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2013 Ford Fusion (Mike Cassese/Reuters)
2013 Ford Fusion (Mike Cassese/Reuters)

Driving It Home

Mid-size car wars: Ford Fusion vs. Chevrolet Malibu Add to ...

Lost in all the hype and hurrah over the 2013 Ford Fusion here at the Detroit auto show was the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

Chevy showed the 2013 Malibu at last year’s New York auto show, so of course the Detroit buzz was about Ford’s newly unveiled mid-size rival.

The Malibu is not to be overlooked, though. Both will be new to dealer showrooms later this year. For buyers, that will mean nearly all the major mid-size sedans will be new or nearly new this year in this hypercompetitive class of cars: Fusion, Malibu, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat and Hyundai Sonata

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The Malibu, as befits the mainstream Chevy brand, is a little more conservative in its styling, but both the Ford and the Chevy will have very good fuel economy and plenty of premium features. Chevy and Ford engineers swear up and down that their respective cars will have class-leading driving dynamics, too.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway here is that both General Motors and Ford are not making any apologies or equivocations about their new family cars. Up until now, this class of vehicle had two models at the top of the pyramid – Camry and Accord – and then all the rest below. Honda will have a new Accord later this year, too, but there are no guarantees that it will stay on top.

Then there is Toyota. The Camry was reinvented late last year and at the end of 2011 it was the best-selling car in its class, notes Toyota Canada officials.

“The redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry has led the mid-size segment in its first two full months of sales,” says Toyota Canada managing director Tony Wearing. “This, plus strong sales of new models – including the all-new Prius v and the redesigned Yaris Hatch – have helped Toyota grow 19 per cent in the fourth quarter.”

The 2012 Camry is a definite improvement over the 2011 model, without a doubt. Indeed, the Camry and the rest of the new mid-sizers are good news for car buyers. All these companies will be fighting for attention with new and well-priced sedans. That should keep price increases in check on vehicles that are very well done, from top to bottom.

Ford certainly has high hopes for the Fusion, which will wear the Mondeo name in Europe and Asia. This car is the next step in the company’s One Ford strategy; it is a global car riding on a flexible platform, one which will form the foundation for several other models – up to one million units a year in all. One important derivative of the Fusion will be the Fusion Hybrid, another a plug-in hybrid.

“The majority of people near-term are going to hybrids. They’re just so flexible,” Ford CEO Alan Mulally told reporters here at the car’s unveiling. Ford plans to build gas-only, hybrid and plug-in Fusions on the same production line, making it possible for the company to respond to demand with little fuss.

The bottom line: If you’re happy with the current Fusion or Malibu and want a smashing deal, buy one now. If you want to shop all the newest, reinvented mid-size cars back-to-back and in their most up-to-date forms, then wait until September. It’s a great time to be a consumer.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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