By on August 31, 2009

There ain’t nothing stock about a stock car. Nowadays, there ain’t nothing standard about a “standard” transmission. How long has it been since you’ve heard that quaint sobriquet for a clutch-and-stick setup? More than ninety percent of new cars sold in the United States are self-shifters. Our oh-so-superior friends in Europe and Japan aren’t as far behind in the trend towards PRNDL hegemony as they would have us believe. Combine the weight of marketplace preference with the increasing difficulty involved in making a stick-shift meet emissions regulations, and it becomes easy to understand why manufacturers are making automatic transmissions the only choice for everything besides specialty cars. A clutch pedal is perilously close to becoming an actual luxury item in today’s market. Does that turn this twenty-two-grand base-ish Fusion into a luxury car? Hell no.

Nor is the Fusion a sports car, or even a sporting one. The two-and-a-half-liter Duratec four makes 175 horsepower. That’s not nearly enough to propel the relatively porky Fusion with anything approaching vigor. (Although it would certainly keep up with an old five-cylinder Acura Vigor, if you can find one that hasn’t rusted into irrelevance.) Some of the Fusion’s class-inappropriate weight must consist of heavy Dynamat, because the engine note is virtually inaudible inside the cabin. Shift by the tach or you will meet the rev limiter. Trust me. The suspension tuning has been chosen for peace and quiet, not sturm und drang. It’s a remarkable freeway cruiser, particularly at the price, but it’s no Autobahn terror.

The Fusion SE is supplied with an interior of somewhat less tactile delight than that provided in the Sport model, but this is also way Honda and Toyota do things nowadays. Compared to a base Camry or Accord, this Fusion is more than acceptable. If there’s an occasional obvious cost-clipping in the plastics, there’s also a full SYNC system to balance the books.

This particular type of automobile—a relatively bland, low-equipment, manual-transmission four-cylinder sedan—has been a Honda, Toyota, and Nissan staple for a long time. In fact, the Ford is priced and equipped right on top of the Camry LE six-speed 2.5L, although I’d be surprised if there are more than ten new six-speed Camrys for sale in the entire country at the moment. Could it possibly make sense to buy the Fusion?

The Ford’s actual transaction price is certain to be a bit lower, although Toyota’s no longer slacking with the rebates. The Camry confers more respectability in the average suburban neighborhood nowadays, and it’s likely to be worth a bit more in five or ten years. Most Camrys are built in Kentucky, if you’re one of the folks who would prefer to buy an American-made automobile. There’s more room to be had in the Camry, and the famous Toyota reliability comes standard.

In this case, however, the not-so-famous Ford reliability is likely to carry the day in the long term. Consumer Reports is giving the Fusion the nod over the Camry, and it’s become apparent that recent Toyotas aren’t built as well as they used to be. Toyota doesn’t offer anything to match SYNC’s feature set. The Ford’s a more stirring drive, although this is a relative proposition. I personally find the Camry to be an utterly unforgiveable offense against aesthetics, proportion, and design, but it’s possible that somebody, somewhere, finds Toyota’s deformed-humpback styling compelling. That person is probably legally blind, but legally blind people buy plenty of cars. For proof of this assertion, Google “first-generation Santa Fe.”

The more time I spent behind the wheel of this humble four-cylinder Ford, the more I liked it. As a way to get four people somewhere at relatively low cost and with reasonable comfort, the Fusion SE takes some beating. This is the car that the Contour should have been back in 1995, but the Euro-fanboys and the handling fanatics were running Ford at the time. As a result, the so-called “American Mondeo” was exactly that: a cramped, featureless sedan that happened to suck-up the road like a front-wheel-drive 3-Series. No Accord or Camry could match the Contour for driving dynamics, and precisely nobody cared.

My insiders at Ford say that there’s a sported-up four-cylinder Fusion on the way, perhaps combining this drivetrain with the taut, big-wheeled setup found on the Sport. I cannot imagine that car selling in anything other than curiosity numbers. In fact, I cannot imagine this car selling in anything other than curiosity numbers. It doesn’t matter. Ford’s decision to provide this model is a statement of confidence. For the first time in a long time, there’s a domestic manufacturer willing to face the Camcords on an equal footing.

Some time ago, I asked TTAC’s B&B how this car should be rated: according to my preferences as a reviewer, or according to the Fusion’s position in the marketplace. The response was overwhelmingly in favor of the latter. So, while I feel compelled to note that I would rather have a lime-green Porsche GT2 than this anonymous silver sedan, when I put it heads-up against the competition, it’s four stars, no sweat.

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100 Comments on “Review: 2010 Ford Fusion SE 6MT...”


  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Nice write up, and you are spot on about the MT version being more of a curiosity than anything else.

    We generally buy one or two manual transmission Fusions and three or four manual Foci per model year to offer something for the value concious shopper or those who simply must row their own gears, and without fail they are the last of the model for that year left sitting on the lot. Especially now that the automatics get better fuel economy than the manuals most people value the convenience of an automatic far above any little bit of extra fun they might get from having control of the transmission.

  • avatar
    Dyl911

    When I saw the headline, my first thought was “Yes! They put a proper transmission together with the V-6!” My hopes for a sporty sedan were dashed, however, when I hit the second paragraph.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    This car seems to have found that perfect balance between acceptable handling and noise/comfort. I put 1,000 miles on one in two days, and I have to say that it’s an impressive car for the money. The four banger averaged over 35mpg in my travels. It reminded me a lot of the late 90s Accords that I like so much.

  • avatar
    Commando

    There’s a problem with these kind of cars. Dealers will not stock them of course. Can’t really blame them. So, if you want this particular setup, you are more than likely are going to have to special order it which really screws up the whole car buying process. The dealer will continue to hard sell you on an in-stock model and if you stick to your guns, he won’t lop off as much on the sticker. Often, your ordered car price is the same or higher and the in-stock model which has more options.
    I’ve always ordered my cars to my specific wants and needs and more often than not my deals were worse than they could have been otherwise.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I have almost given up on seeing a review on a car & dropping into a dealerhsip to test drive one — simply because there ARE no manual transmission cars to be found.

    The last time I tried this was on a Yaris. The dealer had something like 30 yarii in stock (rows) but had to hunt for an hour & drive me to an offsite lot that had one that was MT. I asked about options and there was simply no customization. The 3 he had with MT were all the same option set & the same color!

    To say I was disappointed/pissed was an understatement. Aint no way I’m going to pay retail/order an econobox (of all things!) with an MT and pay sticker or near it when the aftermarket resale is going to suck.

    My wife & I are vastly different. She really doesn’t have interest in learning anything MT except a motorcycle.

    Our stable has 15 gears — (2 * 6) + 3! Can you guess which one is the auto?

    Btw: my wife only has a valid license to drive 2 of them and only the skillset to drive one.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Re: the Yaris

      You didn’t miss out on much. I test drove the manual Yaris and was shocked by the clutch…it was completely devoid of feel and just set up awfully. The steering was WAY too light with no feel whatsoever and the seats were inches too high, but on the plus side the engine was eager to rev. I thought it would be a fun, cheap and light car, but it proved to me that low weight simply isn’t a match for indifferent engineering. What really drove me away was the fact that the Yaris would only come with a tachometer (!!!) if I ordered a package putting it at price parity with a Fit sport, a car that outclasses it in every possible respect.

  • avatar
    dmk1976

    I still have my fingers crossed for a 6 speed manual all wheel drive ecoboost four cylinder in the fusion. Give us this drivetrain and call it a Fusion ST and I will be in line to order one.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t buy a Fusion because its too small. But, I’ve been in the Fusion Hybrid – its a great car and I’m sure lots of people are gonna love them.

    I think the SHO is gonna do well and the Taurus definitely.

