By on March 5, 2009

I believe that the 2009 Ford Fusion S is the most unremarkable car I have driven. Ever. When I sat down to record notes immediately after concluding my test of this blessed blandmobile, I had a hard time recalling anything about it. I got in. Transportation happened. I got out. That’s it. The Ford Fusion’s striking anonymity served to prevent it from winning this comparison—not even close to defeating the Chevrolet Malibu LS. At the same time, I suppose flying under the radar preserved it from a potential loss. Actually, the Chrysler Sebring LX is so dreadful that defeating it isn’t much of a victory. So the Fusion S ingloriously falls into second place. Read on as I attempt to fill 800 words . . . about nothing.

Evidence of the Ford’s penny pinching bedevils the Fusion’s otherwise clean, if milquetoast shapes. Steel rims peek through unconvincing alloy wheel styled hubcaps while anemic “anything but Firestone” branded all season tires fail to fill the wheel wells. Blanks occupy the faux brake vent openings normally occupied by fog lights. Dowdy unpainted black plastic mirror housings rather than body color matched units cling to the sides of the car. And, of course, the front end retains the corporate grill that must have been conceived by a displaced Gillette Atra II designer. Every expense was spared. Clearly. Obviously.

Do not confuse the interior of the Ford Fusion S with the relatively attractive interior that up-optioned Fusion’s get. This is a forgettable, blasé, monochromatic, molded plastic affair suited only for rental fleets. Its aesthetic appeal is about as yummy as eating cardboard. But with five-and-a-half more cubic feet of interior volume than the Chevy, the Fusion feels the roomiest of this trio.

Only the Malibu gets standard a power adjustable driver’s seat in the base trim level. In the Fusion you pump a handle on the side of the seat to raise it, pull it up to lower; the seatback adjusts with the pull of a lever. But the attitude of the seat bottom is not adjustable and I found it too far tilted for my comfort.

The performance of these family sedans can be summed up as dull, duller, and dullest. The Fusion is dull. So for what it is worth, it wins this caption. With 160 hp on tap, its 2.3-liter 16-valve four banger puts out the weakest peak horsepower. However, it also weighs less, making a barely discernible advantage in day-to-day driving.

Likewise, the Fusion wins handling bragging rights by default because the Sebring is atrocious and the Malibu is clearly tuned for comfort. That doesn’t make the Fusion S anything to write home about, though. I took the Fusion out on one of my favorite meandering country roads and . . . . “Crazy Henry” Ford once said “Money is like an arm or leg – use it or lose it.” Huh.

Anyway, apparently the drive wasn’t appallingly bad or I would have some unforgettable harrowing tale of near-death woe to tell. Yet it also lacked any impressionably good characteristics. It just happened. Period. The automotive equivalent of listening to a dial tone.

What does stand out is the lack of economy at the pump. Despite being powered by the smallest displacement ICE mated to the only five-speed transmission of the group and weighing the least, the piggy little Fusion devours the most fuel. According to the oracles at the EPA, the mighty S gulps down a gallon of gasoline every 20 miles it schleps through city traffic and 28 mpg on the open road. Call that seven to nine percent worse than the competition-leading Malibu.

The most compelling thing about the Fusion: price. She stickers at $20,635. The bright red tag hanging from the rear view mirror showed $16,150 after nearly $4500 of rebates and dealer spiffs. That edges out Sebring’s sticker by $845 and beats the Bu’s discounted price by $1464. In fact, that’s nearly $1500 less than I paid for my manual transmission Honda Accord LX—eight years ago.

A little extra coin buys a Fusion SE with the optional Sports Appearance Package; the interior improvements add a splash of pizzazz to the dreary interior and a sport-tuned suspension (bigger rear anti-sway bar, and stiffer springs, struts, and shocks) for corner carving fun.

The 2009 Ford Fusion S is the perfect car for people on a budget that hate cars. It is for buyers that have given up on life; whose eyes no longer see in color and whose noses are unable to enjoy the sweet smell of a rose. Incidentally, it might also be the perfect car to buy a college-bound child. Otherwise, the Fusion S is a car bested by an abundance of alternatives that do just about everything better.

Three words shy. Damn.

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107 Comments on “Yankee Econo-Car Comparo: 2nd Place: Ford Fusion S...”


  • avatar
    BDB

    “I believe that the 2009 Ford Fusion S is the most unremarkable car I have driven. Ever.”

    Laugh if you want but that’s what most people who buy a stripped entry-level mid-sized four banger are looking for. Bland and unremarkable transportation.

    Now granted, they’re probably looking for fuel economy too so it makes sense to make the Fusion second. The standard engine is really the Fusion’s Achilles heel.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Good thing for Ford is that no one buys this trim level. Most Fusions are SE or SEL. They are so much nicer.

    The problem for Ford is for the same sticker price, you can get a Hyundai Sonata GLS with a much nicer interior.

    Hopefully the 2010 S is more finished inside..

  • avatar
    dwford

    That’s a photo of the 2009 SEL interior BTW..

  • avatar
    sillyp

    Sometimes I think that car sites like this are ridiculous: “With 160 hp on tap, its 2.3-liter 16-valve four banger puts out the weakest peak horse power.” Seriously?

    I understand that this site caters to “car guys” (and gals of course), but come on, not everyone buys a car for sheer horsepower, displacement, slaloming ability, corner huggingness. The cars in this entire segment are basically appliances to get families from point A to point B. Some people actually use cars for something so mundane as that: transportation.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    The fuel economy is horrific.

    The mazda5 2009 STICK does 22/28 and seats 6.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    Three words shy. Damn.

    So did “Damn” put you over the 800 word limit? ;-)

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    Why bother reviewing econo boxes if you’re going to rate them on driving pleasure? The only relevant comment in this whole review is that the gas mileage isn’t what it should be for an econo car. Everything else you wrote has no bearing at all on what makes an econo car an attractive option for drivers. We know these aren’t BMWs, so please stop lecturing us on that score.

    Hint: Safety is another concern in this segment. Any thoughts on that?

