The Walker words of wisdom when it comes to taking the giant leap and buying that new car are always: Go rent one first.
It makes sense. It’s a great way of seeing how a car can stand up to the abusive thrashing from hundreds of pedal-to-the-metal daily renters.
You can also take it home for the day, a couple of days or even a week, and see whether it fits your garage, your golf clubs, your pooch, and your daily commute.
So often the giddy euphoria you get for that 15-minute, once-round-the-block dealer test drive can turn to ho-hum disillusionment after a few days of use.
For months now I’ve been extolling the virtues of Ford’s latest Fusion mid-size sedan. I’ve driven a couple of shiny, factory-fresh examples from the press fleets and gave them a Five-Star rating.
So on a recent trip to New Jersey — yes, I go to all the exotic locales — I asked the nice lady at the Avis desk at Newark if, by any chance, she had a Fusion I could drive, telling her the little white lie that I was pondering a purchase.
What I got were the keys to a ruby red metallic Fusion SE with base 2.5-liter four-cylinder, six-speed auto, the optional 18-inch alloys and moon roof. I priced it out on Ford’s website at $26,775.
With 11,850 miles on the clock it had obviously passed the first blooms of youth. But apart from the slightly dull paint from a gazillion automatic car washes, grubby wheels and the appalling interior aroma of synthetic forest pine, it was in great shape.
And it drove like it had just left the factory with nary a squeak or rattle, a click or a clunk.
No, the workhorse 2.5-liter four-banger isn’t as refined or responsive as the new 1.6 EcoBoost turbo, but it still does the job. And over my two-day, 280-mile trip, it averaged a solid 31 to the gallon.
What’s more, the Fusion’s electric power steering, responsive handling and smooth ride were as good as I remembered from previous drives.
What the rental did was confirm that this is a great way of evaluating a car before signing on the dotted line.