2010 Ford Fusion vs. Mazda 6, Honda Accord
So what if parade floats and minivans are about the only vehicles that people who drive family sedans can laugh at? That doesn t mean these family haulers can t be fun to drive.
We think the fun factor is as important as the utilitarian virtues of roominess, fuel economy, comfort, price, and safety. In fact, what makes a car a kick to drive eager response, precise steering, brisk acceleration, limited body motions, plenty of tire grip, strong braking also makes it safer. Safety thinking in Washington begins with the crash, inspiring a thicket of regulations conceived to protect occupants from colliding with everything short of meteorites. That s fine, but we think the occupants are better off if the crash never takes place. And the better a car s fun-to-drive index, the better its chances are of going unscathed in emergency maneuvers. That s what our lane-change test is all about.
And, of course, our core philosophy (translated here from the Greek) states: Driving a motor vehicle should provide dynamic gratification to the person at the wheel.
With that in mind, we have pitted the Honda Accord. the defending champ from our last mid-size-sedan comparo [ The Buzzard-and-Baloney Brigade , March 2008 ], against two four-doors that have undergone updates, the Ford Fusion and the Mazda 6 .
All three pack four-cylinder engines. We re temperamentally inclined toward potent V-6 engine options, but about 80 percent of mid-size sedans today are propelled by fours. And while automatic transmissions dominate orders in this class, we balked at that mainstream preference. A good manual gearbox is far more gratifying than any conventional automatic.
Starting at the Streets of Willow racetrack in Southern California s high desert, we spent two days driving in and around the sweet winding roads of the Santa Ynez Valley, where there was so much chanting Slow in, fast out that we damn near forgot we were testing some of the most practical sheetmetal on the market.
A winner emerged, though not unanimously. It was close. Here s what we found.