  • avatar
    Robstar

    160hp is more than 2 of my 3 vehicles. It is more than sufficient.

    In any case, for an appliance you can pay a lot less.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Great review — I know how hard it is to write about a boring thing without sounding… boring.

    But: how can something around 17k be called an economy car? And why would anybody buy this car (seats five, 160 HP, for crying out loud) for a college-bound student?

    For a European like me, it sounds like the U.S. is still mighty tall. Either that, or still living way above its means.

  • avatar
    davey49

    Best part about the Fusion are all those full red dots for it at Consumer Reports. Reliability like a 1990s Camry (as opposed to today’s Camry) will go a long way.
    Manual transmissions are available! Though the ones I saw on the net were SE trim.
    gaycorvette- why not driving pleasure? Even the cheapest cars shouldn’t freak one out by under/oversteering too much. In general, just being safe to drive. A lot of cars that aren’t cheap handle horribly.
    Marketing shouldn’t determine whether a car is good or not.

  • avatar
    menno

    OK I’ve just GOT to say it.

    This isn’t an American car. It’s built in Mexico.

    My wife’s Hyundai Sonata, which TTAC panned awhile back, IS an American car, however; it is actually manufactured in Montgomery, Alabama. Saw the plant myself. Steel rolls with signaged stating “US Steel” (as in the company). Engine plants (both 4 cylinder and V6). Body presses. Body build-up welding shop. Paint house. Assembly hall.

    Likewise, there are American built Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords, Subaru Legacy, Mitsubishi Galant, and Nissan Altima mid-sized cars, too.

    Of course, we all know this – “just what exactly IS an American car these days?”

    Other than “Epic FAIL-mobiles” made by dying dinosaur companies.

  • avatar
    dilbert

    They say the ‘bu is a class competitive car, but definitely not class leading. They also say good things about the Fusion, but if it came after the ‘bu, then two things come to mind. One, obviously, then this isn’t a great car, and two there is a perception gap.

    But then, I guess losing 10 Billion dollars in three months will influence public perception a bit, especially since the public is paying for it.

  • avatar
    SV

    That’s…surprisingly harsh.

    I like the Fusion alot; in fact, I was seriously looking at one 6 months ago when I was looking for a used car (couldn’t find one under my $12k limit, though there are a ton under that threshold now)…the S isn’t as attractive inside as the SE or SEL, but I thought it was nice enough. Maybe the best thing about this car, though, is its exceptional reliability; it could almost be modern-day equivalent of the ’92-97 Camry. I haven’t actually driven a Fusion so I can’t comment personally, but every review I’ve read (including Farago’s drive from 2006) have praised the Fusion’s handling; I don’t see how the S would be any different. To each his own i guess…

    The Sport Package lifts the looks of the Fusion considerably; the wheels look sharp and the smoked chrome grille tones down the bling level considerably. I didn’t know it came with any actual handling benefits though, so I guess that makes it even more of an essential option to check off.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Ford builds the Fusion in Mexico to avoid the tariffs Central and South American countries impose on US built car. Ford sells the Fusion all over the world, BTW.

    The Hyundai Sonata would best be described as “assembled in the US,” as the window sticker show 65% Korean content.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    There’s that negative writing again.

    Granted all come second (or even third) to what the Japanese and Koreans put out these days (the Malibu comes closest to hitting the mark), but come on. If the Sebring’s ride is atrocious either way and the Malibu is clearly tuned for comfort, then the apparently unremarkable ride of the Fusion clearly means there’s SOMETHING going on with the chassis. The Fusion is slightly stretched version of the previous gen Mazda 6 platform so some handling merits should’ve carried over, even if it wasn’t to the extent of its donor.

    I’m not debating the Fusion’s place in this comparo (Malibu FTW all the way and if the Sebring could be any further down, the devil would be trying to get rid of it) but jeez…

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    Fusion S huh? Is that like, Sporty?
    How about this?
    Euro Ford Mondeo ST

    It’s almost like Ford is making a huge effort… to NOT connect with younger customers (in America). I mean, yeah, the Mustang is cool… however, it is very retro. Ford needs a big wake up call. IT IS ESSENTIAL TO CONNECT WITH YOUNG PEOPLE SOMEHOW. Ford America seems so… bland and.. aged… at best, it’s a retro thing (Mustang).

    Ford America needs a huge injection of…

    THIS!!!!!!!

    Talk about intense… that’s it.

    If you never connect with young customers… when those young kids grow up, they will never purchase your brand or product (unless another brand does something to lose the customer). It is bigtime time for the powerful, fun, hip, mind blowing Euro Focus. That with a brilliant marketing campaign. Ford should hire me as their marketing guru it might just save them!

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    gaycorvette: Why bother reviewing econo boxes if you’re going to rate them on driving pleasure? …so please stop lecturing us on that score.

    Because some of them are actually pleasurable to drive. And others are not. Just because a buyer lacks the funds to purchase a performance car doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a pulse. Nonetheless, the winner of this comparo is a car that is manifestly low in the fun-to-drive category, so I don’t get how my evaluation translates into any kind of lecture.

    Hint: Safety is another concern in this segment. Any thoughts on that?

    TTAC lacks the budget for conducting crash tests.

  • avatar
    davey49

    sillyp- I bought my dirt cheap car($12K new in 2005)because I thought it drove well. It has “road hugginess”

    I always love the “seats 5″ claim, as if 3 adults would ever want to sit in the back of these cars.

    The Fusion sold in the rest of the world is completely different than the Fusion sold in the US.

    The Fusion is an American car because the design and engineering was done in the US

  • avatar

    I’ve sat in the 2010, and did not find the interior as much of an upgrade as I had hoped. The door panels in particular seem very basic.

    TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey results for the Fusion:

    [url=http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Ford&mc=98&email=Guest]Ford Fusion reliability comparisons[/url]

  • avatar
    AWD-03

    I think what some of you are missing is that in these days, at these prices, the consumer has options. That means that while these three cars are meant to get you from point A to point B, other cars at the same rough price point do the same for a better price.

