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
Perhaps it's just me, but I think this example is more deserving of the "Sport" moniker our last Fusion test car wore. It may not have the power of the 3.5-liter V-6, but the 2.5-liter I-4 offers plenty of torque, and the ability to row your own gears lets you make the most of it. Better yet, this monochromatic appearance package gives you the best-looking bits (painted grille, large wheels) while skipping the gaudy (and literally tacky) interior trim.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I, too, was far more impressed by this sporty-looking Fusion model than I was with the 2009 Fusion. The many changes that Ford made for the 2010 refresh were clearly worth the effort, because the car feels far newer and refined than before. And, what's this? A smooth-shifting, nicely weighted, six-speed manual transmission! In a mainstream, mass-market family sedan. A fun and unexpected touch, and one that helps make the most of the 175-hp four-cylinder engine.
What's more, the Fusion SE looks good, thanks in no small part to the Monochrome Appearance Package, well worth the $895 it costs because it bumps up the wheels from 17-inch silver-painted jobs to really nice, ten-spoke alloys with V-rated performance tires. The package also provides a sport-tuned suspension, a rear spoiler, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. I also think the trapezoidal foglamp surrounds at the front lower corners of the car, flanking the lower air intake, go a long way toward finishing the front styling. The Monochrome package also provides unusually handsome cloth upholstery. For $23K, it all makes for a really nice sedan.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
I despise the body-color grille on this Fusion, but that's about the only bad thing I have to say about this car. The price is spot on, the equipment is very pragmatic, and it's fun to drive.
I was most surprised by how competent the manual transmission and clutch are. It's easy to say a stick makes every car more fun, but in a midsize sedan where a minute fraction of buyers actually opt for the manual, I didn't expect the gearbox to be so good. The shifter is tall, but the throws are reasonable, with excellent weight and decent feel. The clutch is also perfectly executed and the gas pedal can be poked with your toe while your right foot is on the brake.
I'll agree that the handling exhibits typical sedan characteristics, but it's also willing to comply with your commands. Trail brake hard into a corner, and the performance tires really bite, eliminating any oversteer. The Fusion is a great family car that let's break free from the family when you're carving a road on your own.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
Like my colleagues, I enjoyed my time behind the wheel of the 2010 Ford Fusion SE. Last year rumors of the manual transmission Fusion's demise were flying around the Internet and I was happy to hear Ford would be upgrading, rather than killing, the manual transmission in the Fusion when the 2010 cars were unveiled. Of course the actual take-rate for family sedans with manual transmissions is dangerously close to zero, so I would have understood the move if Ford had discontinued the option.
The car we tested is equipped almost exactly as an enthusiast would option a Fusion and, as others have already said, the price is very reasonable. I am obligated to point out that the six-speed automatic Fusion is also a very good car and those who don't want a daily driver with three pedals will not suffer if they choose an automatic Fusion.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor
2010 Ford Fusion SE
Base price (with destination): $21,625
Price as tested: $23,065
2.5L inline 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
AM/FM/single CD/MP3 with 6 speakers
Options on this vehicle:
Rapid spec 201A -- $545
SYNC voice activated systems
Auto-dim mirror with compass
Monochrome appearance package -- $895
Leather steering wheel
18-in aluminum ten-spoke sport wheels
Key options not on vehicle:
Rapid spec 202A -- $1340
Includes all options above plus power moonroof
22 / 29 / 26 mpg
Size: 2.5L 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 175 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 172 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Weight: 3285 lbs
18-in ten-spoke machined-aluminum wheels
225/45R18 Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires