The Ford Fusion delivers responsive handling, solid high-speed stability, and a nice, smooth ride.
We've found it handles well, something we've gleaned on curvy mountain roads above Hollywood and on a wet handling course in Dearborn. The rack-and-pinion steering is precise with just the right amount of weight to make the driver feel connected to the road without being twitchy. The Fusion feels bigger and heavier than it looks, but it also offers excellent stability.
The Fusion's nice combination of ride and handling are benefits of the rigid structure it shares with the Mazda6. The Fusion's stability is a benefit of its relatively long wheelbase and wide track, longer and wider than the Mazda version. The front suspension is a short/long arm design while the rear wheels are anchored through a multi-link setup. The bushings and hydraulic engine mounts are designed to keep vibration and road noise to a minimum. For the most part they do this, though some other cars in this class seem quieter.
The all-wheel-drive Fusion offers excellent handling stability and grip in adverse conditions. We drove one on a heavily watered down handling course at Ford's proving grounds and were impressed with its ability to hold a line and not get out of shape in transient maneuvers. In other words, it's safer and easier to drive in the rain than front-wheel-drive cars. And we're sure it'll perform much better in the snow than the other models. If you live in an area that gets adverse weather, the AWD model is a smart choice.
The Sport Appearance Package offers more than just looks, as the suspension is sport-tuned with different shocks and spring rates and 18-inch aluminum wheels on P225/45R18 performance tires. Cars offer sharper handling response than the standard models. While the ride becomes a little more busy on broken or pockmarked pavement, it never feels harsh. For both looks and handling, the reasonably priced Sport Performance Package is a worthwhile option.
The 221-hp V6 engine provides enough power, though the Fusion will not likely be mistaken for a sports sedan. The Fusion can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 8.0 seconds, reasonable performance though not as quick as the V6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The six-speed automatic transmission is very smooth. Shift into Drive and it works well. It's one of the few six-speed automatics in this class. However, it does not offer a semi-manual shifter. Shifting from D to L only locks out fifth and sixth gears. (We wonder how many people actually use semi-manual shifters so this may not be an issue for you; clearly, Ford shares this opinion.) Also, there's no indicator showing the driver what gear it's in at any given moment and around town it's difficult to tell by feel. (Again, you may not care.)
The Fusion V6 manages 26 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg in the city according to EPA estimates. Those numbers drop to 17/25 with all-wheel drive, but either way the fuel mileage is respectable for a V6. By comparison, the four-cylinder is rated at 20/29 with the manual and 20/28 with the automatic.
Four-cylinder models have adequate power but are not up to snuff versus the competition. The 160-hp four-cylinder gets the Fusion moving, but it requires lots of room for passing and doesn't feel as strong as the four-cylinders offered by Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. The four-cylinder's five-speed manual transmission has numb, rubbery throws, without even the slightest pretense of sportiness. Even in economy cars, manual transmissions can provide a certain fun factor. That's not the case in the Fusion.
Considering the improved performance, smoother six-speed automatic transmission and decent fuel consumption, the V6 is probably the best value for most buyers.