2010 Ford Fusion SE

Manual transmissions have a wonderful way of spicing up what would otherwise be a mundane driving experience. The Mazda-sourced six-speed manual does just that for the four-cylinder Fusion, making this model the most entertaining of the many variants we've driven. Throw the car into second gear at 30 mph, and its no-drama 2.5-liter four-cylinder howls pleasantly and reminds you that it's the same peppy, smooth motor found in the Mazda3. Give credit to Ford as well, not only for offering a stick shift in the first place, but also for making it available with a decent amount of equipment, rather than relegating it to the bargain basement, fuel-economy special (good thing, as the six-speed automatic actually gets better mileage). Our Fusion came with eighteen-inch wheels, performance tires, and a sunroof all for $23,065. I also like the sporty-looking body-colored grille, though I should disclose that I'm one of those folks who used to admire plastic-cladded Pontiacs.

Keep in mind, though, that the addition of a third pedal doesn't turn the Fusion into a sport sedan. It still floats over bumps and understeers like any other big, front-wheel-drive sedan. Brakes are a bit soggy, as well. For the family man or woman on a budget though, the manual transmission Fusion offers a nice bonus of fun and style to go along with its practicality and value.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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