I've owned my Focus for 3 years now. I've put about 20,000 miles on it, and about $3,000 in repairs. I was told that the body is German engineering, and the front suspension is by ford....which is where the majority of the problems have been. Replaced the struts, ball bearings, etc ($1600 and $300-ish), and I still think there's something wrong with the suspension. Also had a distributor problem which caused the car to run at half power (cost about $500 to repair) Recently replaced the coolant reservoir and cooling fan ($380), and am saving up for repairs for an EGR issue (check engine light is on). Car gets about 27 MPG, and is super fun to drive when...it runs well.
The general look, tight steering, and quiet interior. Back seats fold down completely for extra cargo space. It's super comfortable, and fits tall and short people well. Zetec engine has pep. Car has kind of a cult following online, so it's fun to be a part of it.
Cup holders are designed poorly. It would have been a much better car if Ford hadn't meddled. Back breaks squeal (common problem with this year). Volume button on radio never works right. Has had several recalls, but it's very hard to track them down.
I bought this car when it was 5 years old with 67k miles. It did well for me the first year I owned it, but then I started having all kinds of problems: The vibration of the SOHC is so intense, I had to replace the motor mounts twice; the factory fuel pump went out (which I heard was a common occurrence for these cars); a power window cable snapped; the CD player started skipping, even with new CDs; and a valve seat fell out of the engine at 95k miles. Considering the age and miles of the car when I bought it, I didn't mind so much of the repairs though it did pull a chunk out of my wallet having been a college student at the time. The engine finally died at 137k.
Gas mileage was fantastic avg 31mpg highway with automatic transmission, tight steering, low road noise, cargo space, and stereo sound quality.
I was never crazy about it's huge rear exterior, but that may be just because I'm picky. Also, SOHC is a rare and expensive engine to maintain.
Bought this new in 2001 and now use it as a second car. Much more fun to drive than my Camry. Takes the Western Pa hills and curves with ease. Very reliable. Only had to replace the spark plug wires after about 70,000 miles.
Responsive handling, roomy interior, easy access to all areas, visibilty.
Engine is course when cold. Road noise. Could use flanges on wheel wells to prevent stone chips on the sides.