So far, I have had no major mechanical problems, or even minor ones for that matter.
However, it seems like the interior is a wee bit shoddy as little plastic pieces keep breaking off in various locations. For instance, the passenger-side seat tilt handle broke off completely, and I think the glove box handle's next. The interior in my Mitsu Eclipse was much more solid.
Also, the backseat seat-belts are completely broken. They *look* like the work, but they just... don't.
There's a really annoying rattle or buzz that comes from the dash at high speeds. It's difficult to pinpoint.
The overhead light (behind the map lights) doesn't work properly either. It seems to have its own ideas about when to come on and off, no matter which setting I use (on/off/door).
Both front speakers have blown in the year and a half that I've owned the car, and I wouldn't say that I listen to music particularly loud. I keep it *inside* the car, and mostly faded to the back speakers. No idea how those front two went.
Other than that, no problems. :)
The Escort's interior is a bit awkward. I don't see any reason why a larger center console wasn't included for tapes/cds and the like. I DO like the rear cup holder - it keeps the guests from messing up my car. The integrated control panel (the big oval on the dash) is a bit annoying, but livable. Things just aren't located in intuitive places inside. And there are no "Oh Crap" bars.
This car definitely handles "cute", although I liked my Eclipse a lot better.
It feels like it's a bit too high off the ground to be sporty, and the 185/60/15's on the wheels aren't exactly sporty either. I think that's why Ford's included wider tires in the Sport package for the 2000 model.
The suspension's nice, and it generally handles well. I can do at *least* 50 on those cloverleaf things on the highway when its dry without feeling a slip.
Even with the air conditioner on and 100 degrees outside in pure Texas heat, the Escort can accelerate quickly enough to keep me interested. My transmission's starting to get a bit sluggish, but I have no after-market parts, good maintenance records, an extended warranty, and a good lawyer, so if it has a real issue at least it's covered. :)