2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid Road Test

Hybrid world's first real fusion of fun and fuel economy

What It Is/Who It's For
The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid reminds owners that hybrids have plenty of power in addition to fuel efficiency.

Best Thing
Fuel economy actually rose the more you drove the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Worst Thing
SYNC still has issues recognizing voice command

Snap Judgment
The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid is looking aged and high priced compared to the competition's newer offerings.

When people think of hybrid vehicles, they immediately think of high fuel economy wrapped in an egg-shaped five-door hatchback: in other words, the Toyota Prius. But there are car buyers who like the familiarity of traditional vehicles like sedans, but want the hybrid's fuel economy and maybe a sporty ride as well.

The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid aims for this last crowd. The Fusion Hybrid's ubiquitous exterior won't draw attention from the public or the cops, while the interior uses familiar audio, climate, and navigation buttons on the center stack, and even a footbrake. There's nothing weird about the interior here: No phallic-looking shifter on the dash; no center-mounted gauges stuffed under the windshield edge, and so on. Yet Ford separates the 2012 Fusion Hybrid from competitors like the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with features like a stiffer suspension which are usually found in sportier sedans.

So how did the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid fare with all these changes from Toyota's piece de resistance? Was the Fusion Hybrid's fuel economy, when all things were said and done, no better than its non-hybrid Ford S and SEL four-cylinder siblings? What about 2013 Fusion Hybrid's equally important ride and drive? Does the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid weave and dodge across the road like a presidential candidate faced with questions about his (or her!) latest affair? Or is the 2012 Fusion Hybrid more like a cruiser like the placid competition (Toyota Camry Hybrid and Hybrid, that is)? We put a 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid (if you haven't guessed by now) through Los Angeles traffic and even a 150 mile round from "we don't call it the OC" Orange County to Del Mar and back to see where it parked, ultimately, in the high mpg/sporty drive divide.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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What We Drove

Pricing for the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid starts at $28,825, roughly equivalent to competitors like the 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid, and a bit more than the Sonata Hybrid. Our 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid test vehicle broke $32,000 with options like heated front row seating, SYNC GPS/navigation, blindspot detection system, rearview backup camera, moonroof, and premium sound system. More than a few Automotive.com editors took exception to the Fusion Hybrid's pricing, which they thought too high for an old-school design compared to the new kids-on-the-block Kia Optima, Sonata, and even 2012 Camry.

The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, like its siblings, is chockfull of safety features, most of them standard. Airbags include front and side airbags including a driver's side knee bag. Side curtain airbags are standard for both rows. Other safety features include standard anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), traction control (TCS), and enough acronyms to confuse an IRS lawyer. Tire pressure monitoring system is also standard on the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and our sedan was equipped with (optional) blind spot detection system and rearview camera.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had given the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid four stars out of five in its rollover tests but had not yet tested the sedan for front and side crash safety at the time of this post. Last year's model received an overall four stars out of five, receiving a mid-three stars in the frontal crash test while received four stars on the side crash test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid a Good rating in all its crash tests which include front and side impact, roof strength,

The Commute

Cozy. That's the word that comes to mind each time we sat in the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, especially in the driver's seat. The omnipresent plastics covering the dash, center stack, and side panels looked thick as they surrounded the almost comically tiny old-school instrument panel and controls. The sensation is further enhanced by the Fusion Hybrid's firm cushions and the thick (there's that word again) side bolsters. Yet the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid is built for Americans and its wide seat bottoms are a testimony in accommodating a variety of ever growing tushies.

The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, like many hybrids, starts noiselessly, the only sign of ignition cast by the relaxing blue/green glow from the non-standard digital dashboard. Take your foot off the brakes and the Fusion Hybrid's four-cylinder engine gurgles to life as its continuously variable transmission hunts for the right gear ratio. We quickly become used to the Fusion Hybrid's continuously variable transmission, which like many of today's family sedans, is well-controlled noise-wise. Same with the 2012 Fusion Hybrid's brakes, which are one of the least mushy/most normal among our tested hybrid sedans; even our most rabidly anti-hybrid editor grudgingly admitted they felt almost normal. Puttering around town, we made cutting remarks about nearby cars and pedestrians while light music played in the Fusion's quiet interior. Cool air (this is Southern California) from the 2012 Ford Fusion's climate system made no discernible impact on engine power as it does in some other hybrids, and we marveled -- in normal tones, by the way -- how the Fusion Hybrid's fuel economy seemed to climb as we hit our favorite eateries, the beach, airport, and finally the onramp to the freeway.

Here is where we'd gun the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine responded with 191 horsepower. Hit the gas, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid suddenly feels like it has shed a hundred pounds. We found ourselves bolting pass eighteen-wheelers, full-size SUVs, minivans, crossovers, police cars...OK, maybe not the last one. The Fusion Hybrid's CVT gets the engine to the meat of its power band faster than most other gas engines, and it stays there, contributing to the quick feeling acceleration. The cozy cabin in the Fusion Hybrid suddenly made sense: That's how a sport sedan should feel. The same goes for the 2012 Fusion Hybrid's steering wheel and suspension, which always felt firmer than the competition's offerings. Want that space between the Honda CR-V and Porsche Cayenne? Boom. The Ford Fusion Hybrid was there. Tight curve on the road? Not a problem. Our Fusion Hybrid readily and predictably responded almost like well, a sporty sedan. Gasp!

