Designed as an 'urban activity vehicle', Ford claims the car will fill a rare gap in the market, known as 'white space', when it goes on sale later this year.
Ford's current small car offering, the Fiesta, sold 98,221 units in 2001, making it the country's best-selling small car and taking 15.3% of the small car market, and its replacement goes on sale this spring.
Martin Leach, Ford vice-president of product development for Europe, said: 'We are very confident that the new Fusion will help us to double our small car market share by 2003, although it does not have to do this on its own. This is just the first step in the new small car story for Ford.'
Meeting these targets in the UK would mean Ford boosting sales in the small car sector by nearly 100,000 units, taking one-third of all small car sales.
But he added: 'The Fusion does not have to do that on its own. It is just the next phase in the small car story for Ford.'
Ford is two years into a five- year plan to launch 45 new models by 2005, of which 15 are so far out in the open. The average age of core Ford products is now 2.9 years, compared to 5.4 years in 2000.
Fusion offers a combination of small hatchback, mini-MPV and SUV, so drivers sit higher than they would in the Fiesta, whose platform is the basis of the new car. It is 103mm longer, 25mm wider and 86mm higher than the new Fiesta five-door, offering more leg room, particularly for rear seat passengers and more boot space, with 337 litres, compared to 284 in the Fiesta.
At launch, which will be towards the end of this year, Fusion will be offered with three engines, including a 67bhp 1.4-litre common rail Duratorq TDCi diesel engine, and two petrol units: a 78bhp 1.4-litre and a 99bhp 1.6-litre model.
The diesel is expected to produce 119g/km of CO2, and offer combined fuel economy of 64mpg, while the equivalent petrol will emit 156g/km and the 1.6-litre 158g/km of CO2 and achieve 43.4mpg and 42.8mpg respectively.
In keeping with the design aims of the Ford team, the car provides the look of an off-roader with the versatility of an MPV, complete with 60/40 split folding rear seats, which tilt to provide a virtually flat load space. There is also a folding passenger seat. Leach added: 'Fusion is designed to help young, modern, urban-minded families get the best out of the city.'
Although equipment levels for the UK have yet to be decided, pre-production models seen by Fleet News included standard 15-inch wheels, remote central locking, with disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear.
Leach added that there were no current plans for an alternative fuel version of the Fusion, but there was a suggestion that the model might feature a diesel engine capable of meeting Euro IV emissions levels by the end of the year. Only Euro IV emission engines will avoid the 3% penalty imposed on diesel models under the new carbon dioxide-based company car tax system.