Way back in 2004, Ford India launched the first big hatchback, err crossover, small SUV. I am not sure how to place it and neither could Ford India. This car had the length of a hatchback, the height of a SUV and the looks of a sedan. Now, tell me, what do you think it is? Don’t look at me for answers, I am as confused as you are. But then I remembered the Ford Fusion in India somedays back and decided on a review of it. Done with BMWs and now finally on my way to finish the Blue Oval. It was a bit difficult getting a Ford Fusion for a review since the car has already ended its life cycle in India. Too early or late you decide. But then a few calls to a dealer friend of mine revealed that he had the 1.4 Tdci variant of the Ford Fusion with him while his friend has got the 1.6 variant as well. Okay, so we have both the cars here at Indiandrives. No issues now. Lets get straight to the point guys. So much for a car which is no longer manufactured in India.
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Well, earlier on I had described that I am not sure of its stance and neither was Ford India. The car looks very much like a small SUV like the Premier Rio of which I had a test drive recently. It has that Euro chic looks which many would have fallen for if the car was marketed properly in its haydays. The somewhat Audiesque grille adorned by the Ford symbol and those rectangular head lamps cut a straight figure, more like a brick. The car thinks that it is a upsized new Wagon R. Look from the upper quarters and you would notice the resemblance. There are some black inserts on the bumper which make it look like a mud ploughing SUV. There are fog lamps present and my dealer friend confirmed my suspicion that these weren’t there early on in 2004 and were additions for the face lifted model.
The 195/60 R15 wheels give it that SUV stance but then there are no alloy wheels. Yes, there was a Ford Fusion Plus 1.6 Duratec Petrol as well as Ford Fusion Plus 1.4 TDCi Diesel model but both were discontinued soon after they were launched. They had alloys on them. The same irritating plastic cladding from the front continues to the sides. The outside rear view mirrors are not body colored. But then the aforementioned two variants had them in body color. Showing off its SUV or MPV stance is the rear portion which has vertically stacked tail lamps. There is a single wiper doing duties here. Remember, this was a luxury in those times when the car was actually launched. The hatch opens upwards like typical hatches should do. The ground clearance by the way stands at 195 mm. Enough to shame some of our SUVs in the Indian market.
You don’t expect class interiors from Ford India in those days. Take the case of the Mondeo for instance. It was a fine car let down by shoddy after sales and not too classy looking interiors. The Ford Fusion in India is no different. It has got no music system as standard. The specimen I was reviewing, though had it as an after market fitment. There was a ikool Music Edition launched with a single CD player but no AUX or USB input. But then been a 6 footer, my concern was regarding if the driver’s seat would accommodate me or not. How wrong could I be? The Ford Fusion boasts of very good front seats. The steering wheel is a similar unit from the Fiesta and infact it is borrowed from the Ford Mondeo. The dials are also the same as from the Ford Fiesta. The 1.6 petrol unit had gray interiors whereas the 1.4 TDCi Diesel unit had beige ones. The biege one was a bit soilt, as expected but then it looked better than the gray one. The rear seats were also a perfect thing even with the front ones pushed all the way back. Having a higher roof line here helps as also the fact that the rear floor is flat.
The airconditioner in the car also works very good though it was a bit noisy. The dealer said that this is not because of age but that almost all of the Fusions have this problem. Couldn’t disagree with him on this. The build quality is European and marginally better than the Ford Fiesta. Yes, even though it is a car built on the same platform, the Fiesta had slightly iffy build quality when I had last compared it with the Maruti SX4. The boot capacity is more on the side of small sedans and it even gets a tie-down net which I found to be useful while storing small objects. The rear seats also split in the 40:20:40 pattern with the middle passenger seat accounting for the 20% part. This actually contributed to the car accommodating for larger pieces of luggage which some hatchbacks cannot even think of.
Handling and ride quality
Ford India from the beginning of their innings in India have brought in good handling cars. But then the Ford Fusion in India with its 195 mm ground clearance cast a doubt on this ability. The first part is the fantastic steering wheel. It has got that same weighted feel of what we expect from Ford India cars. It has got nice turn in and there is no lack of feedback. I personally felt that it was a bit stiffer than what we are used to nowadays but then I have driven a fair amount of Ford cars and this one felt perfectly at home. The chassis is the same one which is used for the Ford Ikon as well as the Ford Fiesta now. The best part about the ground clearance was that despite big speed breakers, I didn’t have to brake as I would, were I be driving a Honda Civic.
