DRIVEN: FORD FUSION 2,0 ECOBOOST TITANIUM

DRIVEN: FORD FUSION 2,0 ECOBOOST TITANIUM

DRIVEN: FORD FUSION 2,0 ECOBOOST TITANIUM

Talk about a purple patch. Both internationally and in SA, Ford is on a roll. Driven by its “One Ford” strategy, it’s launched some excellent motor cars in the last five years – among them the Fiesta, Kuga, Ecosport and of course, the Ranger. Proof of this has been increased sales and Ford sold a shade under 71 000 cars in our market last year.

It’s obviously in a confident mood. So confident, in fact, that it’s decided to tackle one of our toughest market segments … the dreaded sub-premium D-segment sedan. Once among the South African market’s most popular, the segment has been decimated by The Rise Of The SUV and, today, cars like the VW Passat, Mazda6 and Honda Accord (all very good cars) squabble among a paltry 1 200 total yearly segment sales.

You’d need to be ballsy, silly or have a standout car to break that pattern. Ford has at least two of those qualities.

It’s certainly ballsy. As bullish as the company currently is, it’s still a brave move to launch a sub-premium D-segment car in our market. And, having driven the Fusion, it has the stand-out car too – at least it will have until its challenged by the new Passat to be launched this year.

I drove all three Fusion derivatives at the launch:

– 1,5 Ecoboost turbopetrol (in Trend trim), R349 900;
– 2,0 Ecoboost turbopetrol (in Trend and Titanium trim), R369 900 and R424 900;
– 2,0 TDCi turbodiesel (in Titanium trim), R449 900.

But I’ve focused here on what Ford has officially earmarked as the volume seller – the Ford Fusion 2,0 Ecoboost. Personally, I reckon the cheaper 1,5 Ecoboost might prove otherwise and you can see a full test on of what I think is the sweet spot in the range in our upcoming March 2015 issue.

Looks and interior

It’s an eye-catching car that looks even better in the flesh. There are clear nods to the Mustang in the nose – especially with the Titanium spec’s black honeycomb grille (Trend gets chrome slats) – and the sloped roofline ends in the stubby rear with large rear clusters. It’s a big car (4 869 mm) with slab-like sides and high sills that advertise its dimensions.

Interior space backs this up with what is a sizeable boot (and a ¾-rear-seat split) and lots of rear-passenger space. Setting up the driver’s seat to my liking, I could comfortably then sit in the passenger seat behind it with 8-10 cm between my knees and the front seat.

The interior design and appointment is one of the most impressive things about the car. Along with leather seats that are standard in this model, is has a host of features usually found in the premium segment – this includes multi-adjustable front seats that are among the most comfy I’ve sat in and the overall perception is one of premium materials (black is the only colour scheme).

Ford’s latest SYNC 2 infotainment system comes as standard with a nine-speaker Sony audio system, voice control Bluetooth, two USB slots, an SD card slot and aux-in. It’s a highly intuitive system that honestly took me less than 10 seconds to figure out and hook up my smartphone. Interestingly, once again Ford has not opted for sat-nav, believing (rightly so) that owners will tend more toward nav apps on their smartphones rather than a pricey optional extra built into their cars.

Driving it

The engine is a familiar one – it’s a 2,0-litre turbopetrol shared with the Ford Focus ST, although here detuned from 184 kW to 177 kW. It’s a torquey unit (340 N.m – same as the ST) that, especially mated to the six-speed auto transmission, is set up more for cruise mode than out-and-out hot hatch tyre screeching. There’s no manual gearbox available, by the way.

What really impresses is the ride and handling though. With excellent damping over road imperfections and a predictable, settled ride, this easily feels like a premium exec sedan. The emergency lane change maneuver is always a good test and the Fusion remains impressively balanced when asked to suddenly shift left or right.

Our launch car was equipped with the optional pack offered to Titanium-specced vehicles. This R23 200 option includes 18-inch alloys, 10-way power adjustable front seats, Active Park Assist with Perpendicular parking, Lane Keeping Aid, Active City Stop that auto brakes the car at speeds of up to 50 km/h, Adaptive Cruise Control and Blind Spot Detection.

Summary

At the launch, Ford’s representatives described this as the company’s new flagship and it is the most premium vehicle currently in its range. It’s a very good car – an accomplished offering that approaches the levels of spec and quality sported by the Germans in the notch above.

Whether it will sell, though, is the big question. Clearly Ford thinks so and this particular example undercuts a similarly specced BMW 320i auto by around R100 000. With the option pack, the 2,0 Ecoboost Titanium will cost R448 100.

We’ll see. It certainly deserves to sell, but we’re very badge conscious in SA, and Ford – like VW – is perennially seen as a maker of people’s cars. And that means the aspirational folk among us (and there are plenty if you look at the amount of BMWs, Mercs and Audis on our roads) will likely still stretch for the Germans.

*Specifications
Model:
 Ford Fusion 2,0 Ecoboost Titanium
Price: R424 900
Engine: 2,0-litre, 4-cyl turbopetrol
Transmission: six-speed, automatic
Power: 177 kW at 5 300 r/min
Torque: 340 N.m from 2 2300 – 4 900 r/min
0-100 km/h: 7,9 seconds
Top speed: 240 km/h
Fuel consumption: 8,5 L/100 km
CO2: 187 g/km
Service plan: 4 years/80 000 km
Comprehensive warranty: 4 years/120 000 km
*claimed

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