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2009 Ford Fusion SE

Rafay Ansar

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As-tested price: $21,935
Drivetrain: 2.3-liter I4; FWD, five-speed manual
Output: 160 hp @ 6,250 rpm, 156 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
Curb weight: 3,181 lb
Fuel economy (EPA/AW): 23/23.7 mpg
Options: Blue suede package including interior trim pack, blue interior accents, 18-inch wheels, P225/45R tires, sport-tuned suspension, ambient lighting ($895); AdvanceTrac with ESC ($495); Sync voice-activated system ($395); hands-free mirror ($150)

OUR TAKE: The Ford Fusion might be a Mazda 6 dressed up in a Ford outfit, but it's actually better because Ford took the liberty of adding even more stiffening properties to the Mazda chassis for the Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ. How good were those changes? Good enough for Mazda to use them on the new 6, too.

The solidity of this car is the most impressive part. From its on-road behavior buzzing down the expressway to driving around town over bumps, this Fusion stays composed at all times. The sport suspension still provides good damping when the going gets rough, but also gives the Fusion good cornering behavior with the 18-inch tire package. Combine that with decent steering response and a nice-shifting five-speed manual transmission and you have a rather athletic Ford on your hands.

The 160-hp inline-four will disappoint some, but when bolted to the manual, you can ring out the power well for ample scoot. The engine gets buzzy on the highway, but besides that, it's a smooth unit.

For the interior, you'll find the same boring and straightforward layout you can expect from Ford. Dash materials and door panels are covered in a nice rubbery finish. The blue Alcantara seat and door panel inserts give the otherwise boring cabin a little flair. The Alcantara also helps hold you in place in corners.

If Ford would wake up its SVT group from hibernation, it would take only minimal upgrades to move the Fusion into awesome territory.
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