This is a highly rated car, believe it or not. And it's an all Ford design,
not a rebadged Mazda. In fact, Mazda used this Ford for their own, not the
other way around. You'll find a 2.0 liter engine, but I'm not sure if it'll
be the SOHC or DOHC variety. I've owned both and both are exceptionally
durable power plants.
I bought a 1997 Escort new, which is essentially identical to the one you're
looking at, and it was flawless for the 140k miles I owned it. Like a
dummy, I traded it. I wish I still had it.
I never got less than 30mpg with the 5 speed. Usually a trip would bring
37mpg fairly well loaded. I can't think of a single weak spot on this car.
Someone mentioned a possible spring flaw, but I can't verify that. Just
look for abnormal rust on the coil springs and good maintenance. You should
be good to go.
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