2010 Ford Fusion

It wasn't easy, but with a little help from Mazda, Ford managed to resuscitate its midsize sedan portfolio with the Fusion. With new styling, substantial powertrain improvements and a new hybrid model, we're expecting the 2010 Ford Fusion to be a similar success.

A Bold Front

Though much of the sheetmetal between the A- and C-pillars carries over unchanged, the fore and aft ends of the 2010 Fusion do receive considerable cosmetic changes. The three-bar grille grows larger and plays into a large power bulge on the hood, similar to the Interceptor concept shown at the 2008 Detroit auto show.

Design changes in back are surprisingly limited. Apart from chrome exhaust tips, larger taillights with honeycomb inserts and a thicker center-mounted stoplight, the 2010 Fusion's rump is quite similar to the 2009 model.

Some extra change comes courtesy of the Fusion Sport model, which adds a chromed front bumper insert, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, and flared side skirts.

Yeah, that thing's got a hybrid.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Fusion Hybrid. For 2010, Ford's fitted the hybrid powertrain from the Escape Hybrid cute-ute to both the Fusion and the Mercury Milan - though it's also added a few new features for the sedan.

For starters, there's the issue of the battery pack. The battery is still a nickel metal hydride pack supplied by Sanyo, but chemistry changes allow it to carry 20 percent more power than the Escape's pack. That's a significant feat, considering it's 23 percent lighter and considerably smaller, allowing it to tuck in behind the Fusion's rear seats.

But the biggest change lies with the transmission itself. Yes, it's mated to the same 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 found in the Escape/Mariner hybrids, but the hybrid electric CVT (e-CVT) has been substantially recalibrated. With a gentle right foot, drivers will be capable of accelerating up to 47 mph in pure electric mode. An impressive figure, but Ford promises equally exciting numbers when it comes to fuel economy. The Fusion Hybrid should best the Toyota Camry Hybrid - which already attains 33 mpg in the city - by at least 5 mpg.

That may be enough to attract die-hard hypermilers, but they'll also fall in love with Ford's SmartGauge instrument cluster. Consisting of an analog speedometer flanked by twin high-definition LCD screens, the cluster can display a dizzying array of information, including battery levels, fuel economy plotting, and more. Perhaps most useful is a tachometer which displays a variable EV-mode "threshold," helping drivers keep the engine off for as long as possible.

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