It's been a great first car. Had a few recalls, but Ford fixed them all no charge. Other than that, just replace a sensor or two (I have 90k miles) wheel bearings, brakes. But those are all wear items, so its not really a problem. Never left me stranded. OK power with the Zetec DOHC engine, 0-60 in a 5-speed takes under 9 seconds, which is fine for freeway merging. Handles great for such a cheap car, very fun when the road gets twisty.
Handling is great. Acceleration is OK. Gas mileage! I average 27-29 with mostly city/highway traffic driving. Cabin ergonomics, and the steering wheel feels great. You sit up high, so its a good transition vehicle from an SUV or truck. Crash test results are excellent.
Stock tires stink, get rid of them. Brakes feel mushy, and I'm not a fan of rear drums although they seem to work OK. Seat needs better lower back support. The fog lights are essentially useless although they look cool. A bit more power would be nice.