CAPE TOWN, Western Cape – At long last there’s a genuine rival to the German triumvirate: it’s called the Ford Fusion, it’s assembled in Valencia, Spain, has a choice of four engines and is a real charmer.
Despite the different name, it’s the fourth generation of the Mondeo that was launched in South Africa back in 1993 and has sold more than 4.5-million units around the world since then.
So, no problem with pedigree, then… and prices start at R349 900.
The Fusion was launched this week (Jan 19-23) in South Africa, in and around the Mother City. It’s a real looker with a sport coupe profile, low roof and, in Ford’s words, “sculpted to convey visual lightness”.
The sophisticated and technical front-end design uses a more-prominent trapezoidal grille, a power-dome on the bonnet and slim-line, and laser-cut, adaptive headlights.
Sleek only begins to describe the Fusion’s good looks. The silhouette is a real game-changer for Ford while the cabin has an excellent amount of leg- and head-room for all occupants – something lacking in Ford products of late.
Mark Kaufman, Ford SA’s vice-president for marketing, sales and service, said at the launch function: “The Fusion is the most technologically advanced Ford vehicle yet introduced into South Africa.”
ADVANCED CREATURE COMFORTS
Behind the wheel, I found, is a great place to be because of the promise of high visual quality, using improved materials, expert craftsmanship and some real attention to detail – across the price range.
There are some advanced creature comforts, among them Sync 2 voice-control connectivity through a 20cm touch screen that operates phone, trip entertainment and aircon.
Users can select music from an MP3 device by asking Sync 2 to play an artist or track while cover art is also displayed with compatible devices. Drivers can make legal hands-free phone calls using the command “Call ” without first having to give the command “Phone”, even when the system is in audio or another mode.
It was all rather intuitive and definitely user-friendly – even to this Luddite that I am!
Kuda Takura, brand manager for Ford SA, told me the very latest innovations and technologies are in or on the Fusion “to deliver the most refined and user-friendly driving experience yet”. “That includes hands-free parking and seats that warm up when you tell them to. The Fusion is focused on the occupant from start to finish.”
SENSORS LOCKED ON: CAR, PARK!
A few other highlights: lane keeping (helps the driver to maintain proper lane position); adaptive cruise control (using forward-looking radar that “looks” down the road to discern slower traffic and react accordingly); active park assist (sensors identify a suitable parking slot, calculate the trajectory and steer the car home). The driver just has to feather the accelerator and brake.
There wasn’t time to try it all but I’m sure they’ll work just fine when the occasion arises!
Chris Hamilton, Ford’s project leader for exterior design, believes: “Our design goal was to give sedan buyers a top-drawer visual experience while adding some emotional appeal to an already sensible choice.”
We all know how well smaller engines perform these days but consider this: one of the four engines available for the Fusion (the entry level model) displaces only 1498cc yet develops 132kW/240Nm.
By comparison, the famous three-litre Essex engines that drove Fords such as the Granada back in the 1970/80’s made only 103kW… Worried that the engine will be working too hard? Don’t be… at 120km/h it's turning at a leisurely 2900rpm… in top gear.
DIESEL STAR BURNING BRIGHT
All models have only an auto gearbox, though if you want to play there are F1-style gear-change paddles on the steering-column.
The second engine option is a two-litre EcoBoost Trend (149kW/300Nm); the third a two-litre EcoBoost Titanium tuned for 177kW/340Nm) and the flagship is the TDCi Titanium Powershift diesel offering “only” 132kW but punching out a whopping 400Nm of torque, which is what really moves a car.
The top model costs R449 900.
More on the diesel… burning oil on the move has never been so quiet. The diesel unit I drove was simply devoid of rattles from the engine bay – even on start-up. In fact my driving partner felt sure it was petrol-powered; only the rev-counter, red-lined as it is at 4500, told another story.
Factory performance figures are worth recording for this turbodiesel – if only as a guide – 0-100km/h takes 8.6sec; top speed is 225km/h, which should please traffic cops across the country; CO2 emissions are 124g/km and the combined-test fuel consumption data suggests 5.1 litres/100km.
SAFETY FACTORED IN
Crash avoidance / protection across the board appears to be superb: seven crash bags – blame the odd number on the bag beneath the steering-wheel to cushion the driver’s knees.
Factor in anti-lock brakes, electronic emergency braking assistance, electronic brake pressure distribution, stability control, traction control and hill-launch assistance (why, when each car has an auto box, heaven knows) and you’ll gather it’s obviously a very safe car.
PRICES (all auto boxes)
Fusion 1.5 EcoBoost Trend - R349 900
Fusion 2.0 EcoBoost Trend - R369 900
Fusion 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium - R424 900
Fusion 2.0 TDCi Titanium Powershift - R449 900
Service intervals are set at 20 000km for petrol versions and 15 000km for the diesel. A comprehensive warranty is in place – four years or 120 000km – as are a four-year or 80 000km service plan and three years of roadside assistance.
For more on the new Ford Fusion, go to the Ford South Africa website.