Paul, interesting reading, thank you. I have only had mine for 5 months (and 11,000 miles), and the only similar problem I have had is with the sidelight bulbs - both of mine have gone in this short time also. Mine has had the now familiar rear suspension problems, and the clutch master cylinder recently left me stranded.
As Calzone said, these sort of things could well be considered normal wear and tear. I must admit that I love the car, even with these little problems, but am left with the feeling that it is a little 'fragile', for want of a better word. I have done over 100,000 miles each in my previous two cars (Omega and Rover 75) and never had even the slightest problem - price you pay for some soul I guess. I certainly would not swap back at the moment.
Finally, a question for any of the 166 owners reading this. My car will be due the 60k service in a couple of months, and I am thinking that i may get the cambelt done early at the same time. My thinking is that:
a) the 60k service is a large one anyway, and it sounds as though the engine comes apart quite a bit to fit new plugs - cambelt may not add much to the job
b) I am pretty anal about cambelts ever since my wife's Fiesta belt went a couple of years ago. That engine was not a pretty sight.
Anyone care to comment on this thinking?