    I don’t know how to drive a stick though, nor am I interested in it. When I’m in my S550, or my Chrysler 300, I put my left foot on the footrest and let my hands do all the work.

    Next car I get has to have paddle shifters. S63 perhaps.

  • avatar
    Steve-O

    A proper manual is all I choose to drive. This Fusion has obviously got my attention because it offers a stick shift and isn’t an econobox, but still I was hoping it was more of a ‘Sport’-y flavor.

    Ford: Offer it in the 3.5 liter or Ecoboost 4 and I may be hooked…

  • avatar
    paulie

    Jack Baruth

    Do you suppose this supposed new suped up 4 cyl is an ecoboost?
    I am hoping so as it would clearly be the perfect additive.

  • avatar
    Monty

    It’s not as rare to find a MT version on dealer lots in Canada; we seem to have more of a European outlook on cars (more hatchbacks sold, more MT’s sold, more smaller cars sold than in the US), but I fear that the end of the MT is ending as AT’s become more efficient.

    With all that, though, I would love to have a Fusion with a MT. I have test driven a few Fusion models, and I was impressed with the dynamics and comfort of the cars I tested. To this point I’ve tried out a SES and SE version, and if one had had a MT, we would have signed up for it then and there.

    I was never a Ford fanboy (Mopar, and then Toyota fanboy), but based on the Focus I bought for Mrs. Monty, and the test drives of several Ford products, and comparisons to competitors’ vehicles, I would have to say that Ford is starting to win over myself, and apparently many other people.

    I think the Fusion, and the Fiesta and Euro Focus are going to win conquest sales from Toyota et al.

  • avatar

    I rented one of these, a 4 cyl auto, recently and was quite impressed. It’s a decent car. However, if I were in the market for a FWD 4 cylinder and liked this car, I’d probably buy the Mazda variant as it is sportier and has a superior interior design. I suppose this would mean giving up on SYNC…

    MT cars are difficult to come by. I’m one of those who still enjoys rowing gears (4 mile commute), and generally take the motorcycle when it’s not raining. I will say that most of the new automatics are an amazing improvement over the old 3-speeds and for most folks make a whole lot more sense. If I’m stuck in traffic, the clutch-in, clutch-out thing gets old quickly.

  • avatar

    Must disagree that “precisely nobody cared” when Ford offered an American Mondeo. I owned a 1996 SE, and loved it. No mainstream midsize sedan I’ve driven since then has measured up. Including the Fusion. If Ford had aimed to sell 100k rather than 300k, and marketed the car more narrowly to enthusiasts rather than people coming out of a Tempaz, it would have been a success.

    I’m also not sure that the Fusion’s curb weight is “class inappropriate.” Isn’t the entire class heavy these days? Then again, I guess that even if everyone is fat that doesn’t mean they’re not all overweight.

    On aesthetics vs. the Camry: okay unless we compare noses. Silver paint is almost a requirement to deemphasize the swollen 2010 tribar grille.

    And on reliability: the Camry had a few glitches in its launch year, but since then the Fusion, Accord, Camry, and Malibu have been in a virtual dead heat. Based on both TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey and others, differences in reliability within this bunch are so small that they should not affect purchase decisions.

    To participate in our survey:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    Nowadays, there ain’t nothing standard about a “standard” transmission. How long has it been since you’ve heard that quaint sobriquet for a clutch-and-stick setup?

    I heard that used just last week. Some guy was talking about how hard it is to find a “standard” in cars and trucks these days.

  • avatar

    There are two places where the manual transmission is a no-brainer:

    – at the low end of the market, where small engines really benefit from manual control and an extra $1,000 or $1,500 of cost makes a huge difference in the value equation (when I bought my second new car, choosing an automatic transmission over air conditioning was not going to happen) (my first new car had no air conditioning… how quaint!)
    – at the high(ish) end of the market, where a good percentage of the buyers actually enjoys cars and wants a good driving experience

    I haven’t bought an automatic yet, and I really don’t want that to change. While some automatics are clearly better than others (and I consider DSGs and stuff in this category, since they automatically shift gears; some DSG aficionados don’t consider them to be automatics but they are :) ), I enjoy driving with a manual far more. It’s not about having skill, per se; it’s about enjoying the experience. It’s also about the issue that I have yet to meet an automatic that thinks like I do. I don’t want to have to put a car in “sport mode” to drive more aggressively. With a manual I don’t have to. I just let the revs get higher before I shift.

    Perhaps the testing procedure on manuals needs to change, because I read a story recently (here, even, I think) that fuel economy on cars in Germany is still universally better on manuals, despite the test ratings that show the automatics to be better these days.

    Oh, I eschew program mode in my photography, too. Really, I don’t mind thinking. Enough of life is mindless already!

  • avatar
    findude

    I cannot imagine this car selling in anything other than curiosity numbers.

    I wanted to test drive one of these, but the dealer didn’t have any. The prediction is true because they are unavailable so we’ll never know if low MT sales are a reflection on the car or on demand.

    I really wish manufacturers would disassociate manual transmissions and low trim levels. Just make transmission choice available across all trim levels.

    That some cars now get better MPG with automatic transmissions strikes me as a conscious market position choice on the part of manufacturers. Those cars get worse MPG with an MT because the top gear is geared differently than the top gear in the AT. I’ve heard they do this because a lower top gear in an MT means drivers don’t have to downshift to feel the power.

    But, yes, I fear the MT is on its way out. I’ll lament the day.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I once bought a brand new 1986 Taurus “MT-5″ which was the four banger, five speed manual transmission version. Boy was that a smart move. The automatic transmissions of early Taurii were reliability nightmares while my Mazda sourced manual transmission worked beautifully. That car stayed in our family for over 12 years and over 200,000 hard miles. My brother in law used it as his beater city car for the last several years of its long life.

    One ongoing advantage of manual transmissions is that they still generally last a lot longer than their automatic cousins. The first really expensive repair most modern FWD vehicles need is an automatic transmission replacement. Three to six thousand dollars seems to be the going rate.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      So true, and that may be part of the reason the clutch is going the way of the dodo.  Nobody is going to pay 4 grand to replace the tranny in a used car that’s only worth 5 grand, so fewer used cars on the road means more new car sales.
      And according to my buddy who was a service manager at a Ford dealer, they never worked out the bugs in the Taurus auto-trannies.
       

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I agree on the abominable Camry styling these days, which is the primary reason I wouldn’t even consider one.

    The Fusion 6MT reminds me of the ’85 Lebaron GTS hatchback I owned for many years, with a 5-speed stick and 2.2 (non-turbo) 4-cylinder. I never saw another one with a stick, but it was an economical ride.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I feel the manual transmission offers long term durability over the automatics. Automatics should be reliable to the day the car is turned in for C4C but historically that’s not been the case. A carefully driven clutch will go 200K easily, I’ve got one in my car to prove it, while an automatic will screw you in a minute despite changing the fluids and screen.

    From a drivers perspective I love shifting gears on a nice road. It’s great to wring the life out of a small engine without the nanny box shifting up or down under the control of the computer.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    It seems to me that the only type of car that’s easy to find with a manual transmission is a Mustang GT.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Two questions:
    One, did they replace the bowling-ball shifter on the new stick-shift Fusions? The old one had what looked like a truck knob. Nothing you couldn’t replace, but not exactly amusing either.

    Two, how does it compare to the manual-equipped Camry SE? I was pleasantly surprised by the stick-shift Camry’s handling. Toyota did some good work with the suspension, the steering’s nicer and the interior benefits mightily from going from industrial grey to black. The shifter’s actually quite nice, too: better than the notchier units Ford and Mazda seem to favour in the last generations of 6 and Fusion.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    I was stunned to discover Ford actually did make a RWD V6 manual (or stick if you like)in the early 00s Lincoln LS, how did that go?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Flashpoint :
    August 31st, 2009 at 9:21 am
    Next car I get has to have paddle shifters. S63 perhaps.

