Ford Fusion Plus

The reaction to Ford's Fusion has been a little cool, to say the least. Compared to the funky concept seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2001, the production model looked uninspiring. Wait for the Fusion + flagship, we were told; it will be really innovative. Now the + is here, does it actually have anything to add?

With Vauxhall's Meriva taking the supermini-MPV class up a gear, Ford was forced to improve the Fusion. It's certainly more stylish, but what happened to the chunky look of the original show car? The success of the Fusion + boils down to whether you think £1,200 is a fair price for a DVD player and a storage box.

The reaction to Ford's Fusion has been a little cool, to say the least. Compared to the funky concept seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2001, the production model looked uninspiring. Wait for the Fusion + flagship, we were told; it will be really innovative. Now the + is here, does it actually have anything to add?

Surprisingly, Ford's designers have made only minor changes to create the range-topping model. As well as a chrome surround to the front grille, there are plastic bodyside mouldings and new 16-inch alloy wheels.

Why fit gangster-style darkened glass? It hides the car's greatest asset - a standard-fit DVD player. With tinted windows to prevent glare off the flip-down TV screen, rear passengers can watch a film, using two sets of cordless headphones and a remote control supplied as standard. With a crystal-clear image and no wires to get tangled up, there has never been a better way to keep the kids occupied.

The only other feature to set the + apart from lesser Fusion models is the 'activity console' storage box, which can replace the centre seat squab. Designed to rival the Vauxhall Meriva's system, the compartment has drinks-holders, a tray and a deep storage bin.

The entry-level engine is the 1.4-litre - the only version to be available with Ford's semi-automatic Durashift EST gearbox, priced at £12,850. For the same amount, you can get the 1.6-litre-engined model driven here with a standard five-speed manual box, while the range-topping 1.4-litre TDCi diesel will offer the greatest fuel economy for £13,050. All the + prices represent a premium of £1,200 over the Fusion 3.

Compared to the innovative Meriva, with its FlexSpace seating system, though, the Fusion + doesn't quite do enough to attract the most demanding family buyers. However, it manages to offer a lively and comfortable driving experience, plenty of style and the added attraction of silenced children on those long holiday journeys.

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