My Escort has almost 180k on it now and has never let me down. Ever. She sees high rpms on a daily basis because of how fun this ride is! 5spd is definitely the way to go and the response is outstanding. I thought escorts were grandma cars until i noticed civics trying to keep up! The handling is so smooth that i sometimes forget that I am in an Escort. All my friends look to the ground with rising gas prices as I enjoy the day no matter what with my easily captured 35mpg. Fuel economy is simply amazing in this car! If you want an affordable car that just won't leave you in the dust or stranded, and out runs half the hybrids in the mpg test, i can confidently say "go with the Escort!"
Handling, visibility, and throttle response.
More comfortable seats, sexier headlights, larger tachometer, and a redline that at least goes to 6500 rpms instead of the lonesome 5800 redline. Come on Ford, put the cards on the table!