Depending on how much performance you want (and your budget as well as gas-mileage requirements), the 2012 Ford Fusion comes in several flavors, ranging from frugal and adequate to punchy and responsive, and even includes a Hybrid model.
The 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual transmission work well together as the base combination in the Fusion, and it now includes a manual-mode button on the gear lever. These models are plenty responsive, even with a full load, though they expose a coarser edge when driven hard.
Opting up to the 3.0-liter V-6 gives you 240 horsepower and flex-fuel capability, but less refined noises and responses than you'll find in the Fusion Sport's 263-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. That V-6 improves acceleration quite a bit, and the standard six-speed automatic does a fine job of staying with your driving demands. There's an optional all-wheel-drive system for V-6 models, but gas mileage suffers a bit.
For the best fuel economy--and decent performance, actually--there's the 2012 Fusion Hybrid. The Hybrid teams a 156-horsepower four-cylinder with an electric motor running at the equivalent of 40 horsepower, for a total of 196 hp. It achieves an excellent 41 mpg in city driving, and it has an EV-only model that allows the sedan to run off battery power alone up to 47 mph. Overall, it's one of the best-integrated hybrid systems we've driven, with smooth transitions.
Handling remains a Fusion strength, whether you choose the base four-cylinder, the V-6, or the Hybrid. Steering is well-weighted, and the suspension is firmly tuned for handling while absorbent enough. Even with big wheels and tires and tauter suspension on Sport models, and even with all-wheel drive, the Fusion rides well yet feels more agile than most four-doors in the segment.