I really prefer the looks of the 2gens over all the other escorts, but out of the 3gens I think the ZX2 looks the best. I've never driven one though. I do have the ZX2 struts on my car though and I can say it handles pretty nice with them on it, so probably the ZX2 handles the best out of all the escorts.
I have driven all three gen's of escorts, and out of all of them I would have to say the ZX2 is the best. Best acceleration, great handiling in later models (i.e. 2001), best gearing in the trans, and extremley stable at high speeds well over 100. The market for zetec parts is realy growing because of the popularity of the focus. So all around I would recomend the ZX2.
Hell yeah.. the ZX2s (any year except for 98) rock.. I absolutely love mine and although I do miss my 95 lx Nothing could replace my Z... Yeah parts are out there (not cheap) and you really have to watch what you buy because very little of the parts made for the Zetec engine actually fit the ZX2 due to the focus not having the VCT that the ZX2 does (this mostly deals with heads, intakes, and engine dress products) how ever you will be able to use the same throttle bodies, headers, and most pulleys.
Anywho...Great cars, their quick, they stick, and they look pretty damn good just sitting still...