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Fusion vs. Mazda 6, Accord

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2010 Ford Fusion vs. Mazda 6, Honda Accord

Hidden talents: Don't let the practicality fool you.

BY TONY SWAN, PHOTOGRAPHY BY MORGAN SEGAL

April 2009

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So what if parade floats and minivans are about the only vehicles that people who drive family sedans can laugh at? That doesn’t mean these family haulers can’t be fun to drive.

We think the fun factor is as important as the utilitarian virtues of roominess, fuel economy, comfort, price, and safety. In fact, what makes a car a kick to drive—eager response, precise steering, brisk acceleration, limited body motions, plenty of tire grip, strong braking—also makes it safer. Safety thinking in Washington begins with the crash, inspiring a thicket of regulations conceived to protect occupants from colliding with everything short of meteorites. That’s fine, but we think the occupants are better off if the crash never takes place. And the better a car’s fun-to-drive index, the better its chances are of going unscathed in emergency maneuvers. That’s what our lane-change test is all about.

And, of course, our core philosophy (translated here from the Greek) states: Driving a motor vehicle should provide dynamic gratification to the person at the wheel.

With that in mind, we have pitted the Honda Accord, the defending champ from our last mid-size-sedan comparo [“The Buzzard-and-Baloney Brigade,” March 2008], against two four-doors that have undergone updates, the Ford Fusion and the Mazda 6.

All three pack four-cylinder engines. We’re temperamentally inclined toward potent V-6 engine options, but about 80 percent of mid-size sedans today are propelled by fours. And while automatic transmissions dominate orders in this class, we balked at that mainstream preference. A good manual gearbox is far more gratifying than any conventional automatic.

Starting at the Streets of Willow racetrack in Southern California’s high desert, we spent two days driving in and around the sweet winding roads of the Santa Ynez Valley, where there was so much chanting “Slow in, fast out” that we damn near forgot we were testing some of the most practical sheetmetal on the market.

A winner emerged, though not unanimously. It was close. Here’s what we found.

2010 Ford Fusion SE

Third Place: Hidden talents.

Highs: Soothing ride quality, precise steering, supportive front buckets, quiet operation.

Lows: Supersized grille, walrus-hide plastic graining, underdamped suspension, chintzy materials.

The Verdict: Comfortable and competent but not very compelling.

Even with a face inspired by a Lady Schick razor, the Ford Fusion is one of the most hopeful signs of life on planet Blue Oval. “Even if we had 10 cars in this comparo, the Fusion would still be in the top three,” gushed one editor.

The updated Fusion has already made headlines, thanks to the achievement of its new hybrid version, rated tops among mid-size gasoline-electrics by us [“Long Rangers,” February 2009], as well as the EPA (41 mpg city/36 highway). The boring old gasoline Fusion has no similar claim to greatness and is overshadowed in this comparo by two best-in-classers.

Nevertheless, functional updates such as 15 additional horsepower from a new 175-hp, 2.5-liter Duratec four, an engine that is shared with the Mazda, make this face-lifted Ford—it still has the blades to make your legs silky smooth—more pleasant to live with than its predecessor and put it several rungs higher on the mid-size ladder.

Note the word functional. We think Ford’s designers didn’t do the Fusion any favors with their latest cosmetic decisions. The bright three-bar grille that became Ford’s new design face has, for example, increased in size and acquired winglets that extend over its new headlights. With the possible exception of beluga caviar, more of a good thing inevitably becomes too much, as this new grille demonstrates.

Inside, the Fusion’s dashboard and door panels are clad in plastic with a graining that’s somewhere between the look of ostrich skin and walrus hide. It’s too coarse, and too much, to our eye. The material of the cloth upholstery was also underwhelming. Even making allowances for this car’s preproduction status, the upholstery looked cheap.

