After a few years with my customized Mustang convertible (COAL), my automotive interests were shifting. My project car focus was now on my Aspen station wagon (COAL). Gas prices were starting to skyrocket in San Diego. I rationalized it was time to purchase a more sensible and efficient car as a daily driver. That’s how I came to own a 2007 Ford Fusion SE.
My list of criteria for this sensible car wasn’t very long. It had to be good on gas. I definitely wanted a manual transmission. It had to be fun to drive. It had to have decent room in it. It had to be under $20K out the door. Finally, since I had no plans to be modifying this new car, I wanted a new car with a full warranty. I initially looked at a Mazda 6 station wagon, to have a modern long-roof to complement the Aspen. But the price was out of reach from my budget. Since we had owned 5 Ford products over the last 10 years, I kept drifting back to the Ford lot. Much had been said about how much fun the 1st generation Focus was, plus the Fusion was getting high marks on handling as well.
[Wanna-be boy racer Focus ST with Street Appearance Package.]
I first looked at the 2007 Focus ST. A 4-door Focus, with the 2.3L DOHC engine from the Fusion. Sports tuned suspension, manual trans and good fuel economy. It definitely ticked all the right boxes on paper. The drive, was another story. The car handled well and had some punchy power, but the seating position for me was awkward and the rear seat was really cramped. The real deal killer was that every ST within a 200 mile radius had that awful looking Street Appearance Package. They were really trying to target the younger “Fast & the Furious” crowd, but it was not for me.
After the drive, I walked through the Fusions on the lot. They looked nice, but I was only able to find a few with the 4cyl/5-speed manual combo, all of them were either the S or SE model. All of the SELs on the lot were automatics. I didn’t drive one, but grabbed a brochure and went home to do some more internet research. At home I discovered a late availability option package in the brochure, the “I-4 Appearance Package”. The package was only available on the 4-cylinder SE models only. It consisted of 17” aluminum rims with painted pockets, a black chrome grille, body color fog light bezels, a black vinyl interior, black and red cloth inserts in the seats and door panels, red contrast stitching on the seat and steering wheel, and a brushed aluminum center console bezel. The package was only available on Black, Redfire, or Tungsten Silver.
[I-4 Appearance Package interior.]
I didn’t remember seeing one of these on the lot I was at, so I hopped online to browse inventory of a few other local dealerships. I located one at El Cajon Ford, Redfire Metallic with the manual transmission. A couple of days later, I went in and drove the car. It shared the same 2.3L engine and 5-speed manual with the Focus I had driven, but this car was a much better drive. The seating position and ergonomics fit me better, and the car was a lot roomier front and rear. I went home and surprised James that I was ready to give up the Mustang and go sensible. It took a few days of convincing him. He didn’t believe me that I wanted to give up the Mustang. After tax, title, and license the cost came in just under the budget I was looking at and I was the owner of a new Fusion.
I loved the way the Fusion drove. As a mid-size sedan, it held the road better than some of it’s competition I have driven in or ridden in. The power delivery was smooth and the 5-speed shifting was very light and precise compared to the Mustang. With 160 HP, it had enough power to move along nicely, it just wasn’t what I would say quick. Again, I was coming out of a Mustang. It was adequate. However, that 160 HP and slick 5-speed translated into very nice fuel economy. It was rated at 23/32, and I routinely got between 29 and 31 in my day to day commuting.
My first twinge of regret came about a year later. The 2008 Fusions came out with a much improved Sport Appearance Package. In addition to what mine had on it, it also received a sport tuned suspension, a rear lip spoiler, and 18” machined aluminum rims (taken from the Ford Edge). The subtle tweaks definitely made the Fusion appear sportier. Had I only waited until the next year to go sensible, I could have had those rims and a better suspension. I contemplated snagging a used set of rims, but I never made the purchase.
This car turned out to be the most reliable car I’ve ever owned. I never once had to take it into the dealer. Everything worked on it, just as it should. As is the norm for me, I performed all the regular maintenance on it. The first oil change did provide me with a little bit of a surprise. I went and purchased the oil and the filter from the local parts store. When I got up under the car, there was no spin on/off filter. Instead there was a canister filter. I had to go back and buy the correct filter. I had never seen one before, but I liked it. It did make for some less messy oil changes. Before anyone in the comments chides me about selecting the incorrect filter; the parts book listed both filters. I just assumed that it was the spin-on filter because that was all I had ever known.
There isn’t much else to say about this car. After the newness wore off, I came to the realization I had bought an appliance. A conveyance to get from point A to point B, with little drama or fuss, all while getting great gas mileage. It should have said Maytag on the side. It was a little more fun to drive than your typical sedan, but that’s about it. The Appearance package and manual transmission made it stand out to me (like a stainless steel dryer compared to a plain white dryer), but it really blended in. It did it’s job, never complained, and never had a single issue.
What’s worse, it didn’t even inspire me to break out my camera. Next to cars, photography is probably my next biggest passion. I’ve gotten lots of compliments on the quality of my photos from the fine readers here at Curbside Classics. This car did not inspire me. It never had the urge to take the car out for a photo shoot. These are the only photos two photos I could find of it, and they were a couple of crappy cell-phone pics.
After a couple of years, I started to miss things while I was driving. I had lost my way. I really missed having a car with character. I really missed the joy of driving. I missed having the wind in my hair. The Fusion just wasn’t cutting it anymore. A good friend of ours was in the market for a replacement car. With that opportunity, we sold him the Fusion and I ended up in another convertible. My friend still owns the Fusion (I just saw it, and it’s just over 100K miles), and as far as I know has given him just as much trouble free service has it did for me.