    Check out the Infiniti G37 with the Sport package – best paddle shifters this side of a Ferrari…no joke.

  • avatar
    Steve-O

    fincar1:
    You would be surprised. Even finding manual Mustang GT’s in stock is a challenge (When I was in the market last summer, I searched about 8 dealerships within driving distance and found ONE manual in stock!)

    The dealers I spoke to don’t seem to want to carry them, either.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    How are the gear ratios? On my 2007 Fusion SE MT, they suck. Second gear is painfully high, zapping the fun of running through the gears.

    My 4-banger MT Fusion goes 0-60 in 8 seconds. When I was learning to drive in the late 1980s, that was considered quick!!!!

    Incidentally, I had to special order the manual. I bought it WITHOUT test driving it first, since manuals were unavailable at the local dealers. Oh well, it’s a good car nonetheless.

  • avatar
    akear

    Buy a Mazda 6 instead, which is basically the same car. With the Mazda you get an American-made vehicle with the superior reputation of a Mazda.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    HEATHROI :
    August 31st, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I was stunned to discover Ford actually did make a RWD V6 manual (or stick if you like)in the early 00s Lincoln LS, how did that go?

    How did Bay of Pigs go?

    Sorry, couldn’t resist channeling Ari Gold in the morning…:)

    The LS was actually a pretty decent car – it shared a platform with the old Jag S-type. If I’m not mistaken, they also made the LS with a V-8 and a stick…and since we’re really in trivia mode, the same V-8 from the LS is currently in the new Jag XF.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    On the manual/automatic debate…

    I used to be a confirmed stick shift guy, but autoboxes have improved to the point where I’m not so sure anymore.

    I just drove a BMW 535xi (look for review, coming RF’s way), and I actually found the automatic far easier to drive quickly. I’ve also driven the Infiniti G37X with the paddle shift system, and it’s a total blast to use.

    The 2010 Camry also has an excellent sequential-shift system.

  • avatar

    FreedMike: The LS V8 never got the stick. It was planned, but I imagine demand for the V6 stick was so low they never bothered.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Why does it have to be so ugly? Why does it have to have a crass and blingy grille? That ruins the whole front.

    And the rear…ugh…who melted the inner-lower corner of the taillights? That looks terrible.

    Ford really needs to hire competent designers. The truck are hideous, the cars are hideous, the SUVs are hideous, etc.

    The only good looking Fords built today are the Falcon, Mondeo, Kuga, and Euro Focus. They show consistency from front to rear. These North American Fords look like 6 people designed specific parts but didn’t talk to one another.

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    Had to replace my station car (95 Probe Gt) last year so I was in the market for used car (why would I buy new or spend a lot of cash on something that’s going to do light commuter duty to the train station parking lot?

    Wife insisted whatever I got have the capability to do double duty as family sedan (just in case the Mazda6 Wagon suffers some malady) which ruled out my top choice for commuter duty (Miata).

    My requirement for the car was-
    enough room to carry family of 4 (including car seats) and a manual transmission.

    After shopping around..
    Honda’s?
    Either abused by previous owners, overpriced and likely to targeted in the station parking lot.
    Fords?
    Unless it’s a Mustang or Focus…no MT to be found.
    Nissan – A few high mileage overpriced Altima
    VW – Overpriced and on their way to repair shop hell

    What did I end up getting? A 2002 Camry LE 5spd with under 50K miles on it. Dealer had been trying to sell it for months. Had plenty of room and it had a manual so I bought it.
    I hated it at first. but now I can appreciate it for what it is. An honest car.
    Under 3000lbs and responsive enough with the manual around town. The same car with an automatic lulls you to sleep as it screams “I’m a rental”. The 5spd acts as the little alarm clock to keep you from REM sleeping your way to work.
    “zzzzzzzzzzzzz” (Wake up…shift!!) “zzzzzzzzzzz” (wake up SHIFT!!)
    As for MPG…not that I really care…but to hell with EPA ratings. Give me 2 cars with an auto and and a manual…same engine. Put 1 gallon of gas in each. I bet I’ll go farther in the manual.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    Why does it have to be so ugly? Why does it have to have a crass and blingy grille? That ruins the whole front.

    I like the front on it now. Previously it looked like an afterthought. Now the rear doesn’t match

    freedmike; being a recent import there are still a lot of things in the US that we in outside world don’t find out from TV, like Lincoln or Cadillac even considering a stick, amongst other things.

    Some time ago, I asked TTAC’s B&B how this car should be rated: according to my preferences as a reviewer, or according to the Fusion’s position in the marketplace.

    can’t see why there isn’t room for both.

  • avatar
    Axel

    I was going to say, since the Fusion is a rather smallish midsize, 175 hp really isn’t all that bad, until I looked up the curb weight.

    3285 lbs?

    The much, much more spacious Accord comes in at 3204 with a stick. How does that work?

    Riding shotgun in a Fusion didn’t really feel much more spacious than a Honda Civic. A Honda Accord felt practically Impala-esque.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Thanks Jack:

    If I have to give up my 2002 Accord, I will look at the Fusion.

    You said the Fusion is too heavy, and I think all cars are too heavy these days, but the Fusion seems to be mainstream for its class:

    Fusion 3285 lbs.
    Malibu 3415 lbs.
    Accord 3230 lbs.
    Altima 3145 lbs.
    Camry 3263 lbs.

    Taken from Edmunds.com comparison chart all models are 4 cyl. manual, except the ‘bu which is auto only.

    If I were buying a mid sized sedan for myself, I would probably go for the Fusion 3 Liter V6 2WD, which has less power than the 3.5 l but doesn’t have the handicap of 4WD. I think both the Camry and the Accord are misshapen and the Altima’s CVT is a deal killer.

  • avatar
    th009

    At this point I have to guess that (Ford owner) Jack Baruth is the designated Ford reviewer?

  • avatar
    Robstar

    The easiest car to find in stick is the one that doesn’t exist with an auto.

    My 2005 STi is like that.

    Edit: It looks like the wrx’s on subarus site are like that as well.

  • avatar
    Vorenus

    @ Robert Schwartz:

    “If I were buying a mid sized sedan for myself, I would probably go for the Fusion 3 Liter V6 2WD, which has less power than the 3.5 l but doesn’t have the handicap of 4WD. I think both the Camry and the Accord are misshapen and the Altima’s CVT is a deal killer.”

    By 4WD, I’ll assume you meant AWD.

    In any case, *how* on Earth is AWD a handicap? I look at a *good* AWD system as the great equalizer. Sure, it adds weight and drops the MPG by 2 (usually), but that’s a well-taken penalty if I’m getting better traction in inclement weather *and* grip-n-go off-the-line performance… which (contrary to popular belief) *is* useful outside of the drag strip. (Take merging into rush-hour traffic, for instance.)

    A *good* AWD system is anything but a handicap.

  • avatar

    @th009: I’ve done about half of the Ford reviews on this site in the past year.

    If you think I might not review Fords fairly because I’m an owner… well, in the past five years I’ve also owned cars built by

    Porsche
    Mercedes-Benz
    BMW
    Audi
    Chrysler
    GM
    Mitsubishi
    Volkswagen
    Saab

    Plus I’ve raced Toyotas and Hondas in the past two years.

    When you own six or seven cars at a time, and you’re poor so these six or seven cars aren’t vintage Hispano-Suizas, chances are that nearly everything you look at will have some commonality to what’s been in your garage recently.

    Furthermore, I should point out that I paid for my Ford Flex, and I bought it from a dealer just like anybody else.

