My "new" (2000 model year) Escort ZX2 with the S/R package is a fun, comfortable car with plenty of interior space for groceries, etc. The steering is a little heavy (61/39 weight distribution contributes to this). The radio, a/c, rear defroster controls are in the center of the console, a big reach for a short person. The 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS stop the car quickly, even from high speed, with no swerving or sliding. The infinite seat back rake adjustment makes it easy to find your personal "fit". The S/R package adds horsepower, front and rear swaybars and a performance clutch and pressure plate; however, the base ZX2 design, fit and finish, ergonomics and handling are very good.
I bought mine brand new. The only things I have had to replace yet are the alternator, timing belt,and the clutch master cylinder. It has been a great car and will still leave rubber behind if I get on it. 151 thousand miles and still running strong. I have a 5 speed and have had NO issues with the transmission. Keep up on the maintenance and you won't have any problems.
Ive had this car for two and a half years now and regrettably looking to get rid of. As a student i dont have time to fix the massive oil/coolant leak and fix whatever is making it run lean. had about 140000 miles now and got it with 116000. Replaced clutch at about 130 both tie rods, timing belt, turn signal switch and regular maintenance. Great when it's working, but here always seems to be a problem. I will admit i did drive it pretty hard delivering pizzas.
I have owned this car for just under a year and am happy with it. It has 140000 miles, but still runs strong. Not the prettiest car inside or out, but for a family on a budget with a teenager that just started driving, this is a great car