My "new" (2000 model year) Escort ZX2 with the S/R package is a fun, comfortable car with plenty of interior space for groceries, etc. The steering is a little heavy (61/39 weight distribution contributes to this). The radio, a/c, rear defroster controls are in the center of the console, a big reach for a short person. The 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS stop the car quickly, even from high speed, with no swerving or sliding. The infinite seat back rake adjustment makes it easy to find your personal "fit". The S/R package adds horsepower, front and rear swaybars and a performance clutch and pressure plate; however, the base ZX2 design, fit and finish, ergonomics and handling are very good.
The features offered in the S/R package are my no.1 favorites; the tinted rear window with defroster does a great job of deflecting headlights from following cars; the infinite rake on the seat back accommodates drivers of all sizes.
Move the heater, a/c and rear window defogger closer to the driver; redesign the instrument cluster so the radio settings don't take up most of the space.