Up Close: 2010 Ford Fusion

Ford unveiled updates of three midsize cars at this week’s L.A. auto show: the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln MKZ. I had a chance to check all of them out. I prefer the regular trims to the Fusion Sport, whose compartmented bumper looks a bit too busy for my taste. Overall, Ford hasn’t dramatically altered the sedan’s slick shape, which I liked on the previous Fusion. The three-blade grille gets more aggressive but, thankfully, remains tasteful.

I’m less enthusiastic about the interior. It gets some overdue changes — the passenger airbag integrates seamlessly into the dash, the A/C adds dual-zone controls — but Ford still wraps everything in a grainy dash material that lacks the finish quality of the prevailing interiors in the family-car segment. By contrast, the Lincoln MKZ, which had similar cabin quality last year, has upgraded to vastly better surfaces for 2010.

The navigation systems have been upgraded to Ford’s latest-generation technology, whose graphics and interface make it one of our favorite systems to use. The screen is absolutely enormous, and it fits into the dash in a way the previous square-cutout system never did. The armada of stereo and A/C buttons below — it looks to be the “poke-through” design pioneered in the Escape and Mariner — could be tough to sort through at a glance, but it’s no worse than the Accord’s center stack.

There’s enough headroom and legroom in the backseat, though legroom isn’t as generous as what the Accord and Mazda6 provide. Cheers to Ford for still having one of the best cargo setups in the biz. The trunk has a large opening, and the spring-loaded rear seat flips down on its own with a pull of a lever.

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