My Focus was the first car I'd ever purchased, and while I wanted an affordable car, I didn't want to settle for the typical stripped down, no-frills, econobox. It has a lot of power and speed for a compact; press the accelerator and it gets moving. It also has some "luxury" features, like cruise control, Sync, a 6-disc CD changer, and satellite radio, that you can't normally get in a car that costs less than $20k. The gas mileage is also phenomenal for a non-hybrid car. While using it just for my incredibly short commute that consists of more parking lots and sitting at red lights than actual driving, it gets about 18 MPG. Get it out on the highway and 40 MPG isn't out of the question.
Sync, satellite radio, big trunk, high gas mileage, wonderful visibility (through the side and rear-view mirrors, I can easily 4-5 lanes of traffic - great because I live in the DC area)
More back seat legroom, more spacing between seats and the gear shifter/emergency brake, better/more interior lighting (There's no "dome light" per se, just the little reading/map lights in the front; they don't illuminate the back at all.)