My 1.4 is great, and it's my only Non-IS lens. Buy the hood; I use it to stabilize the camera in my hand and be assured that I'm not interfering with the front element, which moves during focusing.
The focus is great, and it's quite usable at 1.4. The isolation and bokeh it delivers at 1.4 must be seen to be believed.
As for pricing, NewEgg had a 15% off Canon lenses, so I couldn't refuse that offer, and for the mid $300s, it's incredible.
I hesitated for a while before buying, because I usually use my EF-S 15-85, which is an incredible lens (other than the slow variable aperture 3.5 - 5.6, but heads to 4.0 almost immediately and 5.0 still rather quickly), with a 430 EX flash.
But this 1.4 can get shots where that combination can't, like in a dimly-lit restaurant where a flash (especially a real flash rather than a p&s) would be incredibly rude. The slower lens, even with excellent IS at 4.5 or 5.0, couldn't match (and was useless, actually, as opposed to) what I could do at 1/20 second at 1.4 with this lens. Not to mention the background very quickly fading to oblivion.