If midsize sedan shoppers want fun and style, the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion is perhaps the only option they have, but it does come with a few tradeoffs.
The 2013 is significantly different from the outgoing 2012 in terms of not just performance and technology but also size, inside and out. You can compare the two model years here.
From the Aston Martin look of its front end to the geometric design of the tail, the Fusion is an exercise in aggressive styling. That was the plan. The entire car was developed to preserve the styling designers had penned. When engineers needed to make the car larger, they still had to maintain the design's aesthetics.
The design does translate to a high belt line, narrow windows and reduced visibility, though.
The looks may draw in shoppers, but an array of four engines — three of which are new for the Fusion — may be the hardest decision made at the dealership.
It's easy to dismiss the S and SE's base engine, a carryover from 2012. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 175 horsepower and gets an EPA-estimated 22/34 mpg city/highway and 26 mpg combined.
Next up is the 178-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder that achieves the best non-hybrid mileage at 25/37/29 mpg city/highway/combined with a six-speed manual transmission and 23/36/26 mpg with a six-speed automatic.
Replacing the previous generation's V-6 is a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an impressive 240 hp and 270 pounds-feet of torque that returns 22/33/26 mpg. It comes with an automatic transmission but is the only engine that can be teamed to optional all-wheel drive.
The turbo engines run on regular gas but premium is needed to achieve the posted horsepower ratings. Mileage is the same on regular or premium.
Finally, there is a hybrid with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and electric motor producing a combined 188 hp and returning 47 mpg across the board in city, highway and combined mileage.
I drove the three new powertrains over hundreds of miles in hilly Southern California and found the variety welcome, but each with its own quirks.
The 1.6-liter with an automatic will likely be the volume leader in terms of sales, but I found it the least interesting to drive. The power rating is below most of the competition, and it's noticeable on the road. There is still ample passing power in highway situations, but it doesn't feel nearly as robust as the Nissan Altima's 182-hp four-cylinder engine. I was able to reconfirm my past experience on this point with a base Altima provided by Ford during the Fusion test drive.