familiar ingredients, then wrapped the result in a new look. For the most part, it's successful, lacking only key electronic options that appeal to tech-savvy buyers. As a car, it's the first Ford to offer a serious alternative to the popular midsize sedans.
The Ford Fusion's styling earned many looks and some interesting comments during our time with it. While it was parked on the street in a Silicon Valley residential neighborhood one morning, we observed a jogger stop and spend several minutes carefully checking out the car. This is a reaction not normally associated with affordable midsize sedans.
Its clean exterior design and attention to details including tight panel gaps and external mirror shape. Its gasketless windshield and rear window glass help reduce noise inside the Fusion, as does extensive use of a variety of noise-damping materials around the interior.
The interior has a fresh, international look, with three motifs depending on trim level. Our Fusion SEL V-6 was a handsome two-tone tan and black, with--as on all Fusion models--high-quality soft-touch synthetic materials on the instrument panel and doors. Controls for cruise, climate, and audio were mounted on the steering wheel. In the place of too-common artificial wood trim was what Ford calls piano black plastic, which fits well with the other interior materials and textures.
Instruments are shaded from glare under a European-looking hood. The SEL model comes with a good-quality six-speaker AM/FM/in-dash, six-CD sound system that can play MP3 CDs, displaying title, artist, and album information. Loading and unloading discs is, as with most changers, best done at a stop or by the front-seat passenger. Unfortunately, there is no provision for using an external MP3 player or iPod without aftermarket accessories. Satellite radio, navigation, and Bluetooth cell phone integration are also left to the aftermarket. The analog clock in the center of the stack is a bit incongruous but is easy to read at a glance. A bin located in the top of the dash provides storage space for small items.
The Fusion SEL also has an automatic climate-control system that is simple to use and warms the car quickly in cool weather. There is a power point at the bottom of the center stack, where it joins the console, and another in the bottom of the two-layer console box. Anyone planning to charge a phone in that box is advised to keep it in the lower compartment, as there is no pass-through to the top.
Being that the Ford Fusion is a completely new model, we would expect the interior to include 21st-century digital appointments--at the very least, an auxiliary audio input. However, the audio system sits in a double-DIN slot, and the center stack would work fine for a more robust aftermarket system.