Car was badly abused when I bought it. It was my first car that I bought myself, and the guy sold it to me without telling me its history (which I found out later)... not terribly honest of him.
The car was apparently taken off-roading in some woods by some kids trying to kill it. When then found they couldn't after trying a few times, they sold or gave it to the guy who I bought it from. Being rolled several times, explains why the front end shimmied horribly on the highway, and the body was all dinged up.
The engine smoked pretty bad when I had it. It used about a quart every 300 miles (about 1 quart per fill up).
The Aspire is not a terribly spectacular car. It's fairly slow, even with a 5 speed, and mine didn't handle too well (I'm attributing that to the woodland escapades). I do remember the turning radius being very tight, and the brakes worked well.
One good thing about this car is it never had a spot of rust, something I didn't notice until I started reading reviews from other drivers. Apparently the metal used for the body is either treated or a special alloy that resists corrosion, which is nice in New England with the salty air and salty roads during the winter.
The ground clearance on this car was also pretty good. For such a small car, it sat fairly high off the ground, which is nice when going over things, but makes the car wobbly on the highway.
Ford overlooked the wiper design for some reason, and if you're going over 55mph, the wipers will skid across the windshield instead of wiping. Much faster than 55 (if you can get going that fast), and they'll actually lift off the windshield altogether.
This wasn't a bad first car, especially to learn stick on. I didn't have to do any work to it, despite it being beat up when I got it, although it needed some attention if I was going to keep it. I eventually got t-boned by someone and totaled the car (about $10 worth of damage to his Subaru, and my car was wrecked).
From my understanding, this was a KIA body, with a Mazda 323 engine (friend of mine had a 323 at the time and the engines were identical), and Ford badges. Also, this was the first compact car in the US to be offered with standard airbags (which didn't deploy when I was hit, so I'm guessing they were front impact only).
I don't remember the fuel economy being that spectacular, somewhere in the low thirties.