    If you’re looking for people getting free cars, I suggest you look at the print rags and the many outlets of the Vortex Media Group. Free cars galore, and rarely a critical word to be had.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    akear :
    August 31st, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Buy a Mazda 6 instead, which is basically the same car. With the Mazda you get an American-made vehicle with the superior reputation of a Mazda.

    True, and it’s definitely better looking, but you’ll also get a much harsher ride.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Michael Karesh, “Must disagree that “precisely nobody cared” when Ford offered an American Mondeo. I owned a 1996 SE, and loved it. No mainstream midsize sedan I’ve driven since then has measured up.”

    I owned the same, and came away thinking the Contour was among the most under-appreciated and under-marketed cars in two decades. Ford let it die on the vine chasing soccer moms in Explorers.

    My only problem with the Contour I owned was that I ate through tires like Jiminy Glick on donuts because of so many rapid drives through the hill country of Texas. In my entire time owning it, I only had to replace tires and do regular maintenance. Never did anything go wrong.

    Nice review, I’ll have to check one out…if I can find one.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Jack –

    Nice review, as usual…

    I’m a little less kind than you were on the Fusion’s styling – it looks to me like Ford was trying way too hard to add surface excitement to a basically dull shape. I also liked the quality of materials in the Fusion’s cockpit, but not the execution – the one I drove was unrelentingly black inside. I also hated, hated, hated the weird backlighting on the instruments.

    What did impress me, though, is the ride/performance/handling balance Ford has baked in here. It’s plenty responsive without being darty or harsh (unlike the Mazda 6), but it’s not a floatmobile like the Sonata (I’d add the Camry to this category, but the 2010 is vastly improved in this area).

    From the seat of my pants, the Fusion FELT like an Accord or VW. Nothing wrong with that.

    Several buff mags have commented on how close Ford has come to nailing the Accord benchmark in terms of driving quality, and I’d agree.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Hank :
    August 31st, 2009 at 1:44 pm
    I owned the same, and came away thinking the Contour was among the most under-appreciated and under-marketed cars in two decades. Ford let it die on the vine chasing soccer moms in Explorers.

    Agree 100%. The Contour was a vastly underrated car – though it was too small to really be competitive against the Accord and Camry, it was wonderfully European to drive. And the SVT was one of the best sleepers of the late ’90s.

    Same with the first-gen Focus, until Ford mucked that one up last year.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @Robert Schwartz

    “If I were buying a mid sized sedan for myself, I would probably go for the Fusion 3 Liter V6 2WD, which has less power than the 3.5 l but doesn’t have the handicap of 4WD. I think both the Camry and the Accord are misshapen and the Altima’s CVT is a deal killer.”

    You’re aware the Altima is available with a 6MT as well?

  • avatar
    th009

    @Jack Baruth, I am in no way indicating or implying any intentional bias.

    However, to some extent you support my point: you say that you spent your own money on a Ford Flex (which I did know). Most people who have spent their own hard-earned money on a car tend naturally to be supportive of that car and/or brand.

    That’s why I’d love to see TTAC implement a policy whereby people review brands of cars they do NOT currently own.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    I like this fusion , it’s a nice looking solution that could cover ~ 75% of the populations actual needs. Really hitting the heart of the market. But an Autotrader search for within 50 miles of my greater Phoenix home revealed ZERO cars W/ the 6MT.They wont sell any of these cars if they don’t market them.
    My only question is why all the Camry styling hate? Its a friggin beauty next to the bloated, overwrought,upside-down door handled,Five series Rip-off Accord.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Photojim:

    +1

    I test drove a Scion xB the year they came out. In auto format, it was downright dangerous trying to merge on I5 (California). With the stick version, I could really rev the engine and actually merge at the speed of on-coming traffic.

    Nice of Jack to compare it to the Camcordia, but what about the Mazda6? Is it a livelier drive and more spirited than the offering from the “zoom-zoom” manufacturer? Especially a Mazda6 with a stick where you can once again wring that last bit of power out of the engine.

  • avatar
    smithbones

    h

  • avatar
    rpenna

    It’s not just sedans. Add to the mix the way Ford (or any mfr. I’m not sure, I didn’t understand the whole thing) commoditizes certain options, then throw in some weird dealer allocation rules.

    The result? I had to wait SIX MONTHS for a Convertible Mustang GT with a stick to be built for me.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I have to agree that the whole supply/demand argument about Americans not wanting manual transmissions is based on bad data. Manufacturers can point to sales numbers and argue that nobody wants them. But those who do always seem to complain about not being able to find one. I think it’s the dealers who don’t want to order them rather than retail customers. Not to say that dealers are, ahem, superstitious, but perhaps that one purple manual-transmission Focus 5-door they kept in stock for 2 1/2 years still weighs on their mind?

    The situation is similar to the argument about Diesel cars. I keep hearing how VW dealers are getting sticker price or better on new TDIs and used prices seem to support the argument that there is plenty of demand for Diesels in the U.S. Yet very few manufacturers offer them for sale and argue that Americans don’t like them.

    Case in point, a few years ago I was looking for an entertaining used car that would also make a great family car… and I wanted a manual transmission. To complicate matters, I also wanted small or midsized wagon. I knew that BMW offered the 5-series wagon in a 525iT configuration with a manual transmission and started looking for an ’01 or ’02 model. For grins I visited or called a number of BMW dealers near me (Northern California where it appears manual transmissions are somewhat more popular than in the rest of the country) and they essentially laughed at me. I was apparently looking for a unicorn… they existed on paper but nobody had seen one in the flesh.

    Online, however, I was able to find at least 4-6 examples on eBay every week located all over the country but alas not near me. Their prices seemed to hold up pretty well. Eventually, one did come up for sale on eBay and it was only about 10 miles from my home… a 25k mile one-owner example, silver, 5-speed, sport suspension, bingo. I bought it on the spot for half of the original MSRP of $52k. A couple of years later I resold it on eBay for only a couple of hundred less than I paid for it. I sold it in only a few days and had a lot of calls about the car. My take was that there were people out there who wanted the wagon with a manual transmission. Either there are a lot of us out there or eBay allowed me to find the only other nutcases in the whole country who wanted one and we all happened to be in the market at the same moment.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      “I keep hearing how VW dealers are getting sticker price or better on new TDIs and used prices seem to support the argument that there is plenty of demand for Diesels in the U.S. Yet very few manufacturers offer them for sale and argue that Americans don’t like them.”

      Better yet, I know one new diesel driver who handed the dealer the order codes for specific options months before the dealer even knew what they would be, and that guy didn’t even work for VW. That is some serious anticipation and motivation. Now imagine if a car company that actually had a good reliability reputation (Honda! Subaru!) and a less luxurious and costly product was offering this powertrain option.

      Another…My girlfriend’s mother was shopping for a manual transmission replacement car and wanted to check out the Jetta diesel or 2.0T. She tried 3 VW dealers (that is a lot of travelling, she really liked the car) and couldn’t find a car, or even a similarly new GTI, to test without the DSG. Needless to say, despite liking everything else about it, she did not pull the trigger. She would have checked every single option box on her way to a purchase. Then along came Mini for the $30k win, they had their manuals on lot.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    th009 :
    August 31st, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    @Jack Baruth, I am in no way indicating or implying any intentional bias.

    However, to some extent you support my point: you say that you spent your own money on a Ford Flex (which I did know). Most people who have spent their own hard-earned money on a car tend naturally to be supportive of that car and/or brand.

    That’s why I’d love to see TTAC implement a policy whereby people review brands of cars they do NOT currently own.

    Reminds me of debates we used to have in journalism school…can you write about a candidate from the party you belong to impartially? Good journalists can do that.

