I bought my SE Sport new in 2000. Performance-wise, it was a fun car: great handling, a reasonably powerful engine, excellent brakes and steering, good 5-spd. I could drive this car fast and whip it around corners with ease. For $15K, it was probably the best handling four door around at the time. However, the car had way too many quality problems: brake hoses cutting themselves, the A/C failing multiple times, strange sounds from the engine, the dashboard warping. I got tired of it-- basically every year I knew something was going to go wrong. This car had a lot of promise but Ford cut too many corners for me to recommend it.
Great handling. Fun car to drive. Good breaks, steering, gearbox, etc.
Lousy build quality, plain jane dash, cheap stereo.