Few mainstream cars have caused quite so much perplexed head scratching and confused chin stroking as Ford’s Fusion. When it first appeared in design sketches, it was mocked up like a rugged little 4×4 but as it neared production, the edges were smoothed off and it eventually landed in UK showrooms looking little more than a chunkily rebodied Fiesta with a little extra in the way of ride height. This puzzled British customers and the Fusion has resulted in more than a few blown sales targets for Ford dealers the length and breadth of the nation. That’s not to say it’s a bad car. Anything based on a Fiesta platform is going to make a great little package, but the Fusion’s target market seems a little ill defined. If the idea of a well-engineered and economical supermini that offers a better vantage point appeals, a used Ford Fusion offers the opportunity for a genuine bargain.

Based on the chassis of the sixth generation Fiesta, the Ford Fusion landed on these shores in August 2002. Ford’s advertising trumped the benefits of that extra couple of inches of ride height, featuring a vertically challenged chap sitting on a pile of programmes at the theatre in order to see the stage. Unfortunately for Ford, it would take more than this for customers to see the point of the Fusion. Three engines were available from launch; 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol units and a 1.6-litre TDCi powerplant that Ford had worked on in conjunction with Peugeot and Citroen. The Fusion was subsequently offered with a neat Durashift sequential manual gearbox that did away with the need for a clutch pedal and made the Fusion a doddle to pilot through traffic-choked cities. A Fusion+ model was also made available, featuring a healthy complement of standard equipment including a DVD rear seat entertainment system. Towards the end of 2004, a 90bhp 1.6-litre TDCi engine was introduced to the range. Despite the raised ride height and chunky styling, the Fusion isn’t really a go-anywhere vehicle. Built on the same front-wheel drive underpinnings as the Fiesta it is in some respects a latter day incarnation of the Matra Rancho – and if you remember one of those, you really are an anorak. Suffice it to say that it supplied the go-anywhere looks without the need for the expensive go-anywhere hardware that would normally accompany them. If we suspend our inbuilt cynicism of the PR machine that pushes the Fusion upon us, what are we left with? Basically, the Fusion looks like a Fiesta on stilts with some clever packaging tricks up its sleeve. The rugged bumpers and mini-4×4 stance of the original Frankfurt show car have been toned down into something far more conventional, the Fusion slotting into the supermini-MPV class quite nicely, despite Ford’s claims to the contrary. It’s a market that features purpose built designs like the Toyota Yaris Verso, crossover designs like the Suzuki Ignis, Honda Jazz and Daihatsu YRV. In short, it’s one of the hot sectors. In designing the Fusion for urban families, a number of key criteria had to be met. These elements included a higher driving position to give good all round visibility, body height and wheel designs optimised for ground clearance and ride comfort so that Fusion drivers can easily shrug off kerbs, speed humps and the worst urban potholes. So-called ‘cubed-out’ architecture maximises seating space while the same philosophy maximises the luggage space by providing a squared-off rear header and a flat load floor. That driving position is a full 75mm higher than you’d find in a Fiesta and it’s longer but slightly narrower too. The bumpers and rubbing strips followed intensive research into how cars become damaged in the urban environment. Should you contrive to take the car’s name somewhat literally and meld it with something else, it’s good to know that you’ve an Intelligent Protection System that will intervene with dual stage front air bags that sense the type and severity of the impact. Side airbags are available for front seat passengers and optional curtain bags provide side-impact head protection. The high seating position gives a commanding view of the road ahead and there’s a wonderful sense of airiness about the cabin. As well as offering the usual split/fold rear seats, the Fusion also allows the front passenger seat and the rear seats to fold flat, although the operation isn’t as slick as in some rivals. Even with the seats in an upright position, the boot is impressive with a standard luggage volume of some 337 litres. Should you need to slide luggage out from the rear, Ford have thoughtfully designed the Fusion with no rear loading lip. The elevated seating position also allows for extra stowage space under the passenger seats, whilst the fascia features a flip-top bin like the Galaxy whilst the main instruments are housed in a neat oval binnacle.