    Now me personally, I think if you are buying one of these new, you are an idiot. By a slightly used car for the same price and get a LOT more for that money.

    That being said, the first car I bought new was a base Dodge Shadow. Yes, I was an idiot at that point.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    SV: That’s…surprisingly harsh.

    The Fusion is a decent car. I actually expected it to win this comparo but the S option package is a real disappointment. If you can afford it, I would recommend saving up for a model with the optional Sports Appearance Package, which is more than just an appearance package.

  • avatar

    Ford wants to give you some good reasons to opt for high trim levels and options. So the base car is going to be basic.

    The Fusion has been doing well in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. Page with these results and those of competitors here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php?stage=pt&bd=Ford&mc=98&email=Guest

  • avatar
    RickCanadian

    The 2009 Ford Fusion S is the perfect car for people on a budget that hate cars. It is for buyers that have given up on life; whose eyes no longer see in color and whose noses are unable to enjoy the sweet smell of a rose.

    I guess the same comments could apply to the Ford T. The question here is if it will fulfill the customer’s expectations. There’s nothing wrong in being in a budget and only needing to go from point A to point B.

    This review looks a lot like a movie critic who only enjoys action flicks and calls European movies “dull”.

  • avatar

    Personally, I rather like the Fusion – it’s still pretty sharp looking after these 4 years or so and it is recognized as a very reliable car. Also, I expected it to be more pleasurable to drive due to its sharing a chassis with the Mazda6, so it’s disappointing to hear that it isn’t a very fun car.

    Ford has directly addressed the MPG issue, and the 2010 update should have class-leading fuel economy, from what I’ve heard.

    All told, every other review I’ve read has indicated that the Fusion is a decent car-buying proposition in the midsize segment, particularly when price is taken into account. For $16,150, the price shown in the review, you can get a hell of a lot of car. This review makes it sound as repulsive as a bag of butts, which kind of bugs me, but to each his own.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    Since this is basic transportation, how about the things you actually use on a car you drive to work?
    how is the radio, heater, gauges, control levers, steering wheel, brakes. Come on, give us some info on the ergonomics and the things you actually touch, other than the seat.
    And yes Martin, this would be considered an affordable entry level new car for most people in the US in the market for a new car. Regardless of what you read on blogs this car is in the heart of the US car market. Also, the standard of living is still quite high here, thank you.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I guess the same comments could apply to the Ford T. The question here is if it will fulfill the customer’s expectations.

    Unlike the Model T, there are half a dozen competitor cars available at a similar price point that are clearly superior.

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    William C. Montgomery:

    I don’t know of any econo car that’s fun to drive. If by econo car you mean the weakest, slowest, cheapest version of a small car. We’d have to go to France or Italy to find a car like that, and they don’t sell cars here.

    And I’m happy to inform you that crash tests are conducted – for free! – by both the US government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You can also get their results for free. Apparently, this will be news to you. So you can stop cobbling together crash dummies from the discarded mannequins you found in the dumpster outside of Hot Topic.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    That’s a photo of the 2009 SEL interior BTW..

    And even that looks cheaper than a Yugo…

    But remember…at Ford…”We speak car”

    I wish they would speak quality for a change. That would be a bold move and the way forward.

  • avatar

    @GayCorvette
    How about the Fit?

  • avatar
    brickthick

    According to Word, you used 815 words, but then again it counts LX as a word. (insert fake angst) now my wold will never be the same!!
    Good review otherwise. I’ve havent seen the interior of anything that really impresses me lately.

  • avatar
    dilbert

    But “Quality is Job One”

    Oh wait…

  • avatar
    Becomethemedia

    I had one as a rental – surprise, surprise – and like the Sebring wasn’t expecting much, but overall I was somewhat impressed.
    I even liked the exterior in a non offensive kind of way.
    Was it great, did it dispel my bias against domestics, would I buy one, should Toyonda be worried ? No.
    It was, as the author stated in the article, just there, an appliance masquerading as transportation.
    The interior trim was nice enough but yeah you can see evidence of cost cutting, but it was a masterpiece in comparison with the Sebring.
    Ride was nice, lots of room, braking and overall performance was….okay I guess.
    But the worst part was the CVT, exactly what is the appeal with these?
    Do people really find having no input whatsoever in driving a good thing? Why not get rid of the steering wheel?
    Having never driven a CVT it was kind of confusing since it hunted around on acceleration and braking and I had no say in the process.
    I kept thinking I was doing something wrong.
    I also understood – having driven only small cars with manuals – why people brake so damn much in larger vehicles, not that it’s an excuse or anything.
    I would say nice try Ford, you’re getting there, now admit the obvious and bring the Mondeo over, and don’t Americanize it too much kay?

  • avatar
    baabthesaab

    The S is the most basic Fusion. Are the others, Malibu LS and Sebring LX also the basics? I have rented several 4-pot Fusion SE’s and found them pretty nice drivers.
    The SE with the manual (cheers!) is actually enjoyable.
    Going back and forth between Baltimore Washington airport and Harrisburg, PA, with a day or so of stop and go in Harrisburg, they get between 25 and 26 mpg with the 4 and a 5-speed auto.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Disappointing, after the SE review from 2 years ago:

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/ford-fusion-se/

    But it’s getting a little long in the tooth, so hopefully the 2010 version will be better.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Crash tests

  • avatar
    walksatnight

    What about trunk space? It might be worth a few words to comment on. A comparison between the three models would be good to know for cars of this type.

  • avatar
    nudave

    It certainly sounds like Ford NA has successfully perpetuated its long string of mediocre mid-sizers stretching back through…

    Contour
    Tempo
    Fairmont
    Granada
    LTD II
    Maverick
    Fairlane
    Falcon

    Did I miss a few?

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    David Holzman:

    The Fit is a great economy car. But it’s great primarily because (a) it’s economical to buy and to own, (b) has lots of room and (c) has very good safety ratings [note: I did not have to conduct my own personal crash test of a Fit to discover this].

