I had to say something when I saw the posts bashing the sedan's performance. The Escort line has a long rally racing heritage and our other cars were BMW 3 and 5 series--there was practically no difference between them and our little Escort when it came to driving fun and handling. We're 12 years and 132,000 miles and the only repairs came from someone hitting us and two recalls that involved the air bags and seat belts. If Ford still made these, we'd be buying another one as an added vehicle, but sadly they want to focus on the Festiva instead.
Reliability. Fun to drive. Good fuel economy. Sporty seats and driver positioning that hold you in place for good maneuverability.
Get rid of the stock tires and go with a good set of sport touring tires that grip the road better. Massive improvement in handling, especially in wet weather, otherwise it can feel "loose". WANT European version that has all-wheel drive and 5-speed auto-transmission instead of 2/4 like USA got.