- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2009

YONKERS, N.Y. | The redesigned Subaru Legacy outpointed the freshened Ford Fusion in Consumer Reports’ latest tests of family sedans with all-wheel drive. Also included in the sedans test was the freshened Toyota Camry, which is only available in front-wheel drive. The Legacy six-cylinder outscored the Camry V-6, but the four-cylinder Camry outpointed the four-cylinder Legacy.

The Legacy 3.6R received an “excellent” overall road test score of 83, outpointing the Fusion which received a “very good” 76. CR’s engineers say that both the Legacy and the Fusion make good, fuel-efficient alternatives for drivers who want extra traction in slippery conditions but would rather not drive a sport utility vehicle. The freshened Camry received an “excellent” road test score of 84. CR also tested two versions of the Mazda3. Among small sedans, the freshened Mazda3 received a “very good” road test score of 74.

“With its redesign, the Legacy goes from a decent but small family sedan to one in the top of its class,” said Rik Paul, automotive editor for Consumer Reports.

Relatedly, Consumer Reports also released reliability findings from its latest Car Reliability Survey. The survey found that front-wheel-drive versions of the Fusion have reliability that is better than that of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, two models that many consider to be paradigms of reliability. The all-wheel-drive version’s reliability is just average, because of problems with its drive system.

Prices ranged from $22,850 for the Toyota Camry LE to $30,094 for the Subaru Legacy 3.6R. All the cars in this test group are “recommended.” CR only recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than 7 million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test. Full tests and ratings of the family sedans test group appear in the December issue of Consumer Reports. The reports are also available to subscribers of ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to site for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car-buying information.

The redesigned Subaru Legacy is now significantly roomier and quieter, with an impressive ride and responsive handling. The Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, ($30,094, manufacturer’s suggested retail price as tested), is powered by a 240-hp, 3.6-liter, six-cylinder engine that delivers strong performance and gets 22 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The continuously variable transmission in four-cylinder versions is smooth and pleasant in leisurely driving, but when merging or climbing hills, it keeps the engine revving high. That version attained a commendable 25 mpg overall. Braking is “very good.” Although the plastics are hard, the Legacy’s interior is attractive, with tight fits and well-finished edges. Folding down the 60/40 split rear seatbacks expands the already good-sized trunk.

Overall, the 2010 Fusion is refined and agile, and the AWD version doesn’t drive any differently. But it loses 2 mpg in fuel economy compared with the front-wheel-drive. The ride is steady and calm, with good isolation and handling is responsive. The Ford Fusion SEL AWD ($29,425 MSRP), is powered by a 240-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 engine that delivers responsive performance and gets 20 mpg overall, but the AWD Fusion takes almost a second longer to reach 60 mph. Braking is “very good.” The interior is well finished. The trunk is nicely finished and holds four large suitcases and a small duffel. The rear seat folds 60/40.

A freshening for 2010 helped the Camry improve its standing as one of CR’s top-rated family sedans. It has a comfortable ride and a quiet, spacious cabin. Handling is sound, but the Camry is not particularly agile or fun to drive. The Toyota Camry LE, ($22,850 MSRP), is powered by a 169-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers decent acceleration and above-average fuel economy at 26 mpg overall. The new six-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly. Braking is “very good.” Most of the interior materials are nicely finished, including a soft-touch dashboard. Folding down the 60/40-split rear seat-backs expands the good-sized trunk.

The Mazda3 has been freshened for 2010 and is distinguished by agile handling and a nice interior that’s laid out well. The interior has been upgraded, but the rear seat remains tight and road noise is pronounced. The car is fun to drive, remaining composed while hustling around corners. CR tested both five-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmission versions of the Mazda3. Stability control is standard except for the two base trimlines of the sedan. The Mazda3 i Touring with automatic transmission ($19,070 MSRP) is powered by a 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers good performance and 30 mpg overall. The five-speed-automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Braking was “good.” The trunk, while not huge, is tall and well-shaped.

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