From a functional point of view, though, the Fusion stacks up well. It matched the Honda and the Mazda in ergonomics, the secondary-control backlighting was welcome at night, and if the blue-and-white instrument illumination seems a little too lurid in a showy Las Vegas way, it’s certainly a vividly distinctive feature.

The front bucket seats deliver the best lateral support of the three cars, although we think Ford’s power-seat policy—it retains manual adjustability for the seatback—is the wrong place to save money. In back, the Fusion offers good room for two adults, although it’s knees up, owing to a low H-point. It’s tight for three, but that’s the case, in varying degrees, for all mid-size sedans. The trunk space is 17 cubic feet, same as the Mazda’s, both of them bigger than the Honda’s 14 cubes.

Dynamically, the Fusion got our vote for the car to be in when you’re stuck on 40 miles of bad road. Easy does it. The suspension tuning was the softest of this trio, and hard cornering produced more up-and-down motions. A little more rebound damping might improve the Fusion’s responses without sacrificing much of its smooth ride. On the other hand, the steering was nearly as good as the best in this group, and the car was absolutely devoid of nasty surprises.

That soft suspension didn’t help the Fusion in the emergency-lane-change test, where it finished third, but it tied the Honda for braking, although stopping in 180 feet from 70 mph is nothing to brag about. It also ran neck and neck with the Mazda 6 in our acceleration tests, and the throws of its six-speed manual transmission, though long, were exceptionally crisp.

The Fusion tied with the Accord for fuel-economy honors, at 25 mpg overall, in driving that wasn’t exactly mpg minded. It was also the most affordable of the cars—lowest base price and the lowest tab as tested.

But as good as it is, the Fusion doesn’t register a high score on our fun meter. “A perfectly decent car,” concluded one crew member. “But it’s soft for intense motoring and might be better suited to someone whose needs include quiet operation and a softer ride.”

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Continued: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/compar...n_test/(page)/1

If it were my money, I'd get the Fusion, which is $1,000 less than the other two when comparably equipped. I've driven the old model, and while the suspension was soft, it still handled very well in a light, comfortable, "springy", Volkswagen sort of way. It's more engaging of a car than the Malibu, and its ergonomics are better. The Accord and 6 are too big.

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The SPORT version is the V6 model. So yeah, of course it's going to lose if you compare 4-bangers.

I like how the interior has metallic accents and stuff even in base form.

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But as good as it is, the Fusion doesn’t register a high score on our fun meter. “A perfectly decent car,” concluded one crew member. “But it’s soft for intense motoring and might be better suited to someone whose needs include quiet operation and a softer ride.”

NO WAI!!

It's not a flippin M3 and it was never supposed to be!

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Unless they dumbed down the suspension, it'll be fine for 99.9% of all drivers. My Fusion was soft enough on bad roads and still handled really well in the twisty stuff.

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I love how the Honda is a much higher trim level with leather and Nav than the others.

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Unless they dumbed down the suspension, it'll be fine for 99.9% of all drivers. My Fusion was soft enough on bad roads and still handled really well in the twisty stuff.

I think the only thing they dumbed down was the steering, which is electric now on all but the sport model.

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I love how the Honda is a much higher trim level with leather and Nav than the others.

but you can't get sync. honda really needs to get its $h! together in terms of tech. i bet they can't get sirius travel link on the accord either.

pre 2010, i had no interest in the fusion. i didn't like the 4popper manual any time i drove it. but i am willing to give it a try with this new motor and revised interior. I will say this....the pricing diff will be even greater than 1k. by summer we'll have discounts. BTW local dealer had a brand new 09 fusion SE manual on the lot this wkd, tag said 13,999. brand new.

i like the value equation this car brings. its enough to make me overlook the cheapness that may still be left inside, or any of the mazda6ness that they couldn't expel from the car.

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The Honda also feels huge. Nearly Taurus like.

i would call the lastest accord now 'right size'...an actual useful car.

what makes it feel big is the fact that it doesn't seem to turn a tight circle, which is more of a fwd trait than anything. but the accord by itself is in no way too big. the last gen accord was a bit tight for family duty or rear seat comfort for adults. and its trunk was not big.