    Personally, I think as long as the reviewer is being unbiased about the car he’s writing about, I don’t think this is a problem. I think Jack was pretty clear about what he found lacking in the Fusion, as opposed to the Mini test a few weeks back, which was a big-time cheerleading effort from a guy who owned one.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    The Fusion seems like a decent car, but why does it have to be so FUGLY?

  • avatar

    @th009: What I’m getting at is that TTAC would have a hard time always making sure that the reviewer has had no current or recent connection to the particular car under review.

    Bias does pop up in all sorts of little ways. I just got done teaching a student at VIR last week who had a tuned-up Yaris. I ended up being really fond of the car and therefore I might more readily recommend it to other people who would have no interest in tracking it and might be better served by a Fit, Rio, or SX4.

    We could let that fellow P71_Crown_Vic review the Fords, he appears to have kind of an open-minded attitude towards the Blue Oval :)

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    We could let that fellow P71_Crown_Vic review the Fords, he appears to have kind of an open-minded attitude towards the Blue Oval :)

    Yeah…I’m far too honest to review Fords. I see them for what they are…not what I want them to be.

  • avatar
    dwford

    As the owner of a 2008 Fusion SEL stick (SYNC, leather, roof, loaded @ $22,900 MSRP), there’s nothing wrong with this car that 30hp couldn’t fix.

  • avatar
    ajla

    When Jonny Lieberman reviewed the manual transmission version of the old Fusion, I went out that weekend and drove one. I hated it. Jonny way, way, way oversold that car.

    This review came off as a lot more realistic and level-headed than that one, but I’m still not going to fall for it and test drive another manual Fusion.

  • avatar

    Good honest review, Jack. And now to check if a 6MT Milan exists. Or could exist: that’ll put Mercury on my list!

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Jack Baruth

    We could let that fellow P71_Crown_Vic review the Fords, he appears to have kind of an open-minded attitude towards the Blue Oval :)

    As long as he does not get to review any GM products =)

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    stevelovescars – I think manual vs automatic is a different situation than diesel vs gas. An automatic diesel will drive pretty much like an automatic gas, in that you don’t have to have any special training to do it, and the potential inconvenience factor is pretty small, as gas stations with diesel pumps are fairly common.

    Most people don’t know how to drive stick, don’t want to learn how to drive stick, and of those that do, due to traffic and other factors would rather not do it day to day. With the diesel you also get a real fuel economy gain, with the efficiency of modern automatics, you often lose fuel economy by going with the manual.

    When someone comes onto the lot looking for an inexpensive car, nine times out of ten they tell me ‘I’d like to see the cheapest car you have with an automatic and air conditioning’. Even the internet sales department very very rarely gets requests about stick shifts.

    Personally, I enjoy cars, and I enjoy driving, but I don’t see a manual transmission as a necessary ingredient in that mix. On the contrary, to me, a clutch pedal and a stick shift are just a distraction keeping my full attention from the throttle and the road.

    Sajeev – A Milan 6MT could exist, but I’ve never seen one.

  • avatar
    Rspaight

    I was impressed enough with the Contour to buy a ’95 SE with a 5-speed stick and the sweet Duratec V-6. Drove great, but stuff kept falling off of it (inside rear view mirror, jack point cover, steering column trim) and the parking brake had an infuriating habit of sticking in cold weather. Then the ignition switch broke, leaving my wife stranded.

    My first and (so far) last domestic nameplate.

  • avatar
    Forty2

    I remember stopping at this huge Ford store in Irvine, CA looking to test-drive a Duratec 2.5 manual Contour. The lot had probably 100 Contours. It took those clowns almost an hour to find it and when they finally did pull it up front it was covered in dust and they’d had to wheel a port-a-battery out to jump it.

    Loved the engine and handling, but hated the styling and crap interior.

    I’m at the waffly point on getting a new ride. If so, this Fusion will be on my list of things to check out, though I’m sure getting a manual will as usual be like pulling teeth. I think it sucks that it’s made in Mexico when Honda and Toyota can make their Camcords here, neither of which do anything for me.

    Oh, and I will not buy a car with an automatic transmission. Just won’t do it. I suppose if I live long enough that there will be no more stickshifts…

  • avatar
    Freddie

    My ’99 Contour (V6 & 5 speed) was a blast to drive — when it ran. Fix Or Repair Daily does not begin to describe the frustration. Because it was so much fun to drive, I put way too much money into repairs before I gave up on it at only about 78K miles. This has turned me off of Ford. They’ll have to come up with something spectacular to get me into a Ford dealer again and the Fusion ain’t it.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    On the subject of manual vs. automatics – the people who want a manual transmission WANT a manual transmission. I count myself amoung those – when I bought my Saab 9-3 this past spring I spent 4-5 hours searching dealer inventories for a 6spd 2.0T SportCombi before I found one. I too could have gotten a better deal on an automatic, didn’t care. If I hadn’t found one, I would not have bought a new car, full stop. I also think that cars like mine and manual transmission BMW wagons hold thier value better than the common automatics, as long as you are willing to sell privately. The folks who want one know that they are typically owned by enthusiasts and will be better maintained. I am also firmly of the opinion that in the real world a manual will use less gas and cost less to maintain over the long haul.

    By that same measure, I have NO use what-so-ever for AWD/4WD, whatever you want to call it in a non-offroad vehicle. Costs more to buy, costs more in gas, costs WAY more to maintain/fix, for minimal marginal benefit. Need to go in snow – use snow tires. They help you stop and turn, too. AWD gives a wonderful sense of false confidence, as shown by the amazing numbers of Subarus and SUVs in the ditches here every winter.

  • avatar
    niky

    I personally find the Camry to be an utterly unforgiveable offense against aesthetics, proportion, and design, but it’s possible that somebody, somewhere, finds Toyota’s deformed-humpback styling compelling. That person is probably legally blind, but legally blind people buy plenty of cars. For proof of this assertion, Google “first-generation Santa Fe.”

    Wahahahahaha!

    Late reaction, I know.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    krhodes1>

    I agree with you – AWD is often not needed, esp in urban areas. I just moved from a large urban to a rural area, so If this topic comes up again, I’ll letcha all know how it goes when winter rolls around.

    In general, I’d much rather have a FWD/RWD car with dedicated winter tires than an AWD w/ crappy tires of any sort.

    The best combo (the one I have) is AWD + dedicated winter tires. Getting grip is MUCH easier. I can’t tell you how many 4×4 trucks/suv’s I can easily pass & outmaneuver due to the fact that they have crappy tires.

    On top of that, my car is stick, so if I’m putting too much torque down and the wheels are spinning, I just up-shift or use less gas.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    My ‘99 Contour (V6 & 5 speed) was a blast to drive — when it ran.

    I think that was the real killer for the Contour. It handled and rode well enough, but on the whole it wasn’t a very reliable car.

  • avatar
    ohsnapback

    I have been accused of anti-Ford bias now and then, but I state things in the best of faith, whether I’m objectively correct, or more importantly, whether others share my subjective tastes and discretions.

    Having disclaimed that, I had the opportunity of renting an 2010 slushbox Fusion very recently, for a two day stretch.

    Suffice it to say that I was completely underwhelmed with the car, and I am amazed at the glowing praise it gets in some circles.

    The 4 banger was quite loud and grainy, the ride wasn’t all that accomplished, even by its vanilla bread class standards, and the steering was sloppy on center (but better than the Toyota Camry I recently drove – see below).

    Ford did improve the interior in terms of fit and finish and tactile feel, though even this was bland, bland, bland, also.

    It’s an “American” car built in Mexico and it didn’t excel at doing anything that well, even compared to its classmates.

    I’d like for someone to inform me as to why it’s a great or even good car.

