The dreaded former owner put "stop-leak" in the radiator, which caused multiple cooling problems over the next few years. The cooling problems were compounded by another problem that occurred during this time -- the partial failure of the coolant temperature sending unit for the dash temperature gauge. We now know the gauge consistently registered low. As the temperature gauge was not registering correctly, we had no idea that we were running the engine hot until my wife cracked the head coming back from Dallas one hot summer afternoon in 2000. I have no real estimate how many miles we put on the car while it was overheating. The car had roughly 165,000 miles on it at the time the head cracked and the problems were discovered.
The aforementioned cooling problems also caused 4 A/C compressor failures in the first 3 years of ownership. All cooling related issues have been solved now that the problem was discovered.
The car has actually been quite reliable, considering the treatment of the previous owner. The interior is still flawless and the paint takes a shine well. The Ford/Mazda teamwork on this car has created an impressive car; one worth fixing and continuing to drive.
Performance and reliability have been good. With the exception of the blown head, the car has never left us on the side of the road. The little wagon has averaged 32-33 MPG, with mileage on trips up to 39 MPG.
The car has been modified (Escort GT suspension and other tweaks) and handles well. Other modifications, including a Jasper re-manufactured engine,should result in increased fuel economy.