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Even with a face inspired by a Lady Schick razor, the Ford Fusion is one of the most hopeful signs of life on planet Blue Oval. “Even if we had 10 cars in this comparo, the Fusion would still be in the top three,” gushed one editor.

that proclamation must include the malibu

Edited by regfootball
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actually, its odd that they say this accord has 'sport sedan moves' because i drove the exact same spec car about a year ago and i was not terribly impressed with the car. the chassis felt like it lacked heft, the steering felt light and weak, the shifter and clutch were merely 'ok' and overall the car felt rather mediocre to average when i considered the high price tag. A sport sedan it most certainly was NOT.

Saab 9-3 and passat are far better to drive than the accord POS.

Edited by regfootball
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you can configure a 2010 Fusion on Ford's website now.

an SE Fusion with sync and moonroof like i would want and the 4 pop 6 speed manual comes in at 22k.

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ok. My mother bought a 2009 Honda Accord 4 banger on my recommendation (tried to get her to buy an 08 Fusion but she didnt like the styling) and frankly, its not world apart from the rest in this segment. Maybe the upper level trim might be, but my mother had one of the lower end models and while it is definitely an eager, good handling car, its not in a class of its own by any means. I think the upgraded fusion will easily compete with it. And the Fusion also doesnt have much worse of an interior than the Accord. the accord in fact, has several hard strangely textured pieces in it as well, so thats pretty much subjective. I would easily consider either the Accord or the Fusion if I were in the market for a sporty sedan. Now that my mother has an Accord, I can see first hand that the Japanese brands are really not that far ahead of the game at this point, if at all. Its still somewhat noisy, the ride is firm, and the seats can be uncomfortable. Hardly a world beater. But I like Honda regardless. Its a fun car to drive. My heart belongs to the fusion though.

Also, I want to add that we also tested the 4 cylinder Malibu and hyundai Sonata. In actuality any one of these cars is ideal for a family sedan. I didnt really see or feel much of a difference amongst them. It would certainly be a VERY close comparison test between midsize sedans now. There is really not a clearly inferior product in the segment now that it is so competitive.

Edited by Innotech
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but you can't get sync. honda really needs to get its $h! together in terms of tech. i bet they can't get sirius travel link on the accord either.

pre 2010, i had no interest in the fusion. i didn't like the 4popper manual any time i drove it. but i am willing to give it a try with this new motor and revised interior. I will say this....the pricing diff will be even greater than 1k. by summer we'll have discounts. BTW local dealer had a brand new 09 fusion SE manual on the lot this wkd, tag said 13,999. brand new.

i like the value equation this car brings. its enough to make me overlook the cheapness that may still be left inside, or any of the mazda6ness that they couldn't expel from the car.

You and sync! Seriously. I think Honda is just fine in terms of tech goodies.

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If it's all the same, of those three I'd still take the Fusion without a second thought.

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You and sync! Seriously. I think Honda is just fine in terms of tech goodies.

honda does real well for tech generally. but sync is a truly a step above, with its voice commands. but i'll admit, honda is probably tops in tech for any automaker that does not have sync. honda has pretty much everything else. trouble is, you have to pay big $$$$ to get it.

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ok. My mother bought a 2009 Honda Accord 4 banger on my recommendation (tried to get her to buy an 08 Fusion but she didnt like the styling) and frankly, its not world apart from the rest in this segment. Maybe the upper level trim might be, but my mother had one of the lower end models and while it is definitely an eager, good handling car, its not in a class of its own by any means. I think the upgraded fusion will easily compete with it. And the Fusion also doesnt have much worse of an interior than the Accord. the accord in fact, has several hard strangely textured pieces in it as well, so thats pretty much subjective. I would easily consider either the Accord or the Fusion if I were in the market for a sporty sedan. Now that my mother has an Accord, I can see first hand that the Japanese brands are really not that far ahead of the game at this point, if at all. Its still somewhat noisy, the ride is firm, and the seats can be uncomfortable. Hardly a world beater. But I like Honda regardless. Its a fun car to drive. My heart belongs to the fusion though.