    Having said all of this, and being pretty critical, I will say it was better than the Toyota Camry given to my wife when she had her car in the shop for warranty work.

    The Toyota Camry with under 8,000 miles on the odomoter, a 4 banger with the slushbox, was a pile of epic failure in more ways than I have time to list.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    I provide contract test driving service to the OEMs, and I spent a lot of time in the 2010 Fusion while it was in development.

    I own a 2002 Accord Coupe with the 4-cylinder 5-speed (have not owned an automatic since 1985, about six cars ago), and I will echo other commenters above that this is about the closest thing to that car that’s out on the market now. If you feel, as I do, that the Accord jumped the shark in 2003 and the 2008 was even farther from its late-90s perfection, this Fusion should make you very happy. It’s a better car in nearly every way, and Sync is a joy. The extra weight could very well be dynamat, because the Fusion is a much more pleasant place to spend a cross-country drive than is my Accord. The manual’s action isn’t perfect, but it’s not that far off the Honda’s. Given my coupe stickered eight years ago for more than what the Fusion does now, I think the Ford is a bargain.

    BTW, there are a number of SE-trim 2010-1/2 Fusions running around SE Michigan with an appearance package that includes a body-color grille. This will remove the most common objection I hear about the exterior styling.

  • avatar
    fli317

    krhoades1 is spot on with the MT argument. Its just what you want. I know that most of the mindless masses have no use for MT, but it is surprising to hear from a so-called enthusiast driver like NulloModo. He or she is so against MT, that it makes me think that they just don’t know how to drive one. I don’t think anyone enjoys driving a MT in traffic, but we would all aspire to driving one on a winding road everyday. Its hard for me to imagine wanting to driving an AT just because I do drive and enjoy a MT. But to each his own. Unfortunately, the manufacturers don’t see it this way. Well, then too bad. I just will not buy from them. I will not buy an AT. If I have to buy from a private party, then I will.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    I’m currently driving a 2006 Fusion SE with the manual and this review seems to adequately describe my experiences as well. As far as handling goes, it’s a good platform that’s fairly amenable to upgrades. It’s set up for comfort but really isn’t an awful handler in SE guise.

    The only thing I really wish my Fusion had is Sync (and something other than the faux carbon fiber trim piece in the center of the dash…

  • avatar
    tedward

    There are just far too many people who will only buy stick for it to entirely go away. As krhodes1 said, no manual, no new sale. I personally know of several whole families where this is just a fact of life (largely truck or premium sedan buyers oddly enough), one of which gave up on 15+ years of Volvo ownership and moved to Saab when Volvo ditched the clutch pedal. This is a family which keeps 3-4 high end cars running at a time.

    The car companies who peddle this “we won’t even be selling manuals in a decade” crap remind me of those wise sages who have been predicting the complete demise of RWD for decades, and I have to assume the motivation for this springs from a desire to continue streamlining their product lineups (or justifying their already having done so). It’s complete BS, and if Hyundai (or whoever has most lately come from a developing market) is the only company moving these when I’m an old man, then that’s who I’ll be buying from. For those who really care, this one consideration trumps all.

    I, for one, will never spend a dime on an auto equipped car, regardless of who the vehicle is being purchased for.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    fli317 – I can drive a MT, although I have never owned a MT vehicle and I am by no means an experienced heel-toe expert.

    I don’t have a death with for manuals, I just don’t care if they stick around or not. There are better options out there, from adaptive learning shift algorithms in traditional automatics to automated manuals like VWs DSG. There is absolutely no performance benefit to a traditional clutch-pedeal manual when you compare it to a DSG gearbox, nor do you lose any control when you lose the clutch pedal.

    There are a lot of, for lack of a better term, ‘manual snobs’ who look down on anyone who drives an automatic. For 90% of the time even enthusiasts cars are being used for day to day commuting, grocery getting, and general point a to point b, so it is ridiculous to assume that someone is making the wrong choice because they opt for the more convenient transmission for what they will spend the majority of the time doing in their car.

  • avatar
    Bancho

    NulloModo:

    I understand your point of view, but cut those of us who enjoy driving a manual transmission a little slack. While there may be other options out there, they are *not* always necessarily better. A manual transmission is a cheaper alternative than any of the options you mentioned (both in scheduled maintenance, and repair cost)**.

    **Generally speaking. I’m not looking to get into a pissing contest over the odd manual transmission that proved trouble for a particular model since there are probably 10 times as many automatics that have proven troublesome over the years.

    My real problem with the current crop of manual transmissions is the crazy gearing that winds up keeping the engine screaming at highway speeds vs. the same car with an automatic trans. For crying out loud, I know how to drive a manual and don’t need it geared so that I’m in top gear at 30 mph…

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Bancho – I understand where you are coming from as well. All things being equal, a manual is a less complicated transmission and should be cheaper to maintain over time.

    As far as MT gearing goes, as manuals have become more of a niche item, mainly aimed at enthusiasts, the gearing for them has been towards the performance side, thus the short gears and the higher highway RPMs.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Bancho :
    My real problem with the current crop of manual transmissions is the crazy gearing that winds up keeping the engine screaming at highway speeds vs. the same car with an automatic trans.

    In my car, 130 mph in 6th means 3300 rpm. I know that the automatic version has not as tall gearing, so it’s not in every model.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    I was impressed enough with the Contour to buy a ‘95 SE with a 5-speed stick and the sweet Duratec V-6. Drove great, but stuff kept falling off of it (inside rear view mirror, jack point cover, steering column trim) and the parking brake had an infuriating habit of sticking in cold weather. Then the ignition switch broke, leaving my wife stranded.…

    I drove the same car on a test drive and ended up buying a manual Probe GT. Never thought I would fit in the Probe, but a visiting friend bought one and I was able to take an extended test drive. Glad I didn’t go with the Contour as I’ve had none of the problems your Contour had.

    My real problem with the current crop of manual transmissions is the crazy gearing that winds up keeping the engine screaming at highway speeds vs. the same car with an automatic trans. For crying out loud, I know how to drive a manual and don’t need it geared so that I’m in top gear at 30 mph……

    Not just the current crop…my PGT spun the engine at 3,900RPM at 80 MPH…one of the posters here (Terry, I think) swapped out the 5th speed cog for a different one to change the top gear ratio…that may be possible with other cars…

    A *good* AWD system is anything but a handicap.…

    For those who really do have significant snowfall, you are correct. But for most of the population, the added cost, complexity, mileage penalty and impact on handling means that it really isn’t necessary. Marketing has convinced the soccer moms of the world that its a good thing to have during those heavy rains in Miami.

  • avatar
    niky

    The difference is that the Ford Probe is an American transplant by way of Japan, and the Ford Contour is an American transplant by way of Europe.

    Which is why people should give the new Fusion a chance… because it has some Japanese DNA underneath.

    The 5th gear swap is possible because Mazda used that box for many different engines. I had two cars with the same box and engine. One, the 626, did 130 mph in 5th at around 5500 rpm, the other, the Protege, does it at near redline (redlines at 140 mph). Truly enterprising souls will want to look at importing the Euro-spec diesel box whole, as that has stratospheric gearing.

    There are companies that make aftermarket final gears for many cars, but those are mostly geared towards performance, not economy, so actually raise your rpms at cruising.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I test drove an 07 5spd MT 4 cyl Fusion before I leased the auto version. What I found completely unsatisfactory about the 07 5spd MT was how short first gear was, you had to shift into 2nd at about 20mph. Is the 09 6 spd MT any better?

    BTW, also test drove an 07 Mazda 3 i touring w/ 5spd MT that was absolutely delightful. Unfortunately at the time Mazda didn’t have competitive lease deals. Now they do but I can’t get past that new front end. Got to be one of the ugliest designs I’ve ever seen. Too bad, I like the car enough to get one but not with that new front end.