    Within the category of econo cars sold in the US, the Fit is probably the most fun to drive with the best driving dynamics. But that’s only relative to other economy cars, not to cars we would consider strictly on the basis of driving pleasure.

  • avatar

    Too bad you couldn’t review the 2010 Fusion… it might have fared better. The interior looks to be of higher quality as well.

    Additionally, the Fusion is available with AWD on some trim models which may sway people in Ford’s direction relative to the other “domestic” entries. Also, the Fusion is available in a Hybrid version, and not a “mild” hybrid like the Malibu. The Hybrid Fusion is the fuel economy king of this class.

    I hope that the new Taurus really is a great car in it’s class… not just adequate as in the current Fusion.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    I don’t know of any econo car that’s fun to drive. If by econo car you mean the weakest, slowest, cheapest version of a small ca.r

    The fun-to-drive quotient of the seven economy sedans I tested are vastly different. The Mazda6i is very fun to drive for an economy car. It might not have the moves of a gaycorvette, but it does alright. On the other hand, the Sebring LS is dreadful. With this selection of cars available, a budget minded consumer isn’t condemned to austere self-flagellating transportation.

    And I’m happy to inform you that crash tests are conducted – for free! – by both the US government and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. You can also get their results for free.

    Then I don’t need to commit some of my 800 words reiterating and commenting on work they’ve already done and with which I have no first hand experience.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    “Crazy Henry” Ford once said “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” Huh.

    Yes, but what he meant was that evil Jews controlled the international banking conspiracy, possibly in concert with the gnomes of Zurich.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    The S is the most basic Fusion. Are the others, Malibu LS and Sebring LX also the basics?

    Yes, they were all the most basic options. The Malibu was actually the 1LS package.

  • avatar
    da_riddla

    I have driven all three cars mentioned in this test (rentals). Sebring deserves to be last. Very poor built quality. Ride and drive along the same lines. I thought Fusion and Malibu were a LOT better.

  • avatar
    BDB

    The 2010 Fusion interior does look good.

    http://image.motortrend.com/f/13084565/112_0812_07z+2010_ford_fusion+interior_view.jpg

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    In Canada there’s no Fusion S. Only SE and SEL. I was checking last night pricing and was surprised to see that 4-banger SEL with slushbox was a mere $500 more then SE due to $2,000 more discount. And it’s already comes with 17″ alloy wheels, fogs and some other standard equipment over SE. (16-inch alloys are $420 option on SE). Final price with A/C tax and delivery charge $19,599 for SE and $20,099. For additional $1,500 one could get Sport Appearance Package with leather front seats. I wonder if rear seats are vinyl?
    And in a few month 2010 Fusion will come out, so, if possible, could Mr. William C Montgomery re-test it against Malibu?

  • avatar
    rtt108

    There is one point missing from the review that I regard as critical, and would place this car ahead of the Malibu in my mind (having driven both).

    MANUAL TRANSMISSION!

    AFAIK anyone who cares at all about driving would NEVER opt for a slide-o-matic in any car .. ever!

    The only thing Ford can do to really make this car something special would be to offer a full station wagon version (with a manual).

  • avatar

    rtt108 :

    My ad my bad. Text amended.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Yup, having a manual is a plus for any car in this category. It’s my big knock against the Malibu–whyohwhy couldn’t they have done an SS version of that car?

    IIRC, the Mercury Milan version tested out a bit better here a year or so ago. But an entirely different trim level, no?

  • avatar
    BDB

    The Milan is the more handsome of the two, no doubt about that.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    In all fairness, this vehicle is due for a makeover. In true Motor Trend fashion, the newest model gets the prize. Getting a little predictable are we? That said, I’ve had a few stripped Fusion’s as renters and they were not all that bad. Build quality, dare I say it, was IMO better than the “Michigan built” Mazda 6.

    And just to clarify, the Fusion is sold in the “Americas” which includes South America. Not sure on the tariff explination but it makes sense because the Mazda 6 has assembly in Columbia for the SA market and it’s the same stinkin’ model in both places.

    Unfortunately these reviews are of stripped down rental car and gov’t fleet queens. Is the Fusion S as good as the lowest tier Accord LX? Probably not, but definately not in Sebring territory. Crappy wheel covers can be replaced, or upgraded to aftermarket rims. Suspension can be tweaked. Reliability can’t be upgraded and that’s what matters here, and probably those that buy this thing.

    My only complaints about the Fusion I’ve driven is: What is the reason for the analog clocks in cars these days? It’s not classing up anything. And what is Ford’s fascination with those cheap pop-up storage bins in the dash? Worthless and cheapens the overall look. My 2 cents.

  • avatar
    grog

    What BDB, gaycorvette, RickCanadian and especially sillyp said.

    Living here in Central Misery, guess what? Unless you’re the local equivalent of a “yoga mom” looking to keep up with the neighbors by buying the most oversized SUV you can wrangle out of the family budget which also includes hubbies >insert massive pickemuptruck of choice here<, this is exactly the kind of car people want.

    That being said, I must say that in the 13 years I’ve lived here, the transplants have made *serious* inroads. Whereas we were literally the only people in the county in 1996 to own a foreign car (85 Prelude), now, they abound.

    And yes, Hyundai is giving cars like the Fusion and the ‘Bu a serious run for customers here

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’ve driven two Fusions in the last year, and I liked them both better than other new cars I’ve driven in the class (Camry, Malibu (rental), Avenger) but I think they were both optioned up a bit, and one of them was definitely AWD. It’s hard to see the point in buying a basic full sized sedan in this class when good hatchbacks at the same price offer far better driving dynamics, power to weight ratios, most of the actually useful interior space and better quality interiors. The only exception that I’ve seen to this rule is the 2.0T Passat CC, which is fantastic (why would anyone pay for the 6cylinder?).

    As far as criticizing the author for judging these cars on their ability to please the driver…what other possible standard should they be held to? No one is complaining about it being too slow at Road Atlanta, this is a straight up criticism of a car (really a whole class of cars) that was not properly developed. They didn’t try because they want the top model to shine or they just couldn’t be bothered, and that isn’t something that should be excused.

