Right. Firstly, I want you to realise that all my comments come relative to MY experience of driving cars. I.E. A few test drives, a bit behind a Nissan Micra, and from what I have heard. My scores are compared to what I consider to be a standard car: Micra.
Performance is a good place to start. It gets a 9 because this should really be two separate categories. Performance and Handling. Performance (i.e. acceleration and top speed) and handling (i.e. cornering).
It is listed as hitting 60 in 8.5 seconds. I can dispute this, as my extensive (and obviously highly scientific!) testing came out at 7.5-8 seconds, with a full car. 1st and 2nd have a strong surge, sending you back into the seat. 3rd has a good surge, and 4th and 5th are a little light on power. The only downside of all of these gears (except 1st), is that there is a little delay in reaching the power surge. It hits at about 4000rpm, but doesn't let up until around 5500rpm. In practical terms; this can beat most average cars off the lights. An MX-5 will be no problem for example. Neither will a Fiesta Zetec S. A BMW 330 is about the most comparable. (That was a very close race!) Performance on this side of things gets a 7.
Handling more than makes up for it. The handling is awe inspiring. It took me a while to find the handling, as I was fairly restrained at first. However, take it down the back roads or forest lanes and let loose! The handling is crisp and direct, with the back of the car lending a slight hand in taking corners when needed. Fantastic. I have never been beaten on the twisties, and I think that only a new Mini, or something much more expensive, would come close for ease of handling. Handling and steering gets a 10.
I have had a few little problems. Nothing serious. I do however have doubts about the long-term durability of this car. Just a gut-feeling.
The car is highly comfortable. The seats are large enough, but small enough. They hold you nicely in place through corners and support my back and shoulders. My neck aches after a long drive, but that is the way I sit. Back passengers? Don't bother. However, I am not a cabbie, and thus do not care about back seats. Front seats have lots of room and are more than comfortable: thus an 8.
Dealer: 5. Rubbish. Made a nice deal to clinch the sale, but after sales was crap. CD player multi-changer was not checked (they said it was). It took one and a half months to repair it as the garage then coded it wrong twice! In short, they care not, once they have sold it to you.
Running costs are nothing outlandish for something of this nature. It drinks petrol fairly quickly, so lots of short and fast journeys will see no more than 180-200 miles on a £25 tank of fuel. Insurance is OK, but not for me (being 18).
For anyone that wants something fast, and that handles well: get this. It is not much slower than the Racing Puma (which at £6000 more is ridiculous) or a Honda Civic Type R, or Mini Cooper. Only thing is, it is a little bit more classy. It is a better all round package, and it handles better than the Type-R (which I have test driven).
Yes it has quality problems. But I guarantee that there are very few cars where the chassis and the engine complement each other so well.
One and only problem. It's a Ford. Not badge prejudice. They just cannot look after their customers.