We have had a 2002 Mk2.5 1.8 for a couple of months now and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoy it. We hoped to find a 1.6 but needed one quickly and couldn't find a good one nearby. We got ours from the owner's club site for under 2k including a new tax disc.
We had a similar situation- wife now needs a car to get to work, Polos/Yarises etc for the same money were grim and beaten up and this had been loved and looked after. I have just done 60 miles to work in it today and it was great- it makes going to work feel like an occasion.
I am 5'10" with long legs and find it comfortable. It's very responsive and good up to around 100mph, but it's not really that kind of a car- it's more a car for getting the roof down and enjoying twisty stuff.
We went for a Mk2.5 over a Mk1 because the Mk1s are getting on a bit now and you can get a well loved Mk2 for similar money with a bigger boot, more up to date interior and less work to do. However I was chatting to a Mk1 owner at the weekend and he sounded to have as little bother as we did with his.
It's surprisingly practical in terms of kit, all this (a weekend's race kit, bike, tools, food etc) went in and you can also get a boot lid rack which we are considering for our holiday.
The big thing we were warned about was ensuring that the sills were rust free, ours has had the sills redone by the previous owner. There are plenty about that have had this done.