I bought this used with 40k in 1997 and it now has 230k. A very reliable car. There is no new car that gets 39MPG hwy and is as functional at such a low cost to own. I appreciate that most features are manual (5spd, windows, heater/ac controls) yet still has many conveniences that were very well thought out (see below). I'm glad it DOESN'T have annoying modern features like automatic dome lights (did I leave that on???) and automated door locks (did my car just lock me out???) I always fixed problems and changed oil at 3000mi and the engine still runs strong. Needs shocks which are expensive and is getting rusty in places from northern winters so this might be the end of the road.
I recently took the car to the mechanic for a periodic full check up. My mechanic volunteered the following unsolicited comment: "I wouldn't think twice about taking this car across country. It is in such a good shape." This experience reflects my feelings about the car and my experience with it: "Not a single real problem in all these twelve plus years!". I chose the car because of (1) its fuel economy, (2) its ample room for either people or for loading shopping, (3) its comfort for unloading or loading because: of low back door and back seat down option, and (4) its sporty look. It turned out that to this I should add (a) its dependability and (b) its reliability.
We purchased our Escort wagon used, with approximately 35K miles, from a local Toyota dealer. It was my wife's daily driver for seven years and it never gave her a problem. Two years ago it became my stepson's car and it continues to be an economical and reliable vehicle. With regular maintenance, a Ford Escort of this vintage will reward you as an economical and fun-to-drive car. Our car has needed the typical replacement items over the years such as brake pads, batteries, plugs, and bulbs. Unfortunately, I also had to replace the heater core recently (which is a monstrous job), marring an otherwise excellent history of reliability. Overall, our Escort has been a great little car.
At 200k+ miles, this ten-yr.-old wagon still runs like a champ. Apart from normal maintenance, it has not required any big-ticket repairs. No frills, but good heat/AC, good cargo space, and surprising get-up-and-go. Perfect for errands around town.