The one thing that I love about working in the automotive journalism industry is being able to actually help people make real-world purchase decisions. It really isn’t about driving cool cars (though, I admit that’s fun). So I like the take the time to answer some questions that I receive. Here’s one of those.

Mark wants to know if he should be looking at a loaded Ford Fiesta Titanium with a 5-speed manual transmission or a basic Ford Fusion SE in Hybrid guise. This car is replacing an EV that is coming off of lease. One of his concerns on the Fiesta, and why he’s looking at the 5-speed, is the DCT automatic that comes with that car is a bit different.

I own a 2011 Ford Fiesta with the 6-speed DCT automatic. Ford recently sent me notification that they will be extending the warranty on the DCT because of issues that the transmission has had. Personally, after a software update last year the transmission has performed pretty well. There is still a noise that concerns me, especially when cold, and has been there since basically day one. But otherwise it has been a great transmission (after the software update). Before the software update, it was like riding along with someone just learning how to drive a manual transmission.

When I reviewed the Fiesta with the 5-speed, I enjoyed the engagement of the transmission, but was less-than-impressed with the fuel economy. I averaged just under 33 mpg for the week. Fifth gear just isn’t a good highway gear. In my 6-speed automatic, I typically see MPG numbers in the high 30s. On some trips, I can even get into the 40s without trying. I couldn’t do that in the manual version.

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The Fusion Hybrid is clearly the more expensive car in this equation, with a much more usable back seat. It’s rated in the low 40s for city and highway fuel economy, and my experience has taught me to realistically expect in the upper 30s for most driving scenarios. Highway driving will be the poorer of the two, since the hybrid can run entirely on electricity and also shut completely off at traffic lights. If stop-and-go is your thing, you might be better off in the hybrid.

The driving dynamics of the Fiesta are better, which means you’ll have more fun tooling around in it than in the Fusion, but the Fusion will feel classier even as a base model.

If you’re buying outright, then the 6 grand price difference (give or take, depending on haggling and stuff) is a lot. An attractive lease on the Fusion might make it a more compelling option as well. According to our friend Mike at Raceway Ford, the Fusion is being sold below sticker and has a $2500 rebate on a purchase, or no interest and $1000 rebate for a 48 month purchase.

I’m going to throw you a curveball. If you aren’t brand committed to Ford, have you looked at the 2015 VW Golf? It’s a really solid car in all trim levels, and the TDI exceeds its highway mileage on a regular basis. Even the “basic” 2015 I drove a few months back was a rock solid car, with great interior treatment and a great price. It felt much more premium than it cost.

Hope this helps!

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