There are many bad reviews on this car. Even Consumer Reports says to avoid it. But so far, our 1998 2.0L SE, after nearly 80K miles and 8 years of driving, has had few problems. Total repairs for 8 years comes to about $1500.00. Quite reasonable. We bought it in 1999 when it was a one year-old demo. It has performed much better than our 1994 Ford Taurus 3.8L V6 which has had two blown head gaskets, one just recently. After 140K miles on the Taurus, we now have to get rid of it, though we had planned to keep it indefinitely. The Contour has been a much better car overall!
Fun to drive. Very economical on gas. Excellent heater and A/C. Handles very well with good performance tires (currently Bridgestone).
Ford stopped producing this car and replaced it with the Focus, which also had problems when it first came out. So far, Ford has not learned how: 1) To really take care of its customers when there are problems. 2) To produce a really good car that appeals to the masses. Ford is about to go belly-up.