  • avatar
    wannabewannabe

    rtt108:

    The only thing Ford can do to really make this car something special would be to offer a full station wagon version (with a manual).

    With a diesel too?

  • avatar
    carguy

    Bland it may be by at least you won’t have to end your three way comparo with the customary apologetic “These are all great cars and will appeal to different tastes…” that so often grace the pages of car magazines. At least there is some clarity: The Sebring sucks, the Fusion has OK dynamics but needs an update (which it is getting) and the Chevy is the pick of the bunch if you dollar stretches that far.

  • avatar
    galaxygreymx5

    Becomethemedia:

    The Fusion has never been available with a CVT. The 2.3L 4-cylinder engines were paired with traditional five speed autos or a five speed manual.

    The 3.0L six got a six speed auto as standard.

    Everything moves to six cogs for 2010 except the hybrid, which has an eCVT (very different than a conventional CVT).

    Maybe you had a Ford 500 as a rental? That came with a CVT for a while.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    If you’re enamored of the man 5 speed trans you need to drive one. Redline comes at about 20mph meaning while you’re shifting into 2nd the cars behind you from the stoplight you just left are braking. Very poor 1st gear ratio. Having owned one for 26 months (5 speed auto, 2.3L SE w/ sport pkg) the fuel economy is truly disapointing-22mpg avg. easy driving. Some noise insulation under the hood and in the firewall would have been a nice touch too as the engine is far too loud. Replaced an F-150 with it for better mileage. I would have preferred the F-150′s 15.5 mpg. If I got closer to 30 mpg with the Fusion I might have thought the trade off was worth it, for 22 mpg I don’t.

  • avatar
    carguy

    bill h writes – “whyohwhy couldn’t they have done an SS version of that car?”

    Because maybe finally GM is coming to its senses and is realizing that the SS badge is not to be devalued by using it on V8 powered FWD appliances.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    As far as actual transaction prices, the base Fusion will set you back at least $4000 less than the base Sebring and $5000 less than the base Malibu in my area. A base V6 with ESC and Sync can be had for $18,909 after incentives, according to Edmunds. Personally I’ll take the outdated Ford when the three cars are equipped to apples to apples price levels.

  • avatar

    Okay.

    Those of you who are crying for a “European Ford” realize that it’s been done before, right?

    The 1995 Contour SE was just as hardcore as any Mondeo. Same inside and out, except for a different tail. And it fucking BOMBED in the marketplace.

    US citizens don’t want European cars. Those who do, want expensive European cars. Not because they are European, but because they are expensive.

    Has anybody noticed that the Saturn Astra was a complete market failure? So were the Merkurs. So was the 1G Mercury Capri. So was the Catera. So was the GTO. So is the G8.

    The cars that succeed in the marketplace aren’t sporty at all. The Camry is the #1 selling car. Period. What does that tell you?

    If the Focus RS came here at $30K, you’d see cobwebs in the wheelwells. Get real.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I drove a manual version after Lieberman’s positive TTAC review. I was not very impressed. The seats were covered in some of the worst fabric I’ve experienced in a new car, the HVAC controls were too low on the console, and the dash had some weird faux carbon fiber insert. For the drive itself, the car had odd gearing, the stick was rubbery, and it was really slow. I didn’t expect a speed demon, but I didn’t want to get shut down by a ’99 LeSabre either. A G6 GT with the pushrod 3.5 was a comparative rocket.

    In the realm of manual family cars, I would go with Honda, Toyota, Nissan, or Subaru over the Ford.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    carguy:

    “Because maybe finally GM is coming to its senses and is realizing that the SS badge is not to be devalued by using it on V8 powered FWD appliances.”

    I get your point, but I’m not interested in V8s myself. And if they’re going to do a Cobalt and an HHR of all things…

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    This is a very biased review against the Fusion. This car is meant to be basic transportation, equivalent to the base Camry. Sitting in each the Ford looks and feels better, is just as reliable and is considerably cheaper. If you want more fun to drive and better creature comforts pony up for the SE or SEL which are still affordable. Oh, and just wait for the 2010 which is much better than this, already good vehicle.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    A 5 speed man trans Fusion was given a good review? You’ve got to be joking. Was the comparo against a John Deere? I also drove a 5 speed man Mazda 3 with the 2.0L which was a pleasure to drive and seemed much quicker than the Fusion. Overall I don’t dislike the Fusion I just think it should get better fuel economy with a 5 speed auto and 2.3L.

  • avatar

    I’m with Mr. Montgomery on this one. Just because a car functions well as a transportation appliance does not a good car make. There are SO many superior options in this price point.

    Hence my dislike for Camrys. I abhor these things as they are so mundane, so mediocre, so life force sucking that I can only imagine the owners sit in their living rooms hoping someone throws a sack of flaming dog crap at their door in order to have some sort of entertainment.

    They are still good cars, but there are so many BETTER choices. And some of those choices come with a manual.

  • avatar
    Becomethemedia

    galaxygreymx5 :

    Thanks for the heads up.
    As I recall the gear shift on the console was P-R-N-D-L which I took at the time to be a CVT.
    It definitely was not a 500, far too big.

    Remarks cheerfully withdrawn.

  • avatar
    MBella

    The car needs an update, period. That being said, it is getting one, and the new model will be the relevant review. I hope you redo this review when the new car arrives next month.

    RF, going to the 800 word thing, why? Would a +/- 5 word limit really ruin anything? This article shows what happens. It becomes a big joke, that takes away from the article.

  • avatar
    Lee

    You’re not talking the ’09 down to make the ’10 even more remarkable are you??

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Why bother reviewing econo boxes if you’re going to rate them on driving pleasure?

    I agree. Anyone who can’t afford an expensive car doesn’t care how their car drives.

