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Old 02-08-2006, 12:11   #1 (permalink)
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UK:Ford Fusion Plus Durashift

Ford Fusion Plus Durashift

By Sam Hardy
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There's no denying that Ford was completely caught out when it launched the original Fusion. Although the firm correctly identified that buyers would pay a bit more for a supermini with MPV-style versatility, the Fusion simply wasn't the car to fit the bill when it arrived in 2002.

It had a higher driving position, but offered little added flexibility over the Fiesta on which it was based. And its problems were compounded when rival Vauxhall launched its Meriva - a clever supermini-MPV with a sliding rear seat and lots of extra interior space.

Now four years into its life, the Fusion is getting a makeover. As with the revised Fiesta, it gains some minor exterior tweaks, a higher-quality interior and added equipment. But with no clever flexibility-enhancing alterations, is that going to boost sales by much?

Visually, you'd be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed - and apart from a square mesh grille pattern and coloured indicator lenses up front, the Fusion has the same chunky Fiesta-on-stilts look as its predecessor.

On the inside, Ford has worked much harder, though. Gone are the scratchy plastics of the previous model, replaced by soft-touch materials in contrasting colours. Combine this with a revised centre console and new seat fabrics, and it's certainly a brighter place in which to spend time. The equipment list has improved, too, with most models coming with air-conditioning, an MP3-compatible stereo system and a trip computer as standard.

The top-of-the-range Fusion Plus driven here had everything, including a six-disc CD changer, rain-sensing wipers, tinted rear windows and automatic headlights. Mind you, at £14,045, so it should. Yet even for that price you don't get a Bluetooth mobile phone kit or a voice control for the audio and climate systems - together they will set buyers back an additional £250 - while a roof-mounted DVD player for passengers in the rear is a £1,000 option.

As for the mechanicals, there is noth-ing new to report. The Fusion continues with 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines. Hooked up to a noisy Durashift automatic transmission that slurs gearchanges, our 99bhp 1.6-litre petrol car offered peppy but unrefined performance - and returned 36.7mpg, compared to 42.2mpg for the manual.

On the move in town, the Fusion proves to be a mixed bag - the raised ride height means that speed bumps should be easy to negotiate, but a firm ride compromises comfort. That said, it handles tidily enough.

To sum up, while the updates are welcome, they don't really address the Fusion's main problem areas - and with more flexible competitors on the market, Ford's baby is still outclassed.

First Opinion
The Fusion is by no means a bad car - it drives well and has useful interior space. What's more, the update has resulted in a quality cabin with generous levels of equipment. But where the Vauxhall Meriva features a clever MPV-style interior, the Fusion offers little extra over the regular Fiesta. More versatile supermini rivals offer more.

At a Glance
* Fresh colour options on the 2006 Fusion include this vivid Sublime shade. Top-spec Plus models also wear a subtle bodykit.
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 99bhp
* Price: £14,045

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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