My 6 cyl. Contour replaced an 88 Subaru that quit at 150K (so you know how hard I am on a car). I purchased the Contour with 60K and now have 117. We have been everywhere from North Dakota to New Jersey, up to the top of the Black Hills on a dirt road and down plenty of country gravel roads as well as cities and interstates. Aside from the mediocre mileage (20-30), it has been a joy to drive, easy on the eye, and much less costly to maintain than the Subaru, though I fear those days are numbered. Only one minor oil leak (compared to the Subaru that must have had a sieve for a gasket) and various this and thats. A nice car, not the most durable out there, but still solid.
Nice looks - like a crouching cat. Sporty but practical. Smooth and powerful ride. Roomy trunk. Nice storage areas between the front seats.
A lower brake pedal would have been nice. It was almost dangerous at first, because my foot was not used to bending so high to get on top of the pedal. Under dash entry lights not real useful - ceiling light is more important, and the only one was up front.
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.
The only Ford I ever owned was a 63 and a half Falcon V8 Sprint. I have 3, 98GL, 99LX, and 00SE Ford Contours. I bought one and a year later, loved it so much had to buy 2 more just to have in garage next to the Vette. Economy, dependability, and durability is job one on these Contours. I replaced the timing belt in 2 Contours at 75 & 90k just for general principal. Engines and trans have regular filter changes and no problems. A/C's haven't been charged yet. Engine and car electronics, not one problem. Set the cruise on the Rt 80, Mass Pike, MA, at 65 and it will hold its own and still get 35mph. The steering is still tight. The Contours are great fun cars. I may have to get and add an SVT.
Agility, economy, and great response. Plenty of head and foot room and they are just fun vehicles to drive (I thought that I would never be so impressed with a 2.0 engine, yet alone a Ford.) At -15 degrees, turn the key and it starts!
Faithful starting, efficient, rear trunk trickle leak from above in process of repair, regular maintenance with 3,000 mile