I don’t know how Ford manages to keep the body roll in check for their vehicles. Inspite of its tall stance, the car remains unfazed at high speeds. Its only the cross winds that sometimes play spoil sport in an otherwise excellent package. The petrol Fusion or rather the Ford Fusion 1.6 Duratec Petrol uses conventional Macpherson struts,whereas the rear gets a decoupled dampers and springs with twist-beam axle. The chassis is tuned to provide good ride quality, which comes at the expense of not so good handling at high speeds. But then the argument is who would want handling at speeds in excess of 120 kmph when the average Indian rarely exceeds 80 kmph. Low speed ride is a bit lumpy but then it wasn’t as harsh as sitting in an Endeavor. Up the speeds and the car promises to smother all those pot holes coming its way. For the diesel power plant, Ford India have accorded the Ford Fusion 1.4 TDCi Diesel with a softer setup. This car rides good at low speeds whereas at high speeds, the handling was a bit more loose than the petrol model.
NVH is something which has been kept to the bare minimum. Be it the petrol or diesel model. Inspite of been 3-4 year old models, both the engines were relatively quiet like modern day engines.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The Ford Fusion in India used to come in 2 engine trims. One is the European spec 1.6 liter petrol engine with SEFI technology. It boasts of 100 Bhp of peak power at 4,300 rpm whereas the maximum torque of 145 Nm is achieved at 2,200 rpm. It is mated to a 5 speed manual. The diesel on the other hand was introduced after the Ford Fiesta came into picture. It is a 1.4 liter turbo diesel unit pumping out 68 Bhp of peak power at 4000 rpm whereas the peak torque of 160 Nm is delivered at 2000 rpm. This engine also gets a 5 speed manual. The petrol engine is highly responsive and can lung forward at the tap of accelerator. Talking about the accelerator, it is a drive by wire thing. There is no cable to carry forward the link and this is the reason why this car has a sense of urgency in its accelerator operation. The diesel also gets the same benefits. In flat out driving, the diesel is not as responsive as say, the Ikon diesel or the Fiesta diesel. All the three share the same engine. The diesel has a flat spot around the 100-1500 rpm mark however the turbo lag isn’t much as compared to the other cars in its category. The diesel raced from 0-100 kmph in 17.6 seconds whereas the petrol manages the same feat 4 seconds before.
Both the cars can do excess of 140 kmph but then since the owner was sitting just besides me, I couldn’t muster the courage to drive it all the way. Brakes are a good package unlike other Fords and give the Fusion decent stopping powers. But then lack of any safety gadgets like ABS and EBD ensured that the wheels lock up under heavy braking. Brakes by the way are discs in front and drums at rear. Safety is also minimal with no air bags. There is a collapsible steering column, 3 point seat belts and the tailor bank chassis with side intrusion beams. For the Ford Fusion plus variant, there was ABS, EBD as also two air bags as option.
Fuel efficiency for the 1.6 Duratec petrol version was 9.8 kmpl in city and 14.5 kmpl on the highway. For the 1.4 TDCi diesel variant, the figures were 13.4 kmpl in city and 17.7 kmpl on the highway.
There shouldn’t be a verdict in the first place since the Ford Fusion is no longer manufactured in India. Unlike the Toyota Qualis which had a big demand even when it was about to be discontinued, the Ford Fusion cannot lay claims to any such demand. The Fusion appealed to those looking for a tall hatchback with space rivaling some of the sedans. But then, many were put off with its odd ball design. Cars back then, sold mostly on the looks part itself. Not many cared if they had enough of space or not, were versatile enough, can handle bad roads better without breaking into a sweat or even the intuitiveness of it all. Ford India on its parts also played the cards wrong. They should have promoted the Fusion more than just putting one or two ads in the newspapers. Moreover, their pricing strategy was entirely wrong. Back then a Honda Jazz rip off cannot be priced for Rs 8 lakhs on-road. Coming to the price, the Ford Fusion price in India was Rs 6.8 lakhs whereas the top end diesel came close to Rs 7.78 lakhs. All these prices are on-road prices. In the same vein, used Ford Fusion prices are very low making them cheap buys. My dealer friend told me that recently he sold a used specimen and that too a diesel one for Rs 4.3 lakhs. It was a 2007 model. Now go hunt a used Ford Fusion for yourself if you liked this article or better still the car itself. For a discontinued model, the company supports with spares and service for a good 10 years.