  • avatar
    escapenguin

    We have a Mercury Mistake, circa 1996, almost 200,000 miles, auto. It’s about done. Constant electronic and timing belt issues, plus the trans is on the way out, letting us know in its own way by vibrating the entire dashboard incessantly at red lights. It’ll even stall out sometimes if we leave it in D.

    The engine is almost Honda-level as far as smoothness, and it loves being driven quickly. It revs pretty high, shifts are smooth and it’s deceptively quick. I love this car, with its wicked, high-winding engine, blue interior, et al.

    Problem is, despite the aforementioned gremlins, the thing goes through electronics and wiring like that’s its job. Parts are import-level cost since it’s basically a Mondeo. Frankly it’s getting to the point where it’s not worth the checkbook assault keeping this thing alive, no matter how much I love driving it.

    I really hope Ford has their shit together for once and can build a car that’ll last as ridiculously long as their rides with the 4.6 liter V-8. Is the Fusion that car? Somehow I doubt it.

    Yeah, the Toyotas are hideous, and at this point I’d rather snag a Honda or even a Mitsubishi since they mostly look slightly less like a circus sideshow.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    mtymsi>

    I thought that was pretty typical with cars. My STi ends 1st gear at about 25mph, 2nd at 55mph, 3rd at 75mph (IIRC)…

  • avatar
    greenb1ood

    I had a ’96 Contour. Wasn’t thrilled with the styling, but I LOVED the way it handled. The transmission seized one morning @ 87k miles.

    A couple message boards later, I discovered that this was not an uncommon issue and realized that something went terribly wrong during the federalization from Europe.

    Luckily, my previous ’89 Probe was bullet-proof so I was not turned off to Ford entirely and was extremely happy with my next purchase (’99 Explorer Sport).

    If I were in the market for a vehicle, a 4-cyl EcoBoost Fusion would be at the top of the test drive list. Take notice Ford.

    I also echo the complaints of some about it being produced in MX when the Mazda6, Camry, and Accord are all *assembled* in the US. However, I know enough about the auto industry to realize how small a percentage of *assembly* is to the cost of the actual vehicle.

    The supply chain is where the the real economic ripple effect is felt and keiretsu suppliers still reign with Toyota, Nissan, and Honda while GM and Chrysler have jumped into the China pool head first. Ford on average has been less likely to source suppliers who manufacture and engineer in China, India, and other low cost countries than their competitors.

    I can’t back up this statement with data, but I am resolute that it is true based on what I have experienced in the industry.

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Another value to a manual these days is it’s less likely to get stolen by punk kids who probably can’t drive one.

    I do have a manual ’09 Civic Coupe. It’s rather zippy and fun to drive. I found the auto to be sluggish. But of course, my daily commute (50 miles a day) usually does not involve any stop and go traffic.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Problem with shifting at 20 mph is coming off a stoplight the cars in back of you have to hit the brakes as you upshift. If you can upshift to 2nd closer to 30mph no problem.

    I had a Cimmaron MT for a few months when it was new that had the same problem. Drives you nuts having to shift so quickly into 2nd at such a low speed. As an example, the Mazda 3 I testdrove didn’t have the problem the Fusion did because 1st was geared higher.

  • avatar
    niky

    Wait… they have to jab their brakes behind you if you shift up at 20 mph? That’s about 4000-6000 rpm on most cars in first gear (considering most cars do about 25-30 mph in first gear)… I doubt that they’d be following so closely unless it’s a standing start for a race!

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    No, in normal city traffic if I was the first vehicle at a stoplight in both the Cimarron and Fusion MT’s the cars behind me had to brake as I upshifted to 2nd. You just aren’t moving fast enough when you have the slight pause in acceleration while upshifting.

    But not the Mazda 3 MT I test drove or a 454 4spd Corvette or a 4.6L MT F150 I used to own. Difference has to be the 1st gear ratio.

    After my experience with the Cimmaron I knew I didn’t want to repeat it with a Fusion which is why I got the auto after testdriving the 5spd MT. That’s why I asked if the 6spd was any better as I am due for a new car.

  • avatar
    niky

    For one thing… if you’re the first car… how do you know the guys behind you are on the brakes if you’re not being tailgated?

    For another… just shift faster? The only way an upshift will cause a pause in acceleration long enough to bottle up traffic is if you’re taking two seconds to find the next gear.

    I’m always in second by 15 mph… regardless of the car I’m driving, and I get along just fine (and I drive faster than traffic)… the only time I see the far side of 20 mph in first gear is when my foot is on the floor and I’m laying black stripes down the tarmac.

  • avatar
    Bruce from DC

    I think the problem with the future of manual trannies is that the number of people who learned to drive on a manual tranny vehicle continues to shrink (die, actually). Instead, I feel that most of today’s manual tranny drivers, driving manual is a “second language” for them, just a little bit foreign. Hence the comments about “concentrating on steering” rather than working the clutch and gears. For a driver whose “first language” is manual tranny, working the clutch and gears is a seamless part of the general process of operating the rest of the controls of the vehicle it’s not a “distraction.” It’s only a distraction if you have to think about it.

    And compared to the beasts that us old guys learned on, today’s clutches and manuals are a dream. You haven’t really driven a manual until you’ve driven a truck with an unsynchronized transmission or an old Detroit sedan with a 3-on-the-column shift (not to mention an old Benz sedan with a 4-on-the column shift)! In 1969, I drove a Dodge 440 cu. in Charger with a clutch that could double as a leg press machine. Today’s clutches and manuals are far more civilized.

    Clearly, the advent of the DSG-trannies as are now being introduced by BMW, Porsche and others is the future of the “manual” tranny — an automatic/manual gearbox without a torque converter — that will eventually replace the 5-speed and 6-speed in enthusiast vehicles. For non-enthusiast vehicles, I would imagine torque converter autoboxes will rule because of the smoothness of power delivery that they can supply.

    While people can tell stories about manual tranny cars being snapped up on the used market, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that all car makers are just stupid by not offering manuals or by offering just a few. The volume is just not there. And every engine/drivetrain/vehicle combination must be EPA certified, which is a fairly expensive procedure. So going to the trouble of certifying a low-volume product that is not premium-priced doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I recall the last Detroit Iron that I owned , a 1992 Taurus SHO, was a manual-only vehicle. Despite being well-reviewed (justifiably) it didn’t sell in the numbers that Ford had hoped. In, in believe 1994, Ford developed a FWD autobox that could handle the engine’s power and torque and so launched an auto-SHO with a bored-out version of the Yahama V-6 in an effort to increase sales volume. (I don’t think it succeeded.) Of course, the “oval” V-8 SHO that followed it also was unsuccessful, despite being an autobox . . . but the car was inferior to the V-6 versions by every measure.

    As for AWD, I agree with the others that it’s a product that is greatly oversold. Sure, if you live in the backwoods in the snowbelt, you need 4wd; and if you’re in search of ultimate performance, you need AWD (I guess). But for everyone else, it’s just more weight, cost, and complexity. If they’re in winter states, they’d be better off buying a second set of wheels with true snow tires on them.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    I can tell the car behind me is on the brakes because the hood dives. I have driven a number of MT cars and owned four and I’ve only personally seen this problem with the Cimmaron and the Fusion. The cars are geared so low in 1st you unintentionally interrupt the normal acceleration of the car behind you when accelerating from a stoplight. Had that not been the case with the Fusion 5spd MT I would have gotten one. The short amount of time I drove the Cimmaron was truly miserable because of this. If Ford comes back to their senses on the 2010 Fusion lease rates I’ll test drive the 6spd MT.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    “the increasing difficulty involved in making a stick-shift meet emissions regulations”
    Maybe this is a question for Piston Slap, but how is that possible? On Autoboxes the engine has to power the hydraulic clutch therefore taking power away from the engine, therefore reducing fuel efficiency etc…. While on a manualbox the clutch is powered by non other than your left foot… surely far more eco friendly? (If I’m wrong someone please explain it to me).
    However good review and I’m glad to see that Ford is finally building cars that people would want to drive and more importantly keep.

