FamilyCar gave more approval to the four-cylinder, calling it a "smooth one with enough power to keep the average driver satisfied," while Cars.com wrote, "The four-cylinder feels smooth, revving to high speeds with none of the strained fussiness that often accompanies such moves." It also praised the manual transmission, saying, "Parents should know that the Fusion is a good candidate for teaching teens to drive stick — its clutch is light and forgiving, and the accelerator isn't overly sensitive."
ConsumerGuide didn't care for the four-cylinder much and held the manual transmission at fault: "Inordinately heavy clutch action and balky shift linkage makes the manual transmission unpleasant to use," they said. Autobytel had the most critical comments for the four-cylinder powertrain. "The weak spots show with what seems like a torque band that compromises off-the-line performance and quick acceleration," they wrote, comparing it negatively to the Honda Accord.
In our test drive and our long experience with four-cylinder and six-cylinder Fusions, we think the four-cylinder is probably the better option. Enthusiast magazines may say the V-6 is worth the extra money for an extra second of quickness--but the four-cylinder isn't slow, and our five-speed example shifted more than decently. And the Ford car can be priced much lower than four-cylinder versions of the Accord, the Toyota Camry and the Nissan Altima.
Handling and ride are usually an area where enthusiast reviews and consumer reviews of cars disagree. In this case, it's a consumer-review site that has the strongest arguments with most publications, including the likes of Automobile.
Among the reviews we read, the New York Times appreciated the road feel imparted by the Ford. Cars.com had the most favorable comments on the Fusion's steering, body control and braking. The Times said, "the experience isn't sporty exactly, especially since the car isn't stocked with a surplus of power, but confident and, surprisingly, rather fun." Consumer Guide called it "pleasant and competent, abetted by nicely weighted, responsive steering," a big win for Ford. Cars.com said, "handling is probably the Fusion's best attribute....The precise turn-in will impress anyone used to driving a family car."
While Automobile magazine called the 2008 Ford Fusion's steering "reassuring," CarandDriver.com said that like the rest of the car, the Fusion's handling was "just fine, but unremarkable. The steering wheel asks reasonable effort and provides decent feedback, but is a little too light and a touch numb."
It's Autobytel that dislikes the Fusion more than the rest, when it comes to dynamics. "...The Ford is not engaging to drive, in part due to the body roll evident when pitching the car into a turn..."
Our stance hasn't changed since we drove the Fusion in 2006. Back then, its performance was distinctly un-American. Compared to Ford's own Taurus, the Fusion was taut, well-balanced and had hefty but still responsive steering. And it's the same with the 2008 model year, only more vehicles in its class (notably, the Chevrolet Malibu and the Nissan Altima) have stepped up with equally good handling.