If I were in the market for a new car at this moment, a Fusion with exactly these specifications would be at the top of my realistic list, probably alongside a stick-shift Hyundai Elantra Touring and a Suzuki Kizashi. This Fusion has a surprisingly nice manual gearbox, a peppy and fuel-efficient four-cylinder, an excellent ride-and-handling balance, comfortable seats, stylish looks inside and out, and enough room for my growing family. The fact that you can add Sync and a sunroof to the stick-shift SE (which already comes with cool wheels and fog lights) and keep the price around $24,000 is impressive indeed.
The gaps around the dash-top storage bin are irregular, and (as in most front-drivers) it’s easy to induce a bit torque-steer in wet conditions, but overall I have a very hard time coming up with negative comments about the Fusion SE.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I second Rusty’s comments. As I drove this Fusion SE, I reflected on the fact that this is the sort of car that “real people” buy, meaning those who actually have to pay for their cars, rather than automotive journalists who move continually from one test car to another. And I thought, nice clutch, nice ride motions, good looking inside, good looking outside. I could drive one of these daily.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
As an automotive journalist, I’m often asked my opinion on new cars by both friends and family. And recently, the questions have all been about the Fusion, because my mother is in the market to replace her seven-year-old Toyota Camry and she’s decided that this time she’s buying American – Ford, to be precise. For her, the Fusion just might be the perfect car: in size, price, and fuel economy. The four-cylinder engine produces plenty of power (175 hp), and the car feels solid.
This particular test car differs from the one I’d recommend to my mother in only one particular, the six-speed manual. Not that it’s a bad transmission, but it’s not for her, and I suspect, won’t be for most buyers. Still, it’s nice that it’s available for those who still like to shift for themselves.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Finally, there’s an American option for budget enthusiasts who want some entertainment from their daily driver. OK, the total take rate on this Fusion variant has to be very low, but I’d argue it addresses a very important set of buyers. Kudos to Ford for developing it (the transmission is Ford’s own, not sourced from Mazda). Aside from the third pedal, the Fusion remains a solid all-around competitor in this tough segment. Smooth, if not invigorating four-cylinder performance, decent handling, and above average interior quality and ergonomics.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
A shift-it-yourself gearbox goes a long way to making the Ford Fusion a fun car, but I imagine those who actually buy a manual transmission in the mid-size segment are looking for a more sporting package than the Fusion. Ford’s family sedan is a good car with a palatable ride-handling balance, functional and attractive interior, and useful space, but those attributes will mostly appeal to more mainstream buyers. If you’re willing to sacrifice rear-seat legroom, the Suzuki Kizashi offers a more dynamic chassis, with surer steering and better composure over rough surfaces. It’s a car that feels more certain of itself when pushed to its limits.
Even though the Fusion has adopted the MyFord Touch infotainment system yet, it still maintains the most capable, most accessible technology in the segment. There’s a steep learning curve, but Bluetooth audio streaming, the excellent voice recognition, and Sync Services (which acts much like OnStar) provide a seamless experience for navigating, listening to your personal music collection, and making phone calls, all without a nav screen.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Base price (with destination): $22,100
Price as tested: $24,530
2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Blind spot mirrors
8-way power driver’s seat
60/40 split rear seats
AM/FM single CD/MP3 audio
Steering wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls
Sirius satellite radio
4-wheel disc brakes
Ford programmable MyKey
Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
Tire pressure monitoring system
Options on this vehicle:
Rapid spec 202A — $1340
Sun & Sync value package
Sync voice activated systems
Appearance package — $895
18-inch aluminum sport wheels
Leather steering wheel
Illuminated doorsills — $195
Key options not on vehicle:
6-speed automatic transmission — $875
3.0-liter V-6 engine — $2490
Monochrome appearance package — $895
Vehicle security system — $155
22 / 29 / 24 mpg
Size: 2.5L I-4
Horsepower: 175 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheels/tires: 18-inch aluminum wheels, 225/45R18 all-season tires