I've driven BMW, MG, Healey, and the German-designed '97 Ford Escort is as much pleasure and fun as all of those. The car is an uber-reliable and sound vehicle if proper care and maintenance is taken and no stupid-loud stereos installed to shake it to bits. Most of the performance issues are readily deal with by installing sportier tires and with very few minor modifications, the sportier handling is that much more. This is an in-city sport-commuter crossover, not a sports car and not a luxury road boat, so don't bash it for not being what it wasn't designed to be or for user failure to maintain.
I hope I don't jinx myself, but my Escort seems indestructible. I bought it with 72,000 miles and it just turned over 237000! It runs like a champ and gets 33-34mpg consistently. It still has the original clutch, struts, and even exhaust system! I would not hesitate to drive it cross-country. I typically change the oil at around 4K- 5K miles (most of my miles are pretty easy, few city miles) and it is never more than 1/2 quart low on oil. I love my Escort and will be very sad when I finally have to replace it. I'm shooting for 300,000 miles!
I have a metalic green (love the color) 1997 Ford Escort LX and it has been the best investment I have ever made. I have owned this car over 11 1/2 years and have had only small issues with the vehicle outside the routine maintanance up until recently 145,000 miles(starting to burn oil). First of all; the cup holders were to shallow to hold big cups which triggered spilled drinks if making quick turns. The rear stock springs cracked shortly after I had the car but drove it for 9 years anyway. The front tie rods are a stress point which wear out quick if you do a lot of quick radius turning. I guess I can't complain about 40,000 miles when the replacement parts are less than $100.00.
Got this as my first car. I purchased it with 81,000 miles and 6 years old for $1200!!! A steal!!! The only things it has ever needed is basic wear and tear items. 175,000 miles now and the water pump and timing are still original. Still run conventional oil with no leaks. AT does not slip and has no leaks as well! This has been my greatest purchase ever!! I wish Ford would make another one. I would buy another one in a heartbeat!!!
I had to say something when I saw the posts bashing the sedan's performance. The Escort line has a long rally racing heritage and our other cars were BMW 3 and 5 series--there was practically no difference between them and our little Escort when it came to driving fun and handling. We're 12 years and 132,000 miles and the only repairs came from someone hitting us and two recalls that involved the air bags and seat belts. If Ford still made these, we'd be buying another one as an added vehicle, but sadly they want to focus on the Festiva instead.