2000 Focus SE Wagon - To Buy, or Not to Buy?

Hi there. Looking for a little advice. My wife and I are in the market for a used vehicle, and one we've come across that we particularly like is a 2000 Focus SE wagon. It's got about 48k miles
on it, and is nearly spotless inside and out. It's had 2 previous owners; the last one was an older fellow who had it from 9k miles onward. He took it in for all the recalls and performed the regular maintenance like clockwork (oil change every 2500 miles, etc.). He reportedly never had any problems with the car. I took it out for a test drive and found nothing wrong; I thought it handled nicely. The dealer is asking about US$6700 for it. Overall it seems like a pretty darn good deal. It's even nice to look at.
However... we checked out the Consumer Reports guides and some other online references, and it seems that the Focus in general, and the 2000 models in particular, lacks reliability. The brakes and some of the interior hardware (seat mechanisms, seatbelts, etc.) are reportedly the biggest trouble areas, followed by the electronics and body integrity (seals, weatherstripping, squeaks, rattles, and so on).
Other cars we've been looking at are a 2002 Mercury Sable with 55k miles (offering price also around US$6700) and a 1996 Subaru Outback with 93k miles (~$6300). Haven't gotten to take either of this for a spin yet, nor do I know much of anything about their histories.
So what do you folks think? Have those of you who own Focuses (esp. 2000 models) found them to be more or less unreliable than other cars? Does the fact that this particular car has been so well-maintanted and apparently trouble-free counterbalance the Focus' poor reputation for reliability?
I'd be grateful for any advice or information.
Thanks, Jesse B.
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Yes the early models had some problems, although generally not as bad as parts of the media, and Consumer Reports in particular, said. The problems were all cleared up by 2002, but Consumer Reports only got around to admitting that in the last few months. They have now been forced by facts to give it a top rating.
I have a 2000 wagon which has had a couple of problems, but now runs like a top. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend even 2000 and 2001 Focuses as used cars. Generally any problems have been fixed and any further ones that do occur are easily repaired at a competent dealership. If the car you're looking at has been well taken care of, it should give you years of fine service.
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We bought a used 2001 focus se wagon with 60,000 miles one year ago.. It had no warranty left
It needed a front brake job, which I did myself, Very easy to do, and cheap to do. I replaced the rotors and front pads
for about $100 Canadian. If you check the brakes about every 10000 miles and replace them before
the rotors are damaged, it should cost about $50 to re do the front.
We then drove it on a 5000 mile trip thru Western Canada, and back thru Montana and Wyoming to Seattle.
The car performed flawlessly. It would drive effortlessly all day at 70-75 mph on the freeway We were amazed at the fuel
economy. Had no further problems until -- Last week the car
would not start, got it towed to a Ford Dealer. They replaced the Fuel delivery module in the gas tank, which was under an 10
year extension to the warranty, and even reimbursed me for the tow.
I would recommend this car anytime. The only negative I find as a long legged person I find you can not bring the
adjustable steering wheel close enough, so I have my arms stretched out too much. My wife has no complaints
Ray

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