But the best surprise came as we sadly exited the freeway. Our 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, which had averaged in the mid-thirties mpg-wise during our routine rounds, had climbed into the high-thirties during our spirited jaunts.

The Grocery Run

Hatchbacks, to be blunt, are more practical vehicles, offering more headroom and cargo space and headroom than sedans. (Ask any European or Toyota Prius owners.) But Americans irrationally support sedans, and we found our 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid a conventional hybrid sedan as far as utility was concerned.

Why the emphasis on hybrid? The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, like the competition, has a smaller trunk than its non-hybrid counterparts due to the battery pack needed for the hybrid drivetrain. There's no pass-through from the rear seats to the trunk for similar reason. Still, one editor found plenty of room to stuff his colleagues' two large duffle bags and backpack while another filled it to the rim with goodies from a "local" crafts fair.

The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid got a little unconventional in terms of interior storage but not much. On top of the dash we found a lidded map box which we found oh-so-convenient for things like pens, coins, lipbalm, and even a smartphone or two, all within easy reach of both driver and the front passenger. Why don't other vehicles have them? We didn't store maps there, of course, since our 2012 Fusion Hybrid came equipped with built-in navigation. Other storage units, like cupholders, storage container between the front row seats, bottle holders in the side door pockets, and glove box are same old, same old. People want hybrid sedans because they are familiar inside and out. (Well, except with better gas mileage, of course.)

The Weekend Fun

Ironically, while most people equate hybrids doing best in short, crowded trips like city drives or the Los Angeles freeway during rush hour, hybrids also do quite well in long distance travel as well. We subjected our 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid to a 200-mile trip during the slightly more open weekend freeways between Orange County and Del Mar, and found the sedan as spry on the long, climbing trip as during the crowded weekday traffic. It was comfortable, too. Our backs weren't aching from the to-and-fro two hour trips; the Ford Fusion's trunk held plenty of goodies; and we never had to shout at each other in the car's quiet interior. Well, maybe once over the radio but that was due to differing musical tastes (Lady Gaga wishes she was Madonna.) Passengers in the rear row found the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid's seats comfortable though a little low, and especially liked the headroom.

Speaking of the radio, we had a taste of the Ford Fusion's SYNC system early in our trip and our mouths are not happy with the experience. Ford's big sell of the Microsoft-developed infotainment system is its ease-of-use via voice-command. We did a simple test and had SYNC map out our trip. It failed, not able to figure out the word "ten" as part of an address. We had to break out the thick owner's manual to input the addresses-gasp!-by hand. To be fair, Ford Fusion's SYNC system worked fine the rest of the trip as long as we stuck to simple commands like changing radio stations.

We had no issues, though, with the blindspot detector built in the side rearview mirrors which warned us often enough we began to doubt our ability to spot amateur racers behind us. (Not really, but we did find the feature useful a couple of times.) The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid's optional rearview camera proved useful as well as an aid when pulling out of crowded parking lots.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view


We found nothing wrong with the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid and found a lot to like about it. The Fusion Hybrid sedan's fuel economy is top notched even among the competition, while enthusiasts will find steering and handling more akin to the non-hybrid Mazda6, their sedan of choice among fun-to-drive family sedans.

The 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid suffers, though, when stacked against its rivals. Many of the Automotive.com editors found fault in the interior design and materials which they found "old school," lacking in quality compared to the competitors' offerings. Toyota suffered a similar indignation with its prior-generation Camry sedan. The conclusion is that the 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid's $30,000-plus price tag is too high, especially against the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima hybrid four-door offerings, which offer competitive fuel economy but more features and modern designs.

However, keep this in mind: By the end of the year, there will be a new Ford Fusion hybrid in dealerships, along with an all-new plug-in hybrid version. Both promise significantly better fuel economy, and the price will likely stay about the same. The new Fusion blows away the current car in terms of style and interior quality. But as the clock winds down on this Fusion, you might just be able to find some awesome deals. That, or you could wait for the next generation...

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $34,195
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 41 mpg
EPA Highway: 36 mpg
EPA Combined: 39 mpg
Observed: 36.5 mpg
Range: 689 miles
Price-as-tested: $32,820
Cost of Ownership: Above Average

Notebook Quotes

"The problem is that the Fusion itself is into its, what, seventh model year now? Regardless, it's on the old side, and it shows despite the refresh it got a few years ago. It has a weird combination of old-Ford and new-Ford." - Keith Buglewicz, news director

"Double-clicking keyless (fob) for trunk only opens it, doesn't pop-up, meaning if you have groceries or holding something, you have to put it down anyhow." - Matthew Askari, assistant editor

"It feels like a smaller car than it is, and it feels smoother and more refined than the Kia." - Jacob Brown, assistant editor

"Disconcerting feeling when on freeway, mash brakes and engine cuts to electric - no engine sound..." - Jason Davis, assistant editor

"Trunk space fit two duffle bags and a backpack" - Trevor Dorchies, assistant editor

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