I traded in my Firebird (to give you a little back story) because the Firebird was (kindly put) garbage. I needed to get out, and since I wanted something smaller and lower maintenance, I shopped around. The Focus was the winner after many comparisons.
The car is zippy, even for an automatic transmission. It has enough power to merge with traffic and pass when needs-be, but still maintain livable gas mileage. I've been getting a breath over 24 miles per gallon in town, and about 27 on the highway (I drive fast). The performance is fun without being so garish as to attract, ahem, legal attention. Perhaps it's the color.
The exterior styling is sporty, if a bit ostentatious. I do like the slant nose and the wide stance. The rear of my hatchback is a bit bulbous, but it's a hatchback! I wish they had color-keyed the door handles instead of the black plastic, but otherwise the car looks good.
Interior-wise, it is astonishingly spacious. I'm six feet tall, and most of my friends are at least that tall. We can get four in my Focus with head and leg room to suit them all. Entry and exit are a bit tough with the two doors, but I've accepted that quirk. The interior pieces aren't cheap-looking like may American cars in this class, including other Fords (ZX2, and even the Mustang). Everything is placed in easy reach and the seat adjusts several ways, including height. My only complaint about the seat is that it has these supports on either side of the bottom, where you sit. Woe to you if you sit down onto one--they are stiff and they'll sting you. If you enter and sit properly, the seats are supportive and comfortable.
The car rides quietly and drives smoothly. It is subject to some windshear with its higher profile, but I find that it gives you plenty of control on the road. There are no squeaks and rattles, which were rampant in my Firebird, and it carries a good amount of cargo with no argument. Standard CD player was a must! The sound system is excellent as has been mentioned in other reviews. One other strange note--this car, when I bought it, did not offer a power moonroof. I have the factory-installed manual, which I don't mind and almost prefer.
Overall, I've put oil and gas in it and rotated the tires. I get my oil changed every 4000 miles and put regular gas (petrol for my Brit friends) as required by the manual and have had zero trouble and maximum satisfaction. I hope the resale value reflects the car's actual worth instead of its manufacturer. I'll take this car over a Honda Civic any day, which should say something considering the Honda's proven track record.