I think everyone is entitled to at least one automotive purchasing mistake in life. Personally, my mistake was opting to go for a brand new Focus in 2013 instead of something else. If I had actually been thinking, I’d have kept my 1997 Sable at least several months longer. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Still, these two options might even be decent purchases in 2020, provided they’ve been well-maintained.
I remember where I was when I first saw the 2006 Fusion. For some reason I was browsing the lone desktop computer in my Environmental Science class at John Jay High School. I think the teacher let us seniors have some weird privileges like that, but I don’t recall all the details. Anyway, I must have stumbled onto an automotive website that covered the initial Fusion reveal. This was back in 2005, so it was probably a couple of months before it hit dealerships. Anyway, I remember the teacher coming over to check out the car. He seemed pretty impressed, and if I remember correctly he had a late model Accord at the time.
This particular Fusion is a relatively plain SE model. It does have the optional rear spoiler though, which deleted the center brake light that resided on the rear shelf. Fusions of this vintage came standard with Mazda’s 2.3 liter four cylinder, which was rated for 160 horsepower. That engine was mated to another Mazda product, their 5 speed automatic. I don’t think I would have a problem with owning a first gen Fusion with this powertrain, but my neighbor owns a 2006-2009 Milan with this combo and he complained about its performance when I asked him about it. He thinks they’re too slow.
The first gen Fusion’s biggest weakness was its cabin. It was attractive, but very spartan. And this interior originated in the era when American automakers just shoved one corporate-wide audio head unit into the center stack and called it a day. Although one advantage possessed by this Fusion is the Sync system, which was completely optional on SE and SEL trims. Bluetooth, phone pairing, and a USB input for audio devices makes this one of the rare models from the mid to late 2000s that wouldn’t need an immediate upgrade to interface with modern cell phones right from the get go. Additionally, this Fusion also has the optional moonroof, which I don’t consider a selling point because I don’t the one in my Focus.
At 103k miles, this Fusion has probably been driven a bit less than 10k per year, which is below average. The picture is low resolution but if the cosmetic condition of the car is good, the $4,000 asking price is not absurd. I’d be happy taking it home for $3250.
The Milan hails from the same model year as the Fusion, but is optioned much differently. One similarity their share is the clouded headlights. I have no idea how people drive their cars at night with such an impediment. Anyway, out of the trio of Fusion, Milan, and MKZ, I actually think the Mercury is the most European looking one of the bunch. Maybe I’m subconsciously thinking that way because of its name, but who knows. It’s certainly a good looking sedan, even if I think the Ford is more attractive.
Out back we have an indication of the biggest difference between the two siblings. With the 3.0 liter V6 under the hood, this Milan has about 220 horsepower on tap, and it’s paired to an Aisin 6 speed automatic, which I believe has a good reputation.
Inside, the Mercury is obviously well appointed except for one major omission: It doesn’t have Sync! That means an immediate head unit upgrade would be necessary. That’s not exactly a bad thing, as it’s not terribly expensive to get an Android Auto/Apple Carplay capable head unit with Bluetooth capability. But it’s not exactly a selling point either. I’m also not sure I’d want to own a 12 year old car with a sunroof or digital climate controls either. I imagine the older those things get, the more likely they’ll have issues.
Like the Fusion, this Milan seems like it’s in good cosmetic shape. At 170k miles, it’s a bit “older” than the Fusion, but at this stage of their lives those numbers probably matter less than the maintenance they’ve received since they were new. The $2495 asking price seems very reasonable.
Overall, I’m a bit torn as to which one I’d choose. Since I work at home, I don’t need the advantages of the Milan’s V6 and I highly doubt the leather could sway me since I generally prefer cloth. The digital climate control could be a liability and I’d have to spend money right off the bat getting an audio upgrade because I’d want an interface for my iPod Touch, even for short distances. Then again, this car is better equipped and cheaper, plus the ad says its service records are available, which is a notable perk.
On the other hand, I’ve always liked the Fusion’s appearance better. Plus, it’s a younger car too. In terms of capability, the Sync system in the Fusion is just as capable as what I’ve got in the Focus because they are both Gen 1 units. I don’t need anything fancy since I don’t spend a lot of time in the car. I’m leaning toward the Ford but it would be a tough pick.
Anyway, what do you think? Would you buy either of these? Are they good starter cars, or are there better alternatives at this price range?