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buying used

We compare a Ford Fusion and a Subaru Legacy

I'm looking for a newer sedan with all-wheel drive for less than $20,000. I don't need anything fancy, but I'd like a fair bit of room. It's going to be a family car and driven on the highway every day. Everyone tells me to get an SUV, but I prefer a sedan. And I'd like to stay away from BMW, Audi and Mercedes because I don't want to be stuck with repair bills. – Matt, Regina

If you're looking for a front-wheel-drive family sedan, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the solid choices. But if you need all-wheel drive, the choices narrow quickly – especially if you're staying away from luxury cars.

There are a few family sedans that offer an AWD version – like the 2014 Buick Regal (Canadian Black Book average asking price: $20,396) and the 2015 Chrysler 200C ($21,725) and 200S ($21,200) – but they'll likely overshoot your budget.

That leaves the Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy. The Fusion offers AWD in the higher trims only. The Legacy, like all Subarus, only comes in AWD.

2015 Ford Fusion SE AWD

2015 Ford Fusion.

  • Second generation: 2013-present (facelift in 2017)
  • Average asking price: $19,265 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 245-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder
  • Transmission/Drive: Six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.8 city, 7.5 highway; regular gas

The Fusion is a, er, fusion of style and substance, reviewers said.

"The Fusion looks upscale and stylish and handles like a really good European sports sedan," said Consumer Reports. "All versions provide a composed, civilized ride that's as good as cars costing twice as much."

For the 2015 Fusion, there were three trims (S, SE and Titanium) and eight different versions, including three four-cylinder engines plus hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. A rear-view camera was standard on all.

The SE, which also comes in a FWD version with the turbocharged 1.5-litre EcoBoost engine, is the cheaper of the Fusion's two AWD models – the other is the top-of-the-line Titanium ($21,409).

"You'd be hard-pressed to find another family car that provides a sharper driving experience or as great a variety of configurations," review site Edmunds said.

Consumer Reports complained about the unintuitive MyFord Touch infotainment system. It also said "the cabin is slightly snug, the rear-seat space is tight and the view out is limited."

Consumer Reports rated the 2015 Fusion four out of five for reliability, based on reports from subscribers. Gripes included voice-control not always hearing commands.

It was a U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top safety pick.

There were three recalls, including a potential roll-away risk.

2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i

2015 Subaru Legacy.

  • Sixth generation: 2015-present
  • Average asking price for base: $17,400 (Canadian Black Book)
  • Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder
  • Transmission/Drive: Six-speed manual, continuously variable transmission (CVT)/all-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.7 city, 7.8 highway (manual), 9.0 city, 6.5 highway (CVT); regular gas

The Subaru Legacy has been around since 1989, but the new-for-2015 model was a hidden gem among its better-selling rivals.

"You cannot buy a quicker, more balanced, more responsive mainstream mid-size sedan. This is the standard," Globe Drive said. "The car entertains but is very stable and predictable."

In 2015, the Ford Fusion outsold the Legacy nearly five to one (15,781 to 3,258), even though the Legacy was the only car in the segment with standard AWD on all trims, making it the most affordable AWD mid-size sedan.

"[If] you want a refined and comfortable family sedan that can handle any kind of weather – or simply something different from its mainstream competitors – the [Legacy] merits strong consideration," Edmunds said.

Edmunds liked the excellent visibility, roomy cabin and top crash-test scores. It complained about lacklustre acceleration from the 175-horsepower base engine and a stiff ride compared to rivals.

But Consumer Reports praised the comfortable ride – along with the well-calibrated CVT that helped fuel economy "without the usual racket."

"Sure, the Legacy doesn't set hearts racing with its nondescript looks and respectable-if-unexciting acceleration numbers," Consumer Reports said. "But with the best ride, strong handling and impressive braking, the Subaru topped its category in nearly every other measure of track performance."

It rated the 2015 Legacy three out of five for reliability. Complaints included a display screen that was tough to see in bright sunlight.

There were three recalls, including a possible leak of transmission fluid in just 10 vehicles.

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