I bought my SE Wagon in 2008 with 155,000 miles on it from a private sale for $2,500. 5 years later, it now has 230,000 miles on it and is still running great... but unfortunately the New England winters have taken their toll and the car cannot even be safely lifted on a jack anymore. Would cost thousands to get the proper body work done, so going with a newer car. Mechanic even told me 12 months ago "this will probably be your final sticker, you won't want to pay the bill next year." That said, the car got me this far very reliably, with very little cost. I got 30 MPG, the only repairs/maintenance I did was oil changes, brake and tire replacement. I feel I got a great value in the 5 years.
Reliability, the fact that the engine/transmission run great, very few repairs, very smooth ride, lots of space in the wagon interior. I used the roof-racks to haul 4X12' drywall panels without any issues (with help of 2X4s).
Unfortunately, biggest complaints with the new 2013 Focuses are that the auto-trannies are crap and dying after 10,000 to 20,000 miles... main thing keeping me from buying another. This car, I have 230,100 on original engine + auto transmission...
Make car more corrosion-resistant. Car was washed in winter but still the body is junk after 11 years. Many cars here are much older and bodies in much better shape. Also went through plate-light holders like crazy due to corrosion of the holder - replaced 3 times, not expensive but time-consuming. However, I would say if you don't live in the rust-belt, then this is a very good car and a great value.
I purchased my '01 Focus Wagon SE from a dealership in 2011 with ~190,000 mi on it for $2850. It has been almost 2 years now and this car has given me almost no grief.
The A/C went out once (A/C is a luxury anyways, who cares?), front coil springs had to be replaced, and the muffler hit the ground once while going over a speed bump (temporarily fixed it with shoelaces, haha)
All in all, great performance; great value!
I would prefer larger rims/tires (scraped the underneath of the vehicle going on a slightly-uneven gravel road--ouch!), and also wish the interior was a little more friendly for tall folks (it was somewhat hard to get comfortable driving when I first purchased this vehicle).