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Part 2 of our review of the 2011 Ford Fusion SE

The 2011 Ford Fusion SE certainly looks the part of a sporty mid-sized sedan and as one of the more efficient and less expensive cars in the segment, the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine packs a surprising amount of punch – thanks in part to the 6-speed manual transmission.

(Click here for Part 1 of the 2011 Ford Fusion SE review if you missed it earlier today)

The standard 4-cylinder engine in the Fusion SE offers 175 horsepower and 172lb-ft of torque while making promises of 22mpg around town and 29 on the highway with a combined rating of 24mpg. Over the course of several tanks of gasoline, my Fusion SE averaged around 27mpg with roughly a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving but it should be pointed out that I drive with a lead foot with no consideration of efficiency…making the observed fuel economy that much more impressive.

When I found out that my 2011 Ford Fusion SE tester was a stick-shift, I was elated as SO few vehicles these days come with a manual transmission. I have had the chance to drive a 2010 Fusion SE with an automatic transmission and it offered nice smooth shifts and solid acceleration but the manual transmission makes the Fusion a great deal more fun to drive. The clutch is very forgiving and overall, the manual shifting setup in the 2011 Fusion is light years better than some of the brutal stick-shifts of yesteryear’s manually shifted, low cost Ford vehicles. This transmission setup does a nice job of being forgiving to those not so experienced with the clutch pedal but for those who know how to drive a manual transmission, the shifter allows for some gear-bangin’ fun. Don’t get me wrong – you’re not going to be tearing up the local street racing scene but for an affordable sedan that gets almost 30mpg, it offers more “fun to drive” factor than many of the other cars in the class.

Even with “just” 175 horsepower, the 2011 Fusion SE offers great acceleration, coming up from a dead stop very quickly and if you really goose it, the peppy little 4-cylinder will spin the tires. For a car made more for fuel economy, the climb from 0-60 is surprisingly quick and on the open road, the Fusion SE easily eclipses the century mark. At highway cruising speed, the suspension provides a nice smooth ride but when you hit the twisties, the sport tuned underpinnings of the “Appearance Package” allow the Fusion to handle moderate curves at more-than-moderate speeds. Even with lower-profile tires on the 18” optional wheels, the Fusion muted some of the questionable roadways around the Detroit Metro area without punishing the driver through the steering wheel or the passengers through the suspension system.

During a portion of my time in the 2011 Fusion, the Detroit area was blanketed in a few inches of snow. Prior to the Fusion, I spent time in the all wheel drive Lincoln MKS EcoBoost so I was interested to see how well the front wheel drive Fusion handled the white stuff and it did not disappoint. Traction control took care of any sudden slips at highway speeds but even with I94 being less maintained than it should be, the Fusion had no problems keeping up on the open road. Again, the fact that it had a manual transmission made it easier to drive in the harsh weather but in speaking with a handful of newer Fusions with automatic transmissions, snow is not much of an obstacle for someone who knows what they are doing.

The 2011 Ford Fusion SE won’t cost you a fortune but it does an awesome job of offering a fun drive and excellent fuel economy for a mid-sized sedan. With a price tag of just over $24,000, my 2011 Fusion tester was more car than I expected – making it clear why this is Ford’s bestselling car and one of the top selling cars in the entire US market. The Fusion is fun to drive, gets great fuel mileage and has plenty of room for four adults in a sporty interior environment for less money than similarly equipped sedans in its class. Most importantly, it offers some power for those who want it and for those just looking for a simple, fuel efficient daily driver the 2011 Ford Fusion is a very easy car to drive and enjoy. If you are looking for a fuel-friendly mid-sized sedan that wont bore you to death but also won’t break the bank, the new Ford Fusion should be on your short list.

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