I agree. The CVH engines are rough, but they are certainly not Crap! They were a bit past it certainly after 1990 when the mk5 Escort/mk3 Orion was launched, but like said above, they were extremely tough! The 1.6 EFi engine in particular isn't bad and as it can develop 105/108BHP (Even the latest Ford Duratec 1.6i 16valve engine doesn't produce that much) it was no slouch! The 1.4 CVH seemed to go on for ever, and was used in the Escort right up to 1998! What a lot of people forget also is that the CVH engines are supper simple to work on, as are the Endura-E engine in the Ford Ka (Formally known as the 1.3 HCS engine I think). This is partly why the Ford Ka is the cheapest car in Britain to maintain and run! I always thought also, that when Ford gave the CVH line the option of fuel injection (1990 also) it made a huge difference to them - My friends Mk5 1.4L J-reg Escort feels a LOT smoother than my 1.4LX Mk2 Orion does - But it is the same engine other than fuel injection and carburettor.
The Zetec engines (Zeta when first launched in 1.8litre form in 1992) were long overdue, but I seem to recall also that initially the Zetec engines were troublesome and not as good as they should have been either! Having said that, I wouldn't mind an Orion Ghia Si one bit ;)
There were initial problems with sticking valves on the Zetec until about '95. However after owning a Zetec Escort I can tell you the engine is a lot smoother and is also a lot better at the top-end, although around town somewhat sluggish. Just don't take it over 4000 revs or it sounds like it's gonna explode!!!