Monday, March 20, 2006

Fusion vs Sonata, I drive both back to back in the real world

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to drive both the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata on the same day and same roads. I had driven the Fusion a couple of times, but it was my first drive of the new Sonata. So having fair weather and time to burn I headed over to the local Hyundai dealer first.

The Sonata is a decent car, it feels solid, nothing like the first Hyundais I drove 16 years ago. It's styling is very nice, more Honda than the Accord actually. And standard equipment and warranty make it a good value. But how is it to drive? That's what I had been wondering for several months. I had read comparisons with the Fusion and Sonata (among others) and other reviews. Now on paper the Sonata compares favorably to the Fusion and others, but despite the warranty and standard airbags, it's still not quite as good as the Fusion. I know, you're thinking I'm biased, after all the name of my blog is MyFordDreams, but I went into this with no preconceived notions. I walked into each dealer as if I was shopping for a new car. The interior and trunk space seems slightly better in the Hyundai, but the interior materials were slightly better on the Ford. Styling would go to Hyundai also, I like the looks more than the Fusion.

But where the Ford really showed it's superiority, was on the road. Both cars were 4cyl auto base models. I took each on local streets and then onto the Sprain Brook Parkway, where I didn't drive like a nut, but wanted to see how each accelerated, shifted, handled the road and braked. The Fusion obviously benefited from it's Mazda DNA, as it's road grip was very good for a 4 door family sedan, it stayed planted and steering effort and feel was very good. The Sonata on the other hand felt like a 20 year old Buick sedan, it's steering was vague and sloppy, it wallowed over the same roads feeling floaty like only a 1986 Buick Century could. Acceleration was good on both, as were shift from the slush boxes, I honestly couldn't give the nod to either here. Each car merged onto the fast moving parkway with ease and cruised up to 70 mph with no strain or sense of buzziness. Where the Fusion really out did the Sonata was again road holding, ride and braking. The Sonata's brakes felt mushy, not the safest feeling at all.

Pricing was very close, with the Ford's sticker price actually a few hundred dollars less for similar equipment. But for my money the Fusion was the hands down winner. Not that a Sonata wouldn't make someone a happy motorist, just not anyone who's ever driven a better car. So if you wanted to know what to trade your 86 Century in on, now you know. You'll feel right at home. There's room for improvement with the Fusion, to be fair, but it's the better driver's car.

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