- Tight handling
- Good looks
- Available all-wheel drive
- Cutting-edge entertainment systems
- No manual V-6 option
- Fuel economy lags behind class leaders
- No stability control at all
If great handling and good looks are your first consideration, the 2008 Ford Fusion's a great choice. But there are more fuel-efficient, more roomy sedans for families.
We researched full road tests from a wide range of respected Web sites, to declare that the 2008 Ford Fusion's a good choice in the mid-size sedan category--with a few reservations. We also tested the Ford car and compared our observations, to offer our expert opinion along with those recommendations.
There's plenty to like about the 2008 Ford Fusion. It shares its mid-size platform with the Mazda6, but it's a very different looking machine. It also gets a distinct interior, and a slightly narrower range of transmission choices. It comes with front- or all-wheel drive, four- and six-cylinder engines, and manual and automatic gearboxes.
It's still one of the better-handling family sedans on the market, and one of the better-looking ones from Ford. Car shoppers should note its fuel economy isn't as good as some family four-doors with better interior room, and the V-6 version doesn't offer a manual shifter option.
2008 Ford Fusion
No generic four-door, the 2008 Ford Fusion wears good-looking sheetmetal and a crisply styled interior, though some interior finishes need an upgrade.
Some thought the styling was a bit more tepid. While some had kind words for the Fusion's big headlamps and a bold, chrome grille, while BusinessWeek turned to the rear end and found the Fusion's "perky backside" less compelling than the Toyota Camry's "sculpted butt."
Autobytel had the least admiration for the Fusion, saying that its "plain vanilla" exterior paled against the "eye-popping" sedans from Chrysler. "Aside from the distinctive styling of the front end, the Fusion is just another sedan," they wrote.
In our opinion, the 2008 Ford Fusion's a lot better than plain vanilla--although the entire class of family sedans is looking better these days. It seems plain isn't enough any more to sell even the most basic four-doors. The Fusion succeeds because it has the right attitude up front, in its wide and bright grille, all the way back to its Benz-like taillamps.
The road tests we researched had some complaints for the Fusion's interior. The neat-and-clean theme from the Fusion's sheetmetal carries over to the cabin, where it meets with more mixed results. ConsumerGuide calls the Fusion's interior design "understated," with "some plastics that look and feel cheap." Edmunds.com agrees with that thought, but admires the cabin for its "more cohesive look" that comes from "crisp lines and coordinated textures."
FamilyCar.com drove a Fusion with a more upscale interior than our test vehicle, and found that the "uncluttered" interior was "well laid out" and that the "instrument cluster was clean and easy to read," as were the climate and audio controls in the Ford.
Car interiors have improved greatly, and the Fusion has a contemporary look inside but needs a touch better execution. We agreed with the comments on the Fusion's interior trim. Particularly in the black plastic of our test car, it felt like this Ford car had missed a step that Toyota and Honda have conquered -- making ordinary materials look far richer than they might seem. Ford actually offers a "piano black" trim option, but we preferred the more conventional, metallic-look trim, which seemed richer and more refined. The lighting in the cabin also could use some integration -- the green-lit gauges don't quite match with the rest of the car, but multi-color ambient LED lighting is a new option for 2008.
2008 Ford Fusion
The 2008 Ford Fusion won't corner like a Mustang, but it's vastly more composed than the typical Detroit family sedan. Fuel economy isn't stellar, though.
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.
2008 Ford Fusion
Comfort & Quality
It's slightly smaller than some four-doors, but the 2008 Ford Fusion is adult-sized and nicely finished inside.
Car and Driver felt that all the controls, include the steering-wheel audio buttons, were "intuitively laid out, but unremarkable in their appearance." FamilyCar complemented the "soft touch surfaces on the dash and door panels." But Cars.com complained that the controls in an SE version were subpar: "the manual climate controls felt flimsy and imprecise compared to the ones in the base-model Camry and Accord."
There was a wide range in the ratings on the seats in this Ford. Cars.com added that the seats "seem narrow and stiff"--but Edmunds.com called them "well-shaped and supportive, even for taller folk." BusinessWeek agreed, saying its test car's seats were "top-notch, both good-looking and comfortable." And the New York Times noted that the front passenger seat can fold forward, "making it possible to haul extra-long items."
ConsumerGuide explains that it likes the seats because they're a "bit larger than class norm, and relatively high-set to contribute to fine outward visibility."
In back, the rear-seat passengers are "treated well," Autobytel says, with good room and comfortable cushions and easy access. And though it didn't like the seats, Cars.com (along with Edmunds) admired the 2008 Ford Fusion's big, big trunk, "easily one of the best you'll find in a family car."
In our test car, a four-cylinder with red leather inserts on its seats, the seats felt flat but supportive enough for a long ride. The truly impressive aspect was in legroom: a six-footer in the driver seat can still play chauffeur for a six-footer sitting behind them. The Fusion's rear-seat room is all the more impressive when much larger cars like the Chevrolet Malibu offer little more usable space.
2008 Ford Fusion
The lack of stability control gives reviewers pause, but the 2008 Ford Fusion still has five-star safety, like many other Ford cars.
Edmunds said that stability control isn't available on the Fusion, "unlike with most competitors," a strike against Ford. Cars.com explained why it's such a good idea to have it. Stability control helps keep a vehicle from spinning out of control, and while it "isn't as necessary as it might be in an SUV," they wrote, the fact it's standard on the Camry, Accord and Altima "makes the Fusion's omission less acceptable."
Even so, the 2008 Ford Fusion has every other imaginable piece of safety gear, including anti-lock brakes, side curtain and side airbags, as well as dual front airbags. The crash performance for the sedan is also quite strong - it earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's "Top Pick," also scored five-star safety in government tests for front, side and rear impacts. So while it's missing one feature, the Fusion still is a safe vehicle by almost all measures.
2008 Ford Fusion
The iPhone generation will be happy with the 2008 Ford Fusion, but the SYNC system is unproven.
Edmunds and TheAutoChannel list the 2008 Ford Fusion's features, like cruise control, power windows/mirrors/locks, and an auxiliary jack for MP3 players. A navigation system is available for the new model year, as is Ford's SYNC system. SYNC uses USB connections and Bluetooth to control the Fusion's navigation system (when ordered) and its audio system, as well as controlling phone calls through its software.
It shows promise, but as in our three experiences with the system in this Ford, Cars.com had difficulty getting it to work properly. "For me, the system was more a pain than anything else. Try as I might, I couldn't get my iPod to start playing songs when I got back into the car unless I pressed a button on the steering wheel, waited for Sync's audio chime and said 'USB.'"