    Instead of actually driving economical cars, TTAC should just provide a spec sheet. As long as financially-challenged people can read the options list and safety ratings, they will know everything they should ever need to know about the car. If they buy it and don’t like how it drives, maybe it will encourage the bums to get their shit together, get a better paying job, and buy something worth writing about.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    The 2010 Fusion interior does look good.

    http://image.motortrend.com/f/13084565/112_0812_07z+2010_ford_fusion+interior_view.jpg

    Looks are very deceiving.

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    My parents *average* 28 in their Fusion with its manual. They get a little over 30 on the open road and about 26-27 around town. And they aren’t necessarily the friendliest drivers. The weakness of the manual is really its top gear is relatively short, so you’re at 3,000 rpms by a little over 70 mph. They could probably get noticeably better economy if the ratio were taller.

    Overall, I’ve found the Fusion better than the Malibu in some areas and worse in others. The handling I found to be really good. The NVH is a bit stronger. The interior materials are good. The interior design leaves a bit to be desired. But there is no denying that the Fusion is the reliability king in its class right now. CR has it rated higher than everything except the Prius – which doesn’t have nearly the backseat room. It is, in some grotesque way, the Camry/Accord of the 90s.

    It is too bad that you couldn’t drive the 2010.

  • avatar

    @P71_CrownVic :

    I just spent a week with a 2010 Fusion. The interior is, if not class-leading, equal to anything other circa-20k sedan. Better than Camry and Altima, no worse than Accord or Malibu.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    For a European like me, it sounds like the U.S. is still mighty tall. Either that, or still living way above its means.

    So which mid-size euromobiles does roughly e20k buy? (before VAT)

    Did I miss a few?

    Torino.

    Fusion S huh? Is that like, Sporty?
    How about this?
    Euro Ford Mondeo ST

    How about this:
    Facts At A Glance
    CAR: Ford Mondeo ST155PS 2.2-litre TDCi
    PRICES: £22,795 – £23,795 - on the road

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I recently picked up a 2006 Fusion SE with the manual and it’s a much better driving car than the S with the auto. It rides and handles well, and the 4 cylinder works really well with the stick (better than the current auto IMO).

    So far in the 3000 miles that I’ve owned it, it’s returned 29 mpg in mixed driving (measured as mileage traveled/gallons pumped). If my commute included less traffic I could easily see mileage in the low 30′s.

    It’s not perfect, but it’s comfortable and the seats are nice (although the fabric is prone to attracting a lot of lint). There are some pieces of trim that are obviously cheap and unimpressive and others are pretty good. Everything fits together well though and it’s fairly quiet at the speeds I find myself driving.

  • avatar
    John Williams

    Facts At A Glance
    CAR: Ford Mondeo ST155PS 2.2-litre TDCi
    PRICES: £22,795 – £23,795 – on the road

    $32152.33 – $33562.83 in USD

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    My parents *average* 28 in their Fusion with its manual. They get a little over 30 on the open road and about 26-27 around town.

    That’s terrible. I have gotten 30MPG highway in a Crown Vic.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    nudave : It certainly sounds like Ford has successfully perpetuated its long string of mediocre mid-sizers stretching back through… Granada.

    The Granada was hardly mediocre. It was plain worthless.

  • avatar
    SV

    @ P71_CrownVic: Did your mom get rear-ended in a Pinto? Seriously, every time there’s a Ford-related topic you jump in to bash them.

    @ Jack Baruth: The main reason the Contour failed was because it was too big to be a compact and too small to be a midsize. If it had been stretched a foot and called the Taurus, history would have been very different. The Mondeo is at least as big as the Fusion now so it would do well over here, very well, if priced right.

    As for the interior, the new one seems to be made of the same materials, just arranged differently. There was a 2010 Fusion at the Houston auto show in January; I couldn’t sit in it, but from looking inside the materials and textures all looked the same as before, just with a slicker center stack (which does lift the look considerably).

  • avatar
    Bancho

    John Williams :

    UK prices don’t translate as simply as that. Do we pay the same for a MINI in the US as they do in the UK? (we don’t, not by a long shot)

    Of course just running a currency conversion and using that to scare people is a fun tactic anyhow for what it’s worth.

  • avatar
    don1967

    When we rented an Impala a couple of years ago we were pleasantly surprised with it, and when we parked it next to a Fusion we were pleasantly surprised with that two. The new Malibu is even more pleasantly surprising.

    The problem is that “pleasant surprises” don’t beat Sonatas, Accords or Altimas for my dollar. Like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, the Big Three had their chance but nature has selected them for extinction.

  • avatar
    t-truck

    I got in. Transportation happened. I got out. That’s it.

    Isn’t that mission accomplished?, for a car that is not pretending to be anything other than a basic mode off transportation.

    I guess I don’t understand the TTAC star rating, seems a little unfair to deduct three stars from plain vanilla for being plain vanilla, when you are reviewing, plain vanilla.

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    “Read on as I attempt to fill 800 words . . . about nothing.”….”The automotive equivalent of listening to a dial tone”

    Willaim, I think you are my new favorite writer. You’ve captured the essence of the Ford Fusions I have driven in very few words.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    There was a 2010 Fusion at the Houston auto show in January

    What did you think of the Mustang? There was the first time I saw it in person…..

    UK prices don’t translate as simply as that. Do we pay the same for a MINI in the US as they do in the UK? (we don’t, not by a long shot)

    I know it’s not a simple translation, but that was my point as well….the Mondeo would be Taurus+ priced. Backing evidence includes why we’re stuck with the old Focus platform while the euro Focus is far superior. There’s no way the euro model would sell for anything less than $21k or so here. It’ll be interesting how they handle the decontenting for Gen3.

    The Granada was hardly mediocre. It was plain worthless.

    Well, put in the context of where and when it was introduced (American market, pre-Japanese invasion lame ’70s), the Granada earned Ford a lot of money by being a smaller LTD and Gran Torino but costing considerably more than the similarly sized Maverick.

