The 2.3L Duratec is surprisingly quick, though a bit throaty. From what I've read, it's pretty highly regarded, and I'm pleased with it overall. The only problem is the gear-hunting from the 4-speed automatic when going over hills and mountains. That's to be expected in a 4-cylinder automatic in a fairly large vehicle. But for daily driving, it's wonderful. The CD4E automatic transmission has had some past issues, but from what I've seen and read, they're mostly in the past. With reasonable driving style and proper routine maintenance, I think it will do just fine.
The interior is plain, but nicely laid out. The seats are remarkably comfortable even for a big guy like me. On a recent 1500 mile round-trip, I never once got tired or felt uncomfortable. The steering is superb. The basic single-cd stereo puts out surprisingly nice sound, too. The cupholders are weird, in that the front "hole" is large and well-placed, but the one to the back is small, elevated, and cramped, too small for a larger drink. The fabric looks plain and inexpensive, but so far it seems to hold up well. Control, switches, and knobs were solid and well-placed. The instrument cluster is also plain and somewhat dimly-lit (yes, I turned up the dimmer all the way), but it has everything you need and is positioned fine. The steering wheel seemed a bit far away from a driver with the seat all the way back, like me. But it never really seemed to present a problem.
The cargo area is small, but it's a small SUV. However, the cargo floor is absolutely flat, and I wish it were more recessed. It seems there is some wasted cubic space there, but this is just my personal preference. I also know there are some aftermarket trays you can use after removing the flat cargo board.
The ride is actually pretty decent for a short wheel-base SUV. It's not *nearly* as bouncy as the Jeep Liberty I drove for a couple of days. It's fairly smooth, and it handles superbly in my opinion for that type of vehicle. I tried slightly overinflating the OEM General Tires to improve fuel economy just a bit, but it made the ride much too harsh.
Fit and finish are excellent, and overall it has a solid, good quality feel to it. Doors close with a solid "thunk", and I hear no unexpected rattles or noises.
Our fuel economy runs between 23.5 and 26.0 mpg, depending on the usual variables. Oil changes are a breeze, as both the drain plug and filter are very thoughtfully placed. You won't even need ramps or a jack in most cases.
Overall, I would recommend this vehicle as a good, dependable daily driver and for the occasional road trip.