Quickies: Non-Political Footballs


A frozen 2013 Ford Fusion SE. All Photos by Randy Stern

Why should everything on social media be some sort of political football?

For example, several people announced they are turning off Facebook because of a reality show star's comments about his faith and beliefs on culture and ethnicity. Then, there was the wave of initial reactions to Federal court decisions on marriage equality in a couple of western states. Still the focus is on the story about some entrepreneur and his broadcasted comments about his own personal opinions on some cable channel.

If there is a political football that is still being batted around by the same ideological combatants is the Ford Motor Company. Years after the Troubled Asset Relief Program helped General Motors and Chrysler recover from the global financial crisis, there are still people who stand behind the blue oval and remind us that Dearborn never took TARP funds.

Does a financial situation favor one company over another? According to any basic business course, yes. The strong will survive, unless the rules state differently. Ford chose the path to use product to drive themselves out of the financial mess the world was mired in. It worked by instituting something they should have done a few decades ago by truly globalizing their core products for every market.

The OneFord strategy has worked so far. The Ford Fusion came in second in this year’s Vehicle of The Year running. The mid-sized sedan has been doing extremely well in the marketplace and is the second-best selling product in Ford’s USA lineup. It is, however, the fourth-best selling midsized sedan in the market – behind the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.

If you are curious, the Fusion outsells the Camry in Canada.

Why talk about the Fusion again? I had to drive one recently as a rental to accomplish a few things. Holiday shopping, for one. A trip to a housewarming/holiday party was another. It looked liked the Ginger Ale-colored 2013 Fusion SE I had back this spring – except for the color, eighteen-inch wheels, Goodyear Eagle LS tires and a huge omission – MyFord Touch.

The rental gave me a chance to find out if the Fusion is a four-season vehicle. Like the reviewed version of the same car, this 2013 SE was front-drive. It provided a real world test on snow and ice. The traction control worked overtime to keep the Goodyears on the road and the Fusion from going every which way but loose.

The counter action to this was the 1.6litre EcoBoost turbocharged four. This is a strong motor with a lot of low-end power to send down to the road with the absence of turbo lag. Frigid temperatures could not stop this engine from wanting to dart across the highway, regardless of what is sticking onto the tarmac.

One thing that works in the Fusion's favor is its suspension setup. It is one of the smoothest riding cars in its class. Handling is fantastic. Everything drives just fine.

This Ford story is not over. It was another weekend without wheels for the same reason and to fulfill more holiday obligations, including a stint at the day job. It was back to the rental counter and – lo and behold – I wound up with a 2013 Ford Focus SE 4-door.

It has been a while since I drove the Focus. I have been meaning to review it, since I have driven almost every compact car offered in this country. This is a place where two compacts dominate above all – the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. Yet, there are two other compacts blocking the Focus' path to class leadership – the Hyundai Elantra and the Chevrolet Cruze.

Why has the Focus been mired in fifth place? You would think it would be the class bestseller considering how it drives.

The Focus drives superbly with a smooth ride and good handling. Snow and ice seems to be no problem with good traction control and Cooper Zeon RS3-A rubber providing grip. Steering response and feel are superb, but on-center action felt a bit vague. Braking is simply sharp to the touch. With all of these attributes, you would think we are talking about the bets compact in the market.

The problem is the interior. The seats are supportive with the right about of bolstering, but that is about it. The instrument panel's center stack is a mess of buttons and logic with the standard small infotainment screen. You could never get SYNC right to play music from your audio player whenever you turn on the ignition.

Perhaps the big complaint is for a driver my size. It took a while to get comfortable. Taller drivers would seem to fit, but negotiating the door onto a seat that is pushed back and lowered to work the right leg between the pedals was a bit of a hassle. Rear seat room has always been at a premium when tall people are involved in the ride. If you an "average" sized person, the Focus would be absolutely no problem.

The point of looking at these two Fords is not to create a political debate that still lingers a few years on. It is to get some time in them to report back whether some of my earlier feelings about them still hold true.

If you must know – yes, the Fusion was worthy is taking second place in this year's VOTY, but it would not be my first choice in this segment. It drives smooth, but I would rather have the sporty feeling of the Mazda6 or the space in the Honda Accord before considering the Fusion.

As for the Focus, it is truly one of the best driving compacts out there. For my own body’s sake, the 2014 Toyota Corolla has much more space to drive in. But, overall, I would look at the 2014 Mazda3, Dodge Dart or, if I want a more kick-butt car in its class, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, if I were in the market for a Focus.

To make myself clear, I have nothing against Ford. They make brilliant cars and do them well enough to attract buyers. I do have my qualms with a few things – as stated in this piece. My point is that somehow my experience tells me – regardless of yours or my politics – there are plenty of choices in the marketplace to look at.

NOTE: V&R will be reviewing the 2014 Mazda3 and the 2014 Toyota Corolla sometime after the new year.

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