Had the car for three months now and I'm delighted so far.
The biggest improvement over the old model is the interior which now matches the likes of the VW Golf in both materials and build quality terms. It's a massive improvement over the old one which looked quite striking, but suffered from cheap looking materials.
The engine is a peach too. Punchy, frugal and very refined as you would expect from an engine that Peugeot helped develop. It's a few PS down on the mk5 Golf 2.0 TDI, but feels quicker thanks largely to a lighter kerbweight. The 6 speed box is slick and positive, and performance is excellent. Even in the 0-60 dash, an area where diesels traditionally look awful, it has been figured independently at 9 seconds on the nose. Midrange and overtaking punch is incredible as you would expect from any modern turbodiesel and once "on boost", the car feels unstoppable.
Handling and ride are almost identical to the old model, and therefore superb, although I don't think the steering feels as positive as it did on the 2000 1.8 (petrol) Zetec I had. The new system is lighter and still gives good feel, but lacks the old model's weighty, almost go-kart like feel. I don't like the exterior styling much either. It's grown on me a little, but after the sharp angles and freshness of the old one (how many big sellers still look good after 6 years in production?), this simply looks dull and a bit dumpy.
Coming to this car from a troublesome mk4 Golf TDI 130 has been a revelation. Better built (so far), more reliable (so far) and significantly cheaper, not to mention quicker, smoother, more spacious, better specified and far more fun to throw around. The only area where the VW does have it licked is economy. The Golf managed 50 mpg average whereas this is nearer 45. Still not exactly a gas guzzler though.
Will post an update after the first service (12,500 miles) unless anything major happens beforehand. Look forward to seeing if the dealers have improved since my Focus 1 days, although they can't be worse than I experienced with the VW.