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.