This 1996 Ford Escort was my first car, bought used from a family friend. At first look it seemed old, ready to fall apart and basically a realy piece of junk. 45, 000 miles later, I can't say that I agree with my initial feelings.
I bought this car with 86, 000 miles on it, expecting that it would last maybe a year or so. Right away I had to replace a few things including the alternator and brakes, but nothing that isn't expected to have to be replaced around 100, 000 miles. After those replacements, the car ran great!
Gas mileage is wonderful. Right now I get between 29 and 36 MPG. I certainly can't complain. I just wish the car were a little more comfortable and I would love to drive it long distances. Some downfalls are the lack of comfortable seats, no cruise control, and a fairly loud engine. Also, the speedometer went after a few thousand miles which is a common problem with this car.
After owning this car for about 2 years, one day it just stalled and wouldn't turn on. It ended up that the head gasket went, along with one of the pistons. That set me back about $1, 000. It was worth the price though; the car has ran well ever since (knock on wood) and it saved me from having to pay a few thousand more for a new car.
If you're looking for a good used car that has great gas mileage and is relatively cheap, I would definitely recommend this 1996 Ford Escort. You may run into a few bumps withthings breaking, but as long as you take good care of it, you shouldn't have any major problems!