Downside: The young and the restless may find the Fusion too conservative for their taste. Older drivers -- who tend to have families and related transportation needs -- may conclude that Ford's marketing is saying the Fusion is not for them.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories. With five cars in the driveway, the Fusion became my go-to car for a week because it's comfortable, easy to maneuver in the city and competitive in terms of speed and agility in highway traffic.

Head-turning quotient: High, very favorable.

Body style/layout: The Fusion is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive sedan based on Ford's CD3 platform for mid-size vehicles. The CD3 platform is derived from Mazda's GGGY platform, which is used for front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive mid-size vehicles.

Engine/transmission: The three-liter engine in the tested Fusion SEL V-6 develops 221 horsepower at 6,250 revolutions per minute and 205 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 rpm. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard. Base Fusion models get a 160-horsepower, four-cylinder engine mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. A five-speed automatic is optional for the four-cylinder car.

Capacities: The Fusion has seating for five people. Maximum luggage capacity is 16 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 17.5 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 27 miles per gallon in city/highway driving.

Safety: Side air bags for front passengers and head curtain bags are available as part of a $595 "safety and security" options package. Buy it.

Price: Base price on the 2006 Fusion SEL V-6 is $21,710. Dealer's invoice price on the base model is $19,954. Price as tested is $25,610, including $2,800 in options and a $650 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $23,042. Prices sourced from Ford Motor Co. and

Purse-strings note: It's a buy. Compare with Chevrolet Malibu Maxx SS, Honda Accord EX V-6, Hyundai Sonata GLS V6, Kia Amanti, Mazda6 and Toyota Camry XLE V6.