    Moreso than the ’77 GM full-size platform shrinking (actually great cars for the time), the ’75/76 Granada/Monarch got lots of people out of their full-sized beasts, coming so soon after the ’73 oil shortage. You couldn’t kill the 250cid/6 cyl, either.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Bought my 2006 SE about a year ago. Was it my ultimate favorite choice? Not hardly. But I wanted something more than a compact, and I liked the fact that I could get a car that size with a manual. Throw in the steering mounted radio controls, power sunroof and the nicer rims…not a bad sled for the next three or so years. Interior build quality isn’t top-shelf, but it is comfortable and (in my opinion) at least as nice as anything else in it’s price class that I’ve seen recently. Sure, the clutch is a tad, um, heavy…and the gear-tiller is a bit on the rubbery side. But I bought it two years old for well under $12k, and I wasn’t going to find any Accord or Camry two years old with those options for anything close to approaching $12k.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    For a European like me, it sounds like the U.S. is still mighty tall.
    Either that, or still living way above its means.

    2. Still living way above its means, as witnessed by the high approval ratings (still above 60%) of the spend-as-we-please Obama administration.
    The country has about two years to learn.
    If not then it will get what it deserves.

  • avatar

    @SV:

    A Contour with a 12-inch wheelbase stretch would have looked… odd. And it wouldn’t have addressed the many complaints potential buyers had with the car, from the narrowness to the nonadjustable steering wheel to the uninspiring 2.0 Zetec/auto-trans combo.

    Now, the current Mondeo is 191 inches long, same as the Fusion. Awesome! But here’s the problem. The current Accord and Camry are more than half a foot longer and they are nontrivially larger in every dimension. Ford hits the Accord and Camry from two sides: smaller/cheaper Fusion from the bottom, bigger/more expensive Taurus from the top. A Mondeo would cost Taurus money and offer Fusion virtues. Plus that ever-elusive “European-ness” that nobody actually wants.

    Re: US to UK prices. It deserves a story of its own, but the conversion never works, see the V8 Vantage story. In real money, the Mondeo is priced against premium Accord variants, which are roughly equivalent to our Acura TSX.

  • avatar
    umterp85

    SV “@ P71_CrownVic: Did your mom get rear-ended in a Pinto? Seriously, every time there’s a Ford-related topic you jump in to bash them”

    Way too funny…but oh so true.

    Also—I will wait a few days and compare the more powerful 4 in the 2010 Fusion with the Malibu. I mean seriously—could this review have not waited a few days to compare what consumers will be seeing at the dealers for the remainder of the year ? This review will be rendered a dinosaur very shortly.

  • avatar
    CaliCarGuy

    @Martin Schwoerer
    But: how can something around 17k be called an economy car? And why would anybody buy this car (seats five, 160 HP, for crying out loud) for a college-bound student?

    For a European like me, it sounds like the U.S. is still mighty tall. Either that, or still living way above its means.

    well this is a pretty standard car for teenagers and college kids. im 20 and back in 03-0 wen i was in high school,there were plenty of kids at my school that hard fusions. its a pretty basic car to me. idk about europeans. do u guys take like the bus in high school or ride bikes or somethin?

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Everytime I feel sad about how bad my Camry’s interior is, how flimsy the HVAC controls, the thin plastic door panels, big panel gaps, I drive with my friend with his Fusion. The weird boring squarish design of the radio and tough plastics (like a 409 spray bottle) and tire/wind noise makes me appreciate my car a lot more. Ford’s interiors (except the new Taurus) remind me of so many rental cars and the negative experience I’ve had in them. :/

    Sorry Ford. Not quite there yet. But congrats on the reliability of this thing. Respectable. :)

  • avatar
    zenith

    What mpg did the car actually deliver?

    If 20/28 is close to actual, then this car really is a pig. Bigger stuff gets better.

    My Aztek regularly bests 20 in town and I’ve gotten 29.8 over flat ground and limited deviations from the 65 I set in the cruise.
    When I vacation I do NOT travel light, either.

    My leadfoot stepdaughter gets 30 highway in her 1998 Delta 88.

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    My best friend has a 2008 Fusion SEL V6 that I have driven numerous times. I’ve also had a Fusion S as a rental car. The differences are like night and day!

    The 3.0L/6-speed auto makes it a much livlier performer than the 2.3L/5-speed auto. The interior of the Fusion S was stone grey, which only added to the dull-as-dishwater ambience. The SEL’s black leather interior with piano black trim is worlds apart.

    I was shopping for a new car about six months ago and test drove a Fusion SE with the sharp looking Sport Appearance Package (18-inch wheels, spoiler, Black interior with red-stitching). It had the 2.3L/manual and it also was a much better drive than the rental S automatic.

    The 18-inch wheels/tires on the SE (SAP) and the 17-inchers on the SEL both improve handling substantially. Ride quality is still great, though.

    Ultimately, I didn’t buy a Fusion…but I came close. I ended up with a CPO ’07 Accord LX V6 for a few thousand less than the Fusion would have cost.

    There is one feature that really irritates me about the S and SE models- the big ‘FUSION’ plaque stuck in the middle of the center stack. It just screams “CHEAP!” The SEL has the gorgeous analog clock in place of it…thank god!

  • avatar
    Beelzebubba

    All automatic Fusions have one very irritating omission- there’s no way to manually select a specific gear! It’s just PRND and L…which of the 5 or 6 gears does ‘L’ represent anyway???

    The last-gen Mazda6 with the 2.3L/auto at least had a manu-matic gate for the shifter. I had one of these for almost a month as a loaner from the Mazda dealer (while my Mazda3 was waiting for a new engine, under warranty). It was a very useful feature given the limited amount of power and the 5-speed auto’s lazy responses otherwise.

    The 2010 Fusion looks to be a much more appealing vehicle, even in basic S trim!

  • avatar
    Lee

    @ zenith

    So YOUR’RE the one that bought an Aztek!

    Tell us, how hard exactly do people laugh at you?

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Calicarguy: Speaking very generally, I can tell you that Euro kids go without cars if they live in an urban area. Bikes and public transport are OK. If they live in a suburban area, public transport is the norm but saving up for a small used car is seen often. I am talking about $500 to $5000 jalopies here.

