Is it surprising that the Ford Fusion and Fusion Hybrid scored five-star overall crash-test ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration? Not really, but the feat is still one to be commended.
NHTSA's ratings for the 2013 Fusion awarded five stars for frontal crash, four stars for a side-impact crash, and four stars for a rollover. NHTSA's weighted average was such, however, that the Fusion scores a perfect five stars overall. It's aided, no doubt, by the fact that the Fusion offers all three of NHTSA's key safety tech features: electronic stability control (standard on all 2012-and-up U.S.-market cars), a forward collision warning, and lane-departure warning.
Ford says that the rating is a reflection of its advanced technology in airbags and passenger detection. The marquee technology is called the Personal Safety System, which uses a network of sensors (like passenger-seat occupant sensors, weight sensors, and seating position sensors) to make decisions on how quickly or how hard to inflate the front dual-stage airbags and activate the seat belt pretensioners. On the sides of the car, new thorax airbags have specially placed vents that activate when a smaller passenger is in the seat; when a larger passenger hits the airbag, he/she will actually block off the shoulder vent, keeping the bag inflated for more cushioning.
It's an ingenious solution, one that paid dividends with NHTSA: a rear-seat female passenger receives a five-star side-barrier crash-test rating; a front-seat female passenger who hits a pole also receives a five-star rating. Unfortunately, a larger male driver in the side-barrier test only receives three stars.
With ratings like these, the Fusion nearly matches the top-rated cars in its segment. The 2013 Honda Accord excels in side crash and rollover tests (scoring five stars) but doesn't do as well in a frontal crash (four stars to the Fusion's five). The 2013 Chevrolet Malibu scores five stars in all tests but the rollover. Making things more complicated is the fact that the highest-rated car in the segment, the 2013 Kia Optima, scored perfect fives across the board but doesn't offer a lane-departure or forward-collision warning.
In any case, the Fusion has succeeded in becoming competitive in fuel economy and safety categories; only time will tell if it competes in reliability as well.
Source: NHTSA, Ford