It’s always a treat when a “sleeper” steers out of the clutter of the new model year to surprise and delight, and Ford’s revised 2010 Fusion sedan definitely earns the sleeper label.
With the big-brother Taurus moving up in size and price for 2010, the Fusion now seems cosmetically right-sized. The Fusion’s angular, edgy shape is wearing well, particularly with this year’s resculpting.
The Fusion’s mild exterior makeover doesn’t have anything to do with its sharp driving manners, but the new look — mainly concentrated on refining the front by restyling the headlights and beefing up the grille and hood — accentuates the fact the Fusion is shooting for drivers who want some involvement.
And I adamantly recommend the new “monochrome appearance package,” an $895 option that nets a modest rear spoiler, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, tasty 10-spoke, 18-inch aluminum wheels and a special suspension tuning you’ll savor every day. The body-colored grille might not be everyone’s idea of “phat,” but the package puts a tasteful exclamation point on the Fusion’s chiseled new shape.
The “sleeper” part is covered by the powertrain and refinement upgrades the Fusion gets for 2010 that make it both more efficient and more engaging to drive.
The Fusion’s most intriguing powertrain combination is our SE’s new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine backed by an also-new 6-speed manual transmission
At 175 horsepower, the new 2.5-liter is just 15 horses better than the old 2.3-liter 4-cylinder, but combine that with the jump from 156 lb.-ft. of torque to a markedly stouter-feeling 172 lb.-ft. and this engine offers entertaining, if not outlandish, performance.
The agreeable 6-speed manual won’t give anybody any trouble; the lever always knows where to go, even if it is stiff as it finds each gear.
The clutch is light and cooperative, but could be a little more tactile.
The more-powerful 2.5-liter engine and the advantage of six speeds generates some surprisingly healthy fuel economy in light of the Fusion SE’s springy performance: we had no trouble achieving the 22 miles per gallon city rating and on the flatlands of Ohio markedly exceeded the 29 mpg highway rating. Fine figures for a midsize sedan.
Some credit probably goes to the new, fuel-saving electric power steering. It’s a little overboosted but the overall responses are reliably consistent and there’s a solid on-center lock when cruising.
Cruising is one of the 2010 Fusion’s strong points. Either of the six-speed manual or automatic transmissions assure the engine isn’t working very hard, even at 80 mph, and the new acoustic windshield, thicker side glass and a host of clever sound-deadening improvements make the Fusion stunningly silent at high speeds. A lot of vehicles are quiet these days, but the Fusion is one of the most hushed we’ve tried.
Ford designers also took a run at the Fusion’s interior, updating the layout of the instrument panel and center console with a new “technical” look that includes metallic detailing and noticeably better plastics on the dash and door panels.
Ford engineers have been working on improving seat design and the Fusion’s comfortable and supportive chairs are proof the engineering is paying off. The seats of our SE tester were a nylon fabric that might not please those looking for traditional cloth but it has a chic appearance like something Volkswagen might choose. The material also is pleasingly breathable and grippy.
The Fusion has evolved into a superb car with superb pricing. Our deliciously upscale-looking Fusion SE goes out the door for $23,065. Don’t really want to shift your own gears? Another $875 for the automatic is anything but a deal-killer, making a sub-$24,000 Fusion a practically irresistible affordable 2010 midsize sedan.
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2010 FORD FUSION SE
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger 4-door midsize sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $20,900 (as tested: $23,065)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 16-valve DOHC I-4
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 175 at 6000 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 172 at 4500 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed manual
WHEELBASE____________________ 107.4 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 190.6 in.
CURB WEIGHT__________________ 3,285 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 17.5 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway
CORVETTE GRAND SPORT: Grand Sport is one of the most storied monikers in Corvette’s racing heritage. For 2010, it once again becomes part of the Corvette’s lineup, available in coupe and convertible models. The new 2010 Chevrolet Grand Sport combines the Corvette’s LS3-based powertrain with wide-body styling, a wider track and a racing-bred suspension for a distinctive model that delivers a great balance of road and race track performance. It is offered with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The LS3 6.2L engine is rated at 430 horsepower and 424 lb.-ft. of torque. Price: TBA (Source: Chevrolet)
FORD GRID SYSTEM: Ford and its utility partners are testing one of the industry’s first vehicle-to-electric grid communications and control systems that will enable electric cars to communicate with a power source for easy and efficient recharging. “Developing and producing the vehicles is just one part of the electric transportation equation. We are well on our way to delivering the vehicles, but for widespread adoption the infrastructure to support the technology needs to be in place and we need to ensure that the national electric grid can support increased electric demand,” said Nancy Gioia, Ford director, Sustainable Mobility Technologies. (Source: Down the Road, Motor Matters)
ASK AUTO DOC: My 2002 Hyundai Elantra with 73,000 miles has started using a quart of oil every 1,000 miles. Where is the oil going? Answer: Check the PCV system — if the car has one. If so, clean the system. Secondly, have a de-carbon treatment of the piston rings. If the engine still uses oil, then this indicates a problem in the cylinder head valve guide or seals. I would switch over to high-mileage oil. With cold weather coming, the oil consumption will lessen. (Source: Ask the Auto Doctor, Motor Matters)
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009