  • avatar
    tedward

    Sinistermisterman

    I’d be suprised if it didn’t have something to do with testing methodology. Do they blend gears when upshifting? Rev-match on the way down? Short shift when appropriate? Driving manual there’s a choice to keep engine speeds relatively stable, but many people just don’t drive that way, and the testing regiment might reflect the lowest common denominator of driver skill. If they test emissions on a rolling road it might lead to even poorer clutch technique.

    From what I understand (not an expert by any means on this, I think autos are for cows, even in traffic cities), keeping a steady engine speed is the key to emmissions win, a big part of the CVT advantage over tc automatics. I guess that the pre-determined shift points in the EPA tests will only give best results to those drivetrains lucky enough to operate most efficiently within those rev. ranges, again, a CVT would have a huge advantage there, and even a tc auto might see a gain vs. manuals (if not enough to best them outright).

    Manual drivers routinely demolish EPA estimates for milage (not sure about emmissions), while most auto cars I’ve driven have matched their estimates pretty well. There’s clearly something wrong with the test.

    I don’t think that powering the clutch would significantly affect emissions performance though, although I could easily be wrong about that.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @tedward :
    I’d be suprised if it didn’t have something to do with testing methodology.

    In the European test cycle, 6th gear isn’t used in any case, except the car has a gear shift indicator. There must be something similar in the EPA cycle.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    About a month ago, during the height of the C4C frenzy, I was test driving cars. I found a local dealer that had *TWO* Fusion SE 6MT vehicles on the lot without too much effort (there’s at least 4-5 Ford dealers in the Richmond, VA metro area). One with sunroof and one without. I test drove the one without the headroom subtraction device. I thought it was adequately roomy, quite comfortable to cruise on the road, and fairly quiet. It desperately needed a rear anti-roll bar (or a stiffer one if they already have one). I think that alone would do wonders for what is already capable handling without compromising on the ride much if at all. The styling is growing on me, but something to de-bright the grille would help. I like the darker grille on the Focus SES model and think it would look great on the Fusion.

    I’m not a sedan guy. The other vehicles I test drove were the Versa Hatch/Fit/SX4 hatch AWD/Mazda3 5-door, all manuals. Couldn’t find a Mazda6 locally with a manual. I liked the extra room in the Fusion, but rear headroom was still marginal (I’m 6′-3; only the 3 hatch brushed my hair as much, the 3 sedan was a noggin-knocker).

    I thought the stick/clutch worked wonderfully and the car had a nicely placed dead pedal. I liked the dynamics and the seats in the 3 better. I probably would have bought the 3 despite the looks, it drove *that* well. Fusion was close, and was the only car my wife admitted liking in the presence of the salesman, but in the end I didn’t buy anything. I’ll wait for a better time.

  • avatar
    vvk

    > fli317 :
    > I don’t think anyone enjoys driving a MT in traffic,

    I do. I hate driving automatics, especially in traffic. They drive me nuts. First, you have to constantly hold the car by the brake. This KILLS my right leg. KILLS it. I don’t know how other people deal with this. On top of the physical pain, there is all the lurching and straining to deal with. It is impossible to drive smoothly like I do with my manual cars — the idiotic transmission goes into convulsions unless you drive extremely slow and creep forward without using the gas pedal. Whenever I am forced to drive an automatic (like when I get a loaner from a dealer or a rental car) I find it extremely tiring to drive in heavy traffic.

    With my manual cars I can relax and drive smoothly by keeping the car in first gear and using only the gas pedal. I am usually able to calculate things so that I don’t have to ever touch either the brake, or the clutch. So yes, I do enjoy driving MT in traffic.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    Jack, Did you notice any “engine hang” in the Fusion (the computer causing the engine to hang onto a certain RPM in between shifts)? I’m told the “hang” is programmed in to address the transition emissions.

    I’ve had two stick shift Fords (Contour SVT and Escape) that were both nearly perfect, except they were miserable SOB’s to shift. I don’t know if it was the clutch or the engine hang, or what. But the clutch engagement always seemed to vary (especially in the Countour).

    My Escape had horrible humid weather clutch chatter.

    Either car, I’d still gladly own, had they been automatics. The stick just killed the experience, and as such, I’ll never own another Ford with a manual transmission.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    joeveto3: I didn’t notice it in my Fusion test drive, but the sales goon was with me and it was dark so I didn’t encroach on the RPMs where hang might be noticeable.

    I did, however, notice it in the Mazda3 with the same powertrain. I redlined 1st and clutched during a U-turn, slid into 2nd, and the engine was still over 5k rpm before declutching despite coasting through the U-turn. Despite the speed disparity I didn’t have issues engaging 2nd with the synchros.

    I had read about engine hang being a major complaint with the Focus when I was considering buying a used pre 06 one but that it could be remedied with a relatively inexpensive aftermarket throttle body. Not sure if such an option exists yet for the 2.5L, but if that engine makes it into any race-prepped Mazdas I’m sure such a throttle body will be developed soon.

  • avatar
    niky

    Throttle hang? Old news… Honda’s current Civic was one of the first e-throttle cars… and has one of the worst hangs in history.

    I don’t know why Mazda can’t get it right with the 3… the e-throttle on the MX-5 is wonderfully responsive and mostly hang-free.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    They make Camrys with manual transmissions? Wow because I haven’t seen one in like years! Most folks I see driving those are of the blue hair set.

  • avatar
    stevenb

    I am seriously considering a new Fusion SE with the 6-speed MT. I am waiting for my local dealer to get one on the lot so I can test drive the MT and see if it feels good. If I like it, I’ll probably factory order to get the color and options I want.

    To those who own or have test driven one – how much headroom do you lose with the sunroof? The Sun and Sync combo pack on the SE (option pack 202) is a really good price for what you get.

    I don’t know why the MT units have trouble meeting emissions testing, but I think I DO know why the reported mileage for the MT is now worse than the Auto: the manufacturer has to use the EPA method to determine mileage – this is a blended test of low speed, high speed, stops, starts, etc. Those of us who like MTs usually do a lot of high-speed, highway/interstate driving in top gear and this is where the mileage differential vs. the EPA estimate will really show up. I’m driving an ’06 Accord LX/SE with the 2.4 liter 4 and the 5-spd manual. I’ve got over 134K miles on it, and I still regularly get over 31 mpg on the highway -about the current EPA HWY estimate for this model. When it was newer and tighter I could get closer to 33 mpg. But I drive long distances in 5th gear – and the Honda 5th gear lets me cruise at 70 mph at around 2500 rpm. If 6th gear in the Ford is comparable, I’ll probably buy it. But if they have it geared too low so that I’ll be running anywhere close to 3000 at highway speed, then nevermind….

    Honda is finally slipping behind though – the new Accord does not impress me and they have gotten way too expensive for what you get. And you still can’t get satellite radio unless you pay for a top-line model; something the Ford includes standard on all models except base. Honda should have made satellite radio a dealer-installed option on ALL models and standard on the LX and above.

  • avatar
    suzane

    2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid is truly the magic and wonder of Ford Motors. The technical features and the specialties of this vehicle are amazing and quite aggressive. Delivering 191 horsepower is one of the best thing one can ever have in their own. Also the other factors are quite impressive. Launching this vehicle has again proved the technical supremacy of Fprd Motors and has created a new dimension and era for the company.


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