Although Fusion and Fiesta trim/equipment levels aren’t directly comparable, one fact stands out right from the get go. The low level of customer take up for the taller sibling has sent used prices tumbling. A Ford Fusion1 which retailed for £9,825 in August 2002 on a 52 plate is now worth £6,700, whereas a Fiesta LX five-door which retailed at £25 more new is still worth a hefty £7,350. Opt for the Durashift-equipped 1.4-litre Fusion2 and prices open at £7,800 on the 52 plate. The 1.6-litre Fusion2 starts at £7,800 whereas aFusion3 with the same powerplant opens at £8,100. If you plan on covering significant mileage, the 1.4-litre TDCI diesel is the version to go for and the Fusion1, 2, and 3 trim levels on the 02 plate are priced at £7,200, £8,00 and £8,300 respectively. Insurance ratings are reasonable, the Fusion ranging from Group 4 for the base 1.4-litre models up to Group 6 for the plusher 1.6-litre variants. Being so new, there’s little to report. Make sure your prospective purchase has been properly serviced and that the tyres are in decent shape. Otherwise check for the usual kiddie damage and parking scrapes. Engines are, on the whole, reliable, but watch for the usual signs of wear and signs of hard fleet or company use such as worn carpets or beaten up trim. It’s fair to say that as a new product, the Fusion has been a rare flop from Ford. It’s something of a shame when a car as thoroughly engineered and well built as the Fusion fails to find favour, but Ford’s marketeers just hadn’t tied down the target market sufficiently, pricing the Fusion above what buyers could snap up a Focus for. This is all good news if you’re in the market for a used example, as prices have taken a nosedive. Where the Fusion was more expensive than the Fiesta new, it’s now available for less than its more cramped sibling. Whereas a new Fusion struggled to make a case for itself, a used version makes all the sense in the world. The head scratching stops here.

(approx based on a Fusion1 1.4) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly and an alternator will both be around £75. Front brake pads are around £30 a set and the rears £20, a replacement headlamp is close to £50 and a manual door mirror should be in the region of £50. A full exhaust is about £120 and a catalyst is about £220. A starter motor around is around £110, front wing is around £90, a windscreen about £70.

As you would expect from anything based on a Fiesta, the handling is very good. Although the tall Fusion looks like something that may be slightly top heavy, your first corner will rapidly dispel this impression. Somehow Ford seem to have engineered a ride that’s able to absorb the ruts and bumps of city streets with a chassis that enjoys spirited driving. Refinement is a mixed bag, the 1.4-litre engine being reasonably well behaved at higher speeds with tyre and wind noise making a significant intrusion. The 1.4-litre engine needs to be worked quite hard to make respectable progress, hitting 60mph in 13.5 seconds on the way to 101mph. CO2 emissions are reasonable, the Fusion pumping out 154g for every kilometre travelled. Likewise, you’ll not be taken to the cleaners at the pumps, the 43.5mpg average fuel consumption a fine effort. Even around town you can expect to see over 33mpg. Should you want to expend even less effort in the city, a ‘clutchless’ Durashift version is also available. When driven back to back with the 1.4-litre petrol powerplant, the TDCi diesel version is infinitely more desirable, the additional muscularity of the powerplant making those annoying downchanges on long uphill stretches virtually superfluous. The acceleration to 60mph is a little tardier at 15.3 seconds, but this gives little clue as to the satisfying nature of the Duratorq engine’s mid range pull. The in-gear acceleration times give a more accurate representation of the car’s punch, and here the scores are reversed, the diesel car comfortably acing its petrol counterpart. That’s perhaps not surprising, given that the midrange is where the turbocharger really gets to work, and what’s also equally predictable is the way the diesel car excels in terms of fuel consumption. What’s surprising are the raw figures. The combined fuel economy figure of 64.2mpg allows the Fusion TDCi to travel 634 miles between top ups, whilst the carbon dioxide emissions are a virtuous 116 grammes per kilometre. The Fusion 1.6 brings to the party a 99bhp engine that’s good enough to propel it to 60mph in 10.6 seconds en route to a top speed of 111mph. It’s a very willing powerplant, if a little vocal at the top end of the rev range and given that maximum power is generated at a nosebleed 6000rpm, it responds well to a heavy right foot. Driven in a more genteel manner, the Fusion 1.6 will return an average of 43mpg, making it an economical used car. There’s a 422 mile fuel tank range and emissions are an acceptable 157g/km.

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