I recently had to give up my Escort for a newer vehicle, but not without some reluctance. I purchased my Escort 4D Hatchback in September of 2003 and it proved to be one of the most reliable cars I've ever owned. I drive some serious miles for work and recreation, and aside from a few minor problems over the three and a half years I owned it, it was always reliable and got me to where I needed to go. I did have some problems with the tires and tie rods (which I've heard is a common Escort problem) and anti-freeze would leak from time to time (also another common Escort problem), but I never had to deal with any major mechanical problems.
It handled well and always started-up for me, no matter how cold it was. It never gave me any serious problems and required very little maintenenace.
There were some problems with the rear door locks jamming and the automatic front drivers-side seatbelt stopped working.