Ok - I bought this car 2/00, so I've had it a while. I drive hard, and went 115k before replacing the clutch. Other than a warped dash (fixed under warranty) and a foghorn sound (web showed me how to fix), I have had no real issues with this car. It's still a very solid and reliable performer, and very fun to drive. Yeah, I get made fun of a lot for driving a Contour, but every time I throw it into a turn or hear the exhaust note when I gun it, I still grin (although don't get into the SVT after test driving the new M3 and expect to still feel impressed). Still a great buy if you ask me -- especially considering that you don't see yourself coming and going everyday.
Handling, exhaust note, limited availability, manual only