    Only rich kids have their parents pay for new cars. And basically nobody gets a new family sedan paid for by mom and pop. I can’t say I regret this situation. Different makes for different shakes, I guess.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Martin, it’s really not that different here.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    As a young’n, I owned a base VW Rabbit. (The old one, not the current one.) It had really good suspension geometry, but crappy standard-equipment tires and flaccid suspension tuning. So I got some better tires and a $100 Suspension Techniques rear swaybar. Whammo! Instant character transplant.

    Here’s a well-built sedan with room for my 6’2″ body and my fast-sprouting offspring, with good bones, that doesn’t cost much. Yes, I’d stretch for the V6, but other than that, it’s not much farther than the above-mentioned mods from being a pretty engaging drive. When you REALLY don’t have that much money, you use a little imagination. C’mon.

  • avatar
    BDB

    Wait, someone owns an Aztek!?

  • avatar
    unleashed

    Martin, it’s really not that different here.

    William, have you been to Europe?
    It’s a different world…

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    Martin & Unleashed -

    Martin is absolutely right about European kids. I’ve lived and worked in Europe off and on for years, and it’s very rare to see teenagers driving anything nice or new.

    Don’t know why WCM thinks it’s no different in the US. I live in LA, and I see teenagers driving Porsches and BMWs all the time. When I lived in Chicago it was Camaros and Hondas.

    Perhaps WCM lives in a rural area? I don’t know.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    Oy vey! Of course, Europe is different; three times the population density, higher fuel costs, more developed transportation, other side of the Atlantic, etc., etc. But for every spoiled teenager with frosted hair and over-whitened teeth narcissistically parading through the streets of L.A. in their parent’s Porsche, there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of kids that don’t.

    Urban college kids, such as those at schools like NYU, don’t take cars to school (like Martin wrote). Most college kids that have cars get family hand-me-downs or used clunkers (like Martin wrote). The kids that get new cars have rich parents (like Martin wrote). In general terms, all of this is consistent with Martin’s characterization of European mores in his last post, the difference in degree notwithstanding.

    By the way, when my oldest leaves our upper middle class suburban home for college in 18 months, he sure isn’t taking a car – new or used – with him.

  • avatar
    gaycorvette

    WCM:

    “with frosted hair and over-whitened teeth narcissistically parading through the streets of L.A.

    Actually, that’s a description of their parents.

    The US is much more of a suburban society than is Europe. Even in places, like Paris, that have lots of suburbs, there is also in place a very efficient public transportation system to move people from the periphery to the center, and back. Very few American cities have this.

    You are right that people who live right in a big city are less likely to give their kids cars. But suburban kids – and they are, I think, in the majority – literally have to have a car to get anywhere or do anything. Which is why they have them.

    Also, cars are much, much cheaper to buy and own in the US than in Europe, so it’s much less of a strain on the family’s budget.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I test drove one of these two days ago. The manual transmission was a nice perk and cruise control is standard. Also the seat lowers a bit more for the ’09s than the ’06 I test drove when they were first introduced. I’m 6’3 and the Fusion was undriveable for me when it was first released.
    Not a bad appliance. The interior is dull but better than Ford was putting out for this segment for a long time. Damning with faint praise, I know–but still an improvement.

  • avatar
    smithbones

    Well of course this Fusion sucks you picked the cheapest model to test which nobody in his right mind would buy. Even the rental fleets don’t buy the S model! Would you test a Camry CE and then bitch out about it not having remote keyless entry and power seat controls?

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    @Martin Schwoerer
    Porra! Os americanos ainda vivem em outro planeta!

    Translation:

    Shit! Americans still live on another planet.

    We get Fusions down here. Nobody (except people like us) know they’re made in Mexico. They’re presented as American cars. Econo box? Really?? Down here, though we only get the SEL version, these are executive cars. Sold brand-new for something like 40 000 USD. Iit’s a car you buy to say you made it, but are not yet BMW fodder.

    FWIW, my brother, a highly successful doctor has just bought one. 2 yrs old. With 13 ooo miles. I drove it. It kicks ass down here. You Americans don’t appreciate the comfort you live in.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    You Americans don’t appreciate the comfort you live in.

    The majority of Americans have become a bunch of spoiled cry babies, demanding more and more entitlements – the prime cause for the current economic (and political, yet to be realized) crisis.

  • avatar
    davey49

    “You Americans don’t appreciate the comfort you live in.”
    You bet, and we’re going to try our best to keep it that way.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    CR’s mileage Fusion 4 14/29 city/highway mpg. Camry 4 16/36 mpg same basis. Camry weighs 140 lbs less. Fusion CD is .33; Camry .28. Fusion is a good family choice as reliability is much better than average. Camry average.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The Fusion is a pretty good car overall with it’s biggest demerit being the low fuel economy and sluggish engine performance from the 2.3 liter/5 speed automatic combo. Still in everyday driving it should be more than fine for the majority of folks out there. My local dealer has brand new 2009 Fusion SE’s with automatic, alloys, power seat, 6 disk CD, Sirius radio, cruise, fog lights and plenty of other equipment for $15995 and 16399 for the same car with SYNC. The same car with a rear spoiler are 16499 and moonroof versions are 16599. V6 SE models start at 17199 without roof, 6 disk or SYNC. For 17299 you get the V6, roof, SYNC, Sport appearance pkg for 17299. For 18999 you get an SE with everything including roof, sport appearance, SYNC, backup sensors, Sirius, 6 disk, spoiler and V6. Meanwhile the new 2009 Sonota GLS 4 cylinder automatic with optional floormats and mud guards stickers for $20,900 and is on sale for 16995 with no where near the features of the Fusion. If you can except the slightly lower mileage and performance, this car in SE guise is a raving deal at least in my kneck of the woods in Upstate, NY. The Fusion also has a fold flat passenger seat, rear seat armrest and overhead assist grips which are not offered on any Malibu and it also boasts great interior room and a slightly bigger trunk. It’s well worth a look in SE guise and it is doubtful you will see very many S base models floating around.


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