Ford has begun building its five-seat Fiesta-based 'mini-minivan at a rate of 680 per day at its factory in Cologne, Germany.

The company has saved development costs for the Fusion by sharing as many parts as possible with the new European Fiesta with which it shares factory space. The Fusion has a taller roofline and more upright seating to increase interior room.

Ford and its suppliers have spent 525 million euros ($US513 million) preparing the factory.

Ford Europe is offering relatively wimpy 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines, a 1.4-litre diesel and no automatic option because most Europeans regard drivers of such cars as equally wimpy.

Brazilian-built versions earmarked for the US as 2004 models are expected to get 1.8 and two-litre petrol engines plus automatic and four-wheel drive options.