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Old 06-26-2002, 23:06   #1 (permalink)
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
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New Fusion: Ford's Flexible Friend

It might sound like something from the engine room of Captain Kirk's Enterprise, but, the new Fusion is anything but science fiction. Claiming to combine the ruggedness of an off-roader with the practicality of a people carrier, this is Ford's great hope in the emerging class of supermini-MPVs.

In this exclusive first drive, Auto Express puts the car that aims to blend manoeuvrability, practicality and style to the test. On first sight, though, the newcomer fails to set pulses racing. Although neatly proportioned, the bodywork is free of detail and big, bulbous lights dominate a blunt nose which has the biggest Ford badge we've ever seen. Also, the standard 15-inch alloys struggle to fill the wheelarches.

Next to rivals such as the stylish Citroen C3 and innovative Honda Jazz, the Fusion looks positively bland. It's not all bad news, though, because the pricing is competitive and the newcomer will cost from £11,000 when it arrives in our showrooms in August.

The Fusion looks big in the presence of its adversaries – chunky bumpers and a tall ride height give it impressive road presence. But there's no ignoring the fact that at 4,020mm long and 1,708mm wide the Ford is large for a city car, which helps with the quality and size of the interior. The front doors offer the type of access usually reserved for vehicles twice the size, and the vehicle's high roof and upright seating position mean you slide rather than tumble into the seats and have a commanding view of the road. This, the company is hoping, will help the Fusion appeal to urban drivers who currently own a 4x4.

When talk turns to the inside, Ford points to the newcomer's innovative cabin. Fold-flat seats, hidden cubbies and an easily accessible boot are held up as key to the Fusion's appeal. The design means front and rear passenger seats can lie horizontally to carry long loads. It's undeniably clever – but unlike the Honda Jazz's set-up, the seats don't fold down to the floor and it's not quite as easy to use.

On the road, things are much improved. The Fusion rides well, and displays balance only rivalled in its class by the excellent Fiesta. Steering is precise, and allows the car to be hustled along at speed, while tremendous levels of grip are on offer in bends, despite the Ford's size. Powered by a 1.4-litre diesel engine, our car performed at its best around town, where the unit's 68bhp and 160Nm of torque could be used to the full. The all-round visibility was good, and the gearbox well suited to city demands, while the brakes, backed up by ABS and EBD, felt strong. For us, the driving experience marked a reprieve for a car which failed to impress at first.

There's no denying that this new Ford is practical and driveable, but we feel the pot of ideas which cooked it up needs some extra spice! Later this year, the Fusion Plus arrives, which will add visual excitement and interior tweaks to the car driven here. We suggest that buyers after a more thrilling machine would be better off waiting. Diether Rodatz


Article from: Auto Express
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