And then there’s the 2009 Ford Fusion I-4 SEL: Pleasing exterior, not radical or zoomy and definitely a Ford. Is that enough?
OK, the interior, so says our notes, is business-like as well, with nothing funky, just Ford straightforwardness. We wonder why radios can’t start off with two basic knobs, one for off/on/volume and the other for basic tuning, and with other knobs added from there. But otherwise, all controls are easy to find, with no hidden or confusing buttons. However, it would be nice if Ford could have a “cancel” button for the cruise control so one could temporarily drop out of cruise without having to tap the brakes.
That said, the interior feels rich, odd as that may sound said about a mid-size American car, but there it is in our notes. The touch surfaces are touchworthy, and what looks like brushed aluminum on the center stack really is brushed aluminum. OK, it is part of the Sport Appearance Package, but someone in Dearborn is paying attention.
On the other hand, are people really paying $300 for the ambient lighting package that allows you to change the colors of lights in the car’s footwell and front cupholders? “I’m in a red mood tonight but l may mellow out to magenta or maybe a cool blue later on.” Right. Entertaining for the first week, maybe.
The leather seats, a $895 option, don’t feel so much luxurious as durable, not necessarily a bad thing. However ours came with red inserts in a “dark charcoal”—wouldn’t that be “black”—interior matching the black—their word—exterior. Some thought it was sporty. Others saw garish, but they spend too much time watching programs about how overpaid yuppies redid their bathroom for $4,595. Wow, five dollars under their budget!
Remember when digital clocks were new and only luxury cars had them? Now that LCD clocks are cheaper than analog, luxury cars switched back to analog. But now the Fusion has an analog clock on its dash. So luxury cars now have chronographs. Anyway, like we just said, the Fusion has an analog clock.
Our test car was a 2009 Fusion I-4 SEL. Decoded that means it has the standard in-line four-cylinder engine (better fuel economy than the optional six) with all the top of the line goodies of the SEL, which tops the S and SE trim levels. Our test car, however, had front-wheel rather than the optional all-wheel drive that’s optional with the V-6 engine only.
Our Fusion also was equipped with the standard-equipment five-speed manual transmission rather than the five-speed automatic, an $895 option. The V-6 is available only with the six-speed automatic, even though the four-cylinder could make better use of the extra ratio.
The tires on our test Fusion were wide 225/45R18’s matched up with special 18-inch (17-inch is standard on the SEL) aluminum wheels of the Sport Appearance Group (remember the brushed aluminum and the red seat inserts?), rear lip spoiler, and sport suspension.
The latter presumably enhanced the cornering of our test Fusion SEL, but our notes say the car was “competent on winding roads without being harsh, but falls somewhere short of being really eager for corners.” It’s a “won’t suspension.” The sport suspension-equipped Fusion won’t bob and weave on the highway but tar strips won’t cause your eyeballs to rattle like a cheap baby doll’s.
The Fusion’s standard-equipment in-line four cylinder engien is a 2.3-liter double-overhead cam 16-value unit rated at 160 hp. It’s hardly mellifluous or terribly smooth but it gives its all right to its 6500 rpm redline. The clutch doesn’t “hang” when shifting at high revs either, making the rpm fully usable without having to wait for the revs to drop before the next shift.
The shifter throws are long but the gearbox had a meaty feel, making one feel the tranny doesn’t need to be coddled. Clutch take-up is smooth, too, making the Fusion’s gearbox-clutch combo good for the novice manual transmission user.
Overall, the 2009 Ford Fusion I-4 SEL is a competent, well turned out piece of equipment, comfortable in any suburban driveway or drive-thru, sporty if not hard-core sports, and affordable at the dealer (base price for our well-equipped tester was $23,085, and watch for special deals) and at the fuel pump (EPA says 20/29 mpg city/highway).
Is that enough? Even in today’s market, it should be.
|Base price, 2009 Ford Fusion I4 SEL||$19,785|
|Power heated outisde mirrors||Incl.|
|6-way power driver seat||Incl.|
|Automatic temperature control||Incl.|
|Auto-dimming inside rearview mirror||Incl.|
|Side/side curtain air bags||Incl.|
|Sport Appearance Package: brushed aluminum, red interior acents, 18-inch aluminum wheels, sport suspension, spoiler||$895|
|Heated front seats||$295|
|Sirius satellite radio||$195|