I bought this four-banger ("Sport" version) when it was 3-years old. It's performed very well. Excellent mileage on the highway but just OK in the city. Really good handling was always noted by the critics and anyone who drives my car is surprised by its performance. It has a somewhat bland/odd exterior. Critics complained the legroom in the back wasn't enough. To me it's fine unless you have long legs. There is a persistent problem with a switch for the heater/AC control. It's a recall so it gets replaced when it breaks (every 3-years or so) for free. The timing belt broke at about 65,000 miles, a few miles beyond when the manual says to replace it. Be warned.
Big windows...great visibility. Excellent durability of paint/finish.
Better cup holders. Annoying "Check engine light" that comes on intermittently. Dealership says it's a common problem but there's nothing to worry about...which has been true over 9 years.
Ford - Drive One? I had a 1997 Ford Contour GL that was fun to drive and very fuel efficient during its time. I really took care of it as well. However, throughout my experience of driving it since August 1997, I went through a lot of adversity with it in the long run as far as recalls and parts replacement is concerned. I had a lot of stuff replaced in this car; it did cost x-amount of dollars for repairs. Other than that, the car ran pretty good during its time until a major oil leak occured; it was gonna cost thousand of dollars to fix. As a result, it was goodbye for me driving a Ford around March 2009. After that, I went out and bought a 2009 Honda Civic LX Sedan as a replacement.
I bought it new in early 1998 and the first tune-up according to manual was after 10 years. Never had a problem with reliability. I drove it up and down the east coast and into Canada and I must write that it is indeed reliable and low maintenance. The color looks like it is just 3 years old. I am proud of the 97 Ford Contour After 10 years, it still has no rust and the paint is still shiny considering the it is never garaged.
Low maintenance, reliablity, low gas consumption even after 10+ years.
I bought my car used with 125K and I have to say it's been the best car I have ever had. Yes it does have the small minor problems such as leaking in the trunk, and the cupholder. This car gets me to school, work, and through my daily task. This is my first car but there was no way I got robbed with it. I definitley gets up and go when you need it too. Gas mileage is great in this car, I get about 28 mpg to 32mpg. Overall the best car ever.
Standard (5 speed)
More room in the back seat, which they already did in the 1999 version.
Bought this car new for my wife and it lasted 11 years and 140,000 miles and it's still going. Great while the kids were young but too small now. Front seats are suprisingly comfortable for a small car. I wish they still made them because this would be great for my kids when they become new drivers.