Also, I want to add that we also tested the 4 cylinder Malibu and hyundai Sonata. In actuality any one of these cars is ideal for a family sedan. I didnt really see or feel much of a difference amongst them. It would certainly be a VERY close comparison test between midsize sedans now. There is really not a clearly inferior product in the segment now that it is so competitive.

yeah, i don't know why they continue to claim the honda is still the better car. and like you said, they are no ringers in the group anymore. the press likes to make everyone think they are doing the public this grand service by creating this massive perceived difference between them all and the truth is there isn't. I had the sonata as a rental once, and to be truthful, more average folks would like it better than the accord because the accord is all those things you mentioned. the sonata is more camryized. that is why the camry is popular. its a puff machine.

my buddy, the guy with the passat / vw nut, who got a new malibu for a company car (a base one) he loves the malibu. he said he might even sell his passat he says he likes the malibu a lot. i've driven all the epsilons and the new accord and quite honestly in more ways i like the epsilons than the accord. but there's just not enough difference there to say any are bad. i didn't much like the previous fusions, so i am itching to take a fusion 4 cyl 6 speed manual out and see if its more peppy now.....more refined, better suspension, more power.

of the midsizers i have driven the ones to me that standout for different reasons, the epsilons because their powertrains are very snappy and refined.....the passat is just flat out enjoyable to drive in comparison (although for other reasons i don't care much for it)......the galant is overlooked and shouldn't be its got more room and handles well and has good power.......

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honda does real well for tech generally. but sync is a truly a step above, with its voice commands. but i'll admit, honda is probably tops in tech for any automaker that does not have sync. honda has pretty much everything else. trouble is, you have to pay big $$$$ to get it.

I haven't messed around with Sync, but from what I've read it seems to offer the same type of features that are standard and available on the tech package with any Acura. Of course it is offered on Ford's, which are cheaper, and it's only a $400 option and not a $2000 package. But then Sync is a Microsoft technology and not a Ford technology. I'm sure you can purchase something or have something installed that is similar to Sync, in any vehicle, at Car Toys. It's certainly a plus for Ford and I'm not meaning to downplay it, but I don't think it's all that amazing.

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I haven't messed around with Sync, but from what I've read it seems to offer the same type of features that are standard and available on the tech package with any Acura. Of course it is offered on Ford's, which are cheaper, and it's only a $400 option and not a $2000 package. But then Sync is a Microsoft technology and not a Ford technology. I'm sure you can purchase something or have something installed that is similar to Sync, in any vehicle, at Car Toys. It's certainly a plus for Ford and I'm not meaning to downplay it, but I don't think it's all that amazing.

One of my friends has Sync in her new Focus. Its a nifty feature, and I can see why consumers like it. It isnt a ford product per se, but it is a cooperative between Microsoft and Ford, similar to many other automotive technologies. that is the best way to spread the cost and make the technology affordable. You can buy a lot of extras for just about any car that will do what the manufacturer offers or better, but having it as an option under the warranty is what helps a feature like this to sell. Its backed by Ford itself.

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You and sync! Seriously. I think Honda is just fine in terms of tech goodies.

You know the raping Ford would get if the Accord had Sync and the Fusion didn't while the editors forgot about the Mazda's similar lack of it.

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You know the raping Ford would get if the Accord had Sync and the Fusion didn't while the editors forgot about the Mazda's similar lack of it.

Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the reviewer. Some might like Sync and think its an indispensable feature, while others might not even care. I didn't see Sync mentioned once in this review, so I'm going to guess that these reviewers fell into the later category.

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