For a car in its class, the handling is surprisingly quick and tight. The steering is direct and has very little dead zone. There's definitely body roll, but the chassis and capabilities overall are great for a $15,000 econobox.
The PowerShift transmission is as bad as you've heard. There are definitely ways to learn how to diminish its flaws. Generally, the higher RPMs you go, the less jerkiness/heaving you experience, and the smoother the shifts are. Coming to a near-stop and then going again (e.g. a California roll) causes rough shifting and bucking. At low RPMs in general, the shifting is not smooth.
For what it's worth, I've had terrible experiences with Ford in the past, and the PowerShift transmission in this car is awful. I wouldn't have bought it if I could go back in time. However, poor transmission aside, I have had no repairs whatsoever in the ~84,000 miles and ~7 years I've owned the car. The reliability so far has not been an issue.