If you like the Fusion's 2.5, why not check out a Mazda6i?
I'm not hearing the shift flare problems on the 6i, it was made in the same Michigan plant as the Ford Mustang, and it's essentially similar to the Ford Fusion. The current model is bigger than my model. It went from being too big to be a compact but not a midsize to too big to be a midsize but not quite a fullsize.
And since it's "just a Mazda", you won't pay the Honda or Toyota premium pre-owned price.
I believe that the Mazda 6 was in production long enough before the Fusion to work out most of the bugs since they were closely related at that time.
Still architecturally close.
By late '05 to '06, Mazda had de-bugged the 6 pretty well.