So you need a family sedan? Luckily evolution has changed that from a dreary statement to one of opportunity. There aren’t many “bad” cars any more, and even the drabbest of 4-door shuttles can be a minx on a canyon road. But there is still a vast chasm between acceptable and great. This pairing-the 2013 Ford Fusion SE EcoBoose and Volkswagen Passat SE- is a perfect example.
2013 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SE
The Passat has been the bridge between a Taurus and an Audi for 2 decades, offering “German driving” for less. This car continues that tradition, our tester costing only $25,840. For that money you get a 2.5 liter inline-5 engine worth 170hp and 177ft-lbs of torque and a 6-speed automatic. 0-60MPH takes 8.8 seconds and it will give you 31MPG highway.
On the highway it’s smooth, and can confidently dodge a tree limb (as I did) if need be. It’s a fine commuter. More athletic in the bends than it’s acceptable exterior would allude. But Volkswagen has cut costs, and it’s evident in the sound that comes through the cabin; Hardly noisy, but more so than expected.
The 2013 Volkswagen Passat cabin is as airy as a greenhouse; a lovely place to travel in, honestly. Spacious, with the 2nd best seats in the segment, it looks like it was designed by Kenneth Cole. A 5-hour drive in this car was no sweat. The switches look a bit tired, but the layout and use of plastic and aluminum is quite good. The only real folly is the hard plastic, but for the money, it’s quite nice. There’s a reason Motor Trend gave it COTY.
2013 Ford Fusion SE EcoBoost MT
If you are a person who pays attention to what you wear, appreciates cars or art, this is the sedan for you. Its face has been compared to an Aston Martin; lucky it. It’s the best looking car in its class by leaps and bounds. As good a car as the Passat is, it’s not a head-turner. The Fusion is.
Unlike a Next Top Model contestant, the inside is full of beauty and substance too. The seats best the VW’s (barely), everything you touch feels expensive, and the whole cabin has a cohesive design and flow that looks great. The floating center stack looks clean, thanks to the flat heat-sensitive controls and large wheel (if you live in a cold state, make sure the buttons work with gloves).
The engine is a 1.6L turbo that feels stronger than its 178HP/184ft-lbs. Our test car had an excellent 6-speed manual, but most will get the auto. It’s a half-second faster than the Passat to 60, stops shorter, and is cheaper to drive: 37MPG highway. Although the Fusion is the heavyweight in this segment, it blew me away with how quickly it could dart around corners. From mountain roads to 5-lane highways, the Fusion is comfortable and capable, with more gadgets than a nuclear submarine. The chassis is excellent.
A choice in this class is usually done by numbers; inches of legroom, MPG, number of features, etc. These cars basically have the same amount of everything. Power, speed, size, and electronics: all basically equal. The only real separation (on paper) happens with MPG, where the Fusion wins, although if this were a Passat TDI (which I love), the shoe would be on the other foot. But it’s not a TDI. Even if it was, I buy cars based on how they look. I want to smile when I walk up to it.
And so, in this comparison, the 2013 Ford Fusion takes it. It’s better looking inside and out, it’s agile, people will think it cost a lot more, and it has a wonderful engine. And did I mention it’s good looking?