Ford engineers have been spotted with a prototype for a high-riding, mid-size hatchback.

It's a soft-roader of sorts, designed to challenge high-riding wagons like the Subaru Outback and previous Buick Regal TourX, though the Ford's roof is more curved than what you'll find on those alternatives.

A debut is expected late this year, meaning we should see it arrive as a 2022 model. We already have a good idea as to how it will look thanks to the unveiling of the Chinese-market Ford Evos during Auto Shanghai 2021 in April. The version for the rest of the world looks to be riding slightly higher than the Evos, and the front overhang is also much longer.

Ford Evos

Ford Evos

Ford Evos

Ford Evos

Ford Evos

Ford Evos

Though it's yet to be confirmed, the hatchback is thought to be a direct replacement for the Ford Fusion sedan which bowed out after 2020. As a result, the Mustang is now the only vehicle that isn't an SUV/crossover, pickup truck or van in Ford's North American lineup. In other markets, the new hatchback will replace the Mondeo—the badge the Fusion was sold with outside North America.

There are rumors Ford plans to keep the Fusion name for this new hatchback, or a variation of it, so don't be surprised if the vehicle ends up labeled something like Fusion Active. The Active designation is what Ford uses for soft-roaders it sells overseas, like the Fiesta Active and Focus Active.

For previous test mules, the engineers used a stretched body borrowed from the Focus Wagon sold overseas to cover the underpinnings. Those underpinnings are thought to be an updated version of Ford's CD4 platform for mid-size cars, the current version of which underpins the Fusion. This means there's the potential for front- and all-wheel drive, as well as plug-in hybrid powertrains.

2022 Ford Fusion Active spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2022 Ford Fusion Active spy shots - Photo credit: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

An alternative could be a stretched version of the compact C2 platform that debuted a couple of years back in the Focus sold overseas. It may explain why the engineers used a stretched Focus Wagon body for the test mule instead of the body of the larger, Fusion-based Mondeo Wagon also sold overseas.

We can't see much of the interior but there are rumors a large display spanning the width of the dash could be offered in some markets, including potentially here in the U.S. Such a design features in the Chinese-market Evos.

We also don't know what's happening in the powertrain department, but an offering of turbocharged 4- and 6-cylinder engines is likely. As mentioned above, a plug-in hybrid is also a possibility.