Well, the Ford Orion is not a car you'd buy for cool image or to impress your friends.
However, if you can live with the pipe and slippers image, it's a great car to drive. Acceleration is awesome, especially for a car this size, and can have tears in the eyes of a few supposedly fast hatchback owners. And that's despite tall gear ratios, which give the car good fuel mileage on long journeys and the ability to cruise happily at over 100 miles per hour.
It's a roomy car, too, with an incredible amount of boot space. As a student, I recently had to move most of my possessions to a new residence, and the Orion coped admirably, even keeping up nicely with other traffic (no need to thrash the engine) despite being fully laden.
The car is more comfortable over bumps than the hatchback Escort, and has quite a nice ride if nothing particularly special. The LX model is also fairly well equipped; mine has a sunroof, electric front windows, central locking, rev counter and various other small luxuries. No power steering is a little bit of a let-down, but the steering isn't very heavy at all.
Costs are also good; almost all the servicing and parts have cost less than I've expected. The economy takes a bit of a dive in traffic, but out on the open road it doesn't get through fuel excessively, and is quite good considering the 1600 engine.
The car handles tidily and has plenty of grip, even in the wet, although you're still reminded that it's quite a big car if going fast. The engine also has a nice note under acceleration.
I was expecting to be disappointed (remembering a 1.4 Escort of the same generation), but in fact the Orion has been a pleasant surprise to own and drive. I'd recommend one to anyone who needs a solid motorway cruiser or family machine and doesn't want to give up performance or spend a mint.