Pros: Wide range of trims and pricing; available all-wheel drive; SYNC communications system; hybrid model offers superior fuel economy
Cons: Narrow rear seat; styling and design growing a bit stale; some controls are small and difficult to operate
Although it's far from a new design, the 2012 Ford Fusion manages to remain relevant chiefly due to its impressive equipment offerings and reasonably priced hybrid trim. With its nearly flawless recall history, strong reliability and repair ratings, and the fact that it's the only mid-size sedan to offer the option of front- or all-wheel drive, the Ford Fusion's long-running success makes sense.
The Fusion offers no fewer than five trim levels - S, SE, SEL, Sport and Hybrid - with a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines and two automatic transmissions, as well as a six-speed manual transmission.
With newer cars vying for your dollar, the Fusion definitely has its work cut out for it. But, if value, reliability and innovative communication and audio options are more important to you than flashy good looks or a low sticker price, the 2012 Ford Fusion may very well be the next car to occupy your garage.
Comfort & Utility
The 2012 Ford Fusion is not as roomy inside as other five-passenger sedans such as the Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord, but it can still comfortably fit four people and their luggage, with one of the largest trunks by volume in the segment.
Those looking for cutting-edge interior design probably won't be wowed by the Fusion's generic-looking dash, but they could warm to the quality construction and plentiful soft-touch materials. High on our list of dislikes are the small, hard-to-decipher audio and climate control switches placed low in the Fusion's center console. Things improve somewhat with the available navigation, which has its functions integrated into the LCD touchscreen.
The Fusion's firm and supportive front seats could do with a bit more width in the lower seat cushion, but overall comfort is still good, even on long trips. All but the base S trim provide a power driver's seat, and features such as power windows/locks/mirrors, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD stereo and cruise control are standard equipment.
Like most Ford cars, the Fusion is equipped with a host of technologically trendy features intended to help the driver keep his or her hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Chief among these is the SYNC hands-free communication system that integrates a cell phone and a portable media player into the car's radio and Bluetooth setup. With SYNC, the driver can use voice control to search for phone contacts, have incoming text messages read aloud and call up music by artist or song title. SYNC also provides voice control of apps such as Pandora and Stitcher.
SEL, Sport and Hybrid trims can be equipped with the voice-activated navigation system, which includes SiriusXM Traffic and Travel links, and a 10-GB music storage hard drive. Also available is a 390-watt, 12-speaker Sony audio system.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The 2012 Ford Fusion's standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder producing 175 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of torque. With the Fusion in S trim, this engine is paired with a slick shifting six-speed manual, while the SE and SEL have as standard a six-speed automatic with an available SelectShift six-speed automatic as an option. Fuel economy with the manual transmission is rated at 22 mpg city/32 mpg highway; the six-speed automatic earns 23/33 mpg, while the available SelectShift does slightly worse at 22/30. Moving up the V6 models (SE and SEL) brings a hardy 3.0-liter V6 teamed to the six-speed automatic transmission; AWD can also be added with this engine choice, as can the SelectShift transmission. The Fusion's V6 is rated at 240 hp and 223 lb-ft of torque, not the most powerful in this class but certainly enough to move the Fusion with some authority.
Fuel economy for the V6 engine isn't too far from what the 4-cylinder cars achieve with EPA ratings of 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway (18/26 mpg for the AWD model). The 3.0-liter V6 is also E85 compatible, although the fuel economy figures drop precipitously when running on E85 (14/21 mpg and 13/19 mpg with AWD). Lastly, the Sport model gets its own 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 263 hp and 249 lb-ft of torque. This engine delivers the most dynamic performance with only a modest decrease in fuel economy from the 3.0-liter V6 (18/27 mpg for the FWD car and 17/25 mpg for the AWD model).
The hybrid model combines an Atkinson cycle 2.5-liter gas engine with a 93-kilowatt electric motor for a combined 190 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque from 0-3000 rpm. The Fusion Hybrid earns a very respectable 41- city/36- highway.
Ford packs the Fusion with a host of safety and security features including six airbags (seven in the Hybrid), AdvanceTrac with electronic traction and stability control, built-in crumple zones to absorb impact energy and the SOS post-crash alert system that unlocks the doors, flashes the emergency lights and honks the horn in the event the airbags deploy. Additional available safety features include Ford's BLIS blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic detection system; Reverse Sensing System, which is a sonar-based rear detection monitor, and a rear back-up camera.
While the base 4-cylinder Fusion performs just fine with one or two people on board, when fully loaded - or when you just want to pass slow-moving traffic quickly - the car functions far better with one of the two V6 engines. The exception to this rule is the hybrid, because its electric-assist motor delivers an added dose of oomph in the form of pure torque.
Of the three transmission choices, we prefer the manual selectable gear changes provided by the SelectShift automatic. However, if fuel economy is your first priority, go with the standard automatic so you can let the Fusion do the work.
The base S Fusion rides on 16-inch wheels and tires, while the SE trim has 17-inch. Both deliver a smooth ride and good traction. The Fusion's suspension handles modest curves at modest speeds with ease, but if you push the Fusion hard, it begins to exhibit a predictable tendency to plow. The SEL and Sport trims have better and sportier handling. The AWD option is best for navigating snowy and ice-covered roads.
Other Cars to Consider
Honda Accord - The Accord is roomier and more powerful than the Fusion, plus it gets better fuel economy and has better resale value. But Honda offers few individual options, and the Accord has nothing to rival the SYNC, BLIS or the Sony audio system.
Toyota Camry - The newly redesigned Camry offers more rear-seat legroom than Fusion, and its Entune communications system easily rivals SYNC. However, the Camry costs more than the Fusion, and it has a smaller trunk.
Chevrolet Malibu - The Fusion is priced competitively with the Malibu yet offers a more powerful base engine and the option of a manual transmission. The Malibu's 3.6-liter V6 is more powerful than the Fusion's 3.0-liter V6, and overall, its ride is somewhat softer.
Hyundai Sonata - The Fusion has more rea- seat legroom than the Sonata, and it offers an optional V6 and AWD. However, you get more bang for your buck with the Sonata, which has a more powerful and fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine, a better warranty and more upscale features, such as an available heated rear seat.
For the money, you get the most features and option choices with the Fusion SEL. Whether you opt for the 4-cylinder or the V6 is best determined from a test drive, but we think the Fusion feels best when it includes leather seating, a navigation unit with a color LCD screen and the rocking Sony 12-speaker audio system.