LOS ANGELES--The 2010 Ford Fusion is a key to Ford Motor Co.'s bid to become an industry leader in fuel efficiency.
Ford made many changes when it restyled its flagship midsize sedan, but the styling, ride, and handling improvements pale next to the emphasis on stretching dollars at the fuel pump.
It's a two-pronged approach: A new hybrid version of the Fusion boasts a fuel-economy rating of 41 mpg city/36 highway. The conventional four-cylinder Fusion with a six-speed automatic transmission is rated at 23 city/34 highway. The current Fusion, with a four-cylinder engine, gets 20 mpg city/29 highway.
"This is an opportunity for us to take share from imports," Frank Davis, Ford executive director of North American car and truck programs, said at a press event here. "We think we can rally around fuel economy."
Ford says the new Fusion, which goes on sale in March, will be America's most fuel-efficient midsize sedan for hybrid and conventional versions.
The basics: Besides the hybrid, Ford is adding a performance model. The Fusion Sport is powered by a 263-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. Ford reduced wind and road noise and improved ride and handling, reducing body roll.
Notable features: The four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V-6 versions have electronic power-assisted steering, which improves steering, helps fuel economy, and shrinks the turning radius. The hybrid features a digital instrument-panel display that coaches drivers to maximize fuel efficiency. One portion of the display shows a digital tree that grows vines and leaves as fuel economy improves.
Design: Ford restyled the Fusion's front end in search of a sportier look and improved aerodynamics. Exterior sheet metal, except for the roof and doors, was changed. A new interior strives for a high-tech look.
Compromises and shortcomings: For all the styling changes, the exterior design is similar to the outgoing model. If you didn't like that model, the 2010 Fusion won't grab your attention, either. A more striking design departure would have helped draw attention to the car's many improvements.
The market: Ford executives are looking for the revamped Fusion to win market share from the segment-leading Toyota Camry. Fusion pricing starts at $19,995. The Fusion Hybrid starts at $27,995. Both prices include shipping.
The skinny: Ford packed a lot of improvements and technology into the 2010 Fusion. The new hybrid is an impressive performer. Ford has a genuine fuel-economy story to tell with this makeover.
(Source: Automotive News)