Which used Ford Escort hatchback should I buy?
Buy as new a car as you can and, preferably, a Finesse model with a 1.6 petrol engine. In its last years, the Escort range shrank to just two models, and this was clearly the better one. It has metallic paint, alloy wheels, air-con and a CD player as standard.
There's also a cheaper model, the Flight, but this has no air-con or alloy wheels, so we wouldn't bother with it.
Our favourite 1.6-litre engine may be a bit coarse but it is willing, tough and reasonably economical. There was also a fairly frugal 1.8, introduced in 1998 in higher-trimmed cars, but the 1.6 is good enough to make it relatively pointless.
The real alternative is the 1.8 turbodiesel, which is noisy, slow and thirsty. It also needs frequent maintenance, so we'd steer well clear of it. Whatever you choose, hunt down a one-owner, low-miler from the classifieds.