Friends of ours have a Cruze that was new back around 2013. It is already pretty much on its last legs, and it has had multiple major problems all throughout that time. My buddy just bought a new Focus last year, mainly because he had just paid off his last new Focus and had the transmission fail while on a long road trip. Nice.
I have had bad personal experiences with both Ford and GM products in the past, and the companies behind them. If given the two choices here, I'd almost go with the Focus. I would say that among the few I know who still drive "Big 3" products, the Fords seem to get the fewest complaints of the three.
Personally I'd be looking at Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, etc. Even if you go a year or two older than your range to meet your price level, you'll easily be able to put 100,000+ more miles on them with no major issues. Both of these have been made literally for decades, they are affordable to own and operate, and are both safe and fuel efficient. They might be worth looking into.