So, I talked about the buying process, but what about the car itself, what is it that I liked so much about the Ford Fusion beyond the price?
Well, there were 3 Fusions I was seriously considering: a black SE (cloth with the "necessary luxuries" I wanted like SYNC and sunroof, but no premium stereo), red SEL (leather with SYNC, sunroof and premium stereo) and a black SEL (completely loaded with every option except a navigation screen). I really wanted black (and Pat, if you're reading this, no I'm not copying off of you, I was planning on getting a black car, I just didn't think I'd get the same type of car you did), but could I go out of my comfort zone price-wise for features I don't really need such as backup camera, backup sensors and blind spot information system (BLIS)? Or would I sacrifice interior features and luxury for the exterior that I wanted, and a lower price?
Ultimately, it was like the story of the 3 bears: the fully loaded model was too hot because of the price being too high (but take note: it's a GREAT deal if you're shopping and the extra price is a drop in the bucket for you), the SE model was too cold because the interior felt much cheaper without the leather-wrapped steering wheel and the cloth seats didn't “hug” me quite as well as the leather seats did. Leather interior makes a HUGE difference in terms of upscale feel...the car felt $10,000 cheaper in cloth form (but it didn't cost that much less). The red SEL, despite not being the color I wanted, was just right. And quite frankly, the more I look at it, the more I love the red color.
Perhaps it's because my 2003 Focus was so loud it could likely cause hearing damage thanks to the “mystery noise” (it was never quiet even when there was no mystery noise, for that matter), but the interior felt whisper quiet. The doors close with a satisfying thud that screams "quality" and "excellent fit and finish."
I was interested in the 2011 Kia Optima because of the 200 horsepower 4-cylinder engine, so how would the Fusion's 175 horses feel to me? Honestly, I was surprised when I kicked the engine up from 60 to 80 MPH. The engine felt smooth compared to the buzzing, vibrating, 110 horsepower mess of junk under the hood of my Focus. While not a rocket ship, acceleration was quicker than I thought, and I even felt some nice torque, which was a pleasant surprise. Plenty of power for what I'm looking for, since I don't want a sports car due to high insurance costs and higher costs at the pump. Four bangers mated to six-speed transmissions make V6's unnecessary for midsize sedans.
The car handled bumps with ease with an incredibly smooth ride compared to the Focus. I haven't pushed the car to its limits, and don't plan to, but the car is built off of the Mazda 6 chassis, so it has some athletic handling to it. The car handles on windy roads and takes highway ramps with ease, more stable than I originally thought. The steering felt "loose" to me at first, but as I get used to it I appreciate the feel of the car. A sports car this is not, but the more I drive it, the more I love it. I never thought a family sedan could feel so refined.
I'm slowly, but surely, learning the Ford SYNC system. It's taking some getting used to and I still can't figure out how to have my text messages read out loud to me, but having features such as hands-free calling, turn by turn directions and live traffic in an affordable car is truly mind blowing...SYNC is even available on Ford's most inexpensive car, the Fiesta. SYNC has a metric assload of features that are updated yearly, and can be upgraded through a flash drive, so you don't have to take a trip to your dealer to have it upgraded. SYNC was a major, major selling point to me (and Kia's SYNC-like system known as UVO had me virtually sold on the Optima before this) and I can't wait to become more accustomed to it. Read all you want about SYNC at SYNCMyRide.com.
As for the interior, as I said, it blew me away when I first sat in my friend's 2010 Fusion. The experience is much the same from the driver's seat. I enjoy how the seats “hug” me, and there's plenty of soft-touch, high quality materials on the dashboard and doors. Just some general car buying advice: If you're stuck between a newer model with cloth interior or an older model (or smaller car) with leather interior, choose the leather interior. It just feels so much more upscale, like you're driving a luxury car without the luxury price tag. The Sony Stereo thunders compared to my old stereo...a "system" that most teenage boys wanted in high school this is not...but it does the job with crystal clear quality.
One feature I'm disappointed I'll be missing out on in the 2011 Optima is the option for cooled front seats, as the Fusion only offers heated seats...but is that really a reason to complain?
Ford hit a home run with this car and I'm beyond stoked that I get to be a proud owner of one. I've truly been trying to keep quiet about it because I almost feel like this car is too good for me and I almost feel guilty talking about it. But nothing replaces the feeling of satisfaction I get when I sit in this car. Kudos to Ford, you really outdid yourselves.
P.S. I'll definitely continue to talk about and write about cars because after 4 years of college where my car was rarely used, my passion for cars was re-ignited after visiting the Cleveland Auto Show back in February. That said, I'm definitely planning on keeping this car as long as I can. Hopefully it doesn't fall apart as quickly as the Focus did, but given Ford's meteoric rise from near-death by building attractive, feature-rich, QUALITY vehicles, I don't think that will be the case. My Focus was built at a time when SUV's were all the rage and cars were an afterthought, sold at a loss for Ford, so their build and material quality suffered. Today's Ford (and GM, for that matter) is not yesterday's Ford, so I'm confident this car will last me until I'm at least 30. **knock on wood**
P.P.S. This was thrown on me right as I completed the sale: Ford offers free maintenance for your vehicle for 6 years or 75,000 miles for an extra $1600. The only thing you really pay for is new tires, new battery and wheel alignment. TAKE THIS OFFER. Why? If you maintain your car properly, it will cost you about $4000 over that time period to maintain it. And if you don't maintain your car properly, it's more likely to wear out earlier, meaning more costly repairs in the future and a lower resale value. Having my car run like new for 75,000 miles, then for awhile after that until I (admittedly) slowly penny pinch and neglect the maintenance will add years to the life of the vehicle and keep it in good condition come resale time. To me, that's worth the extra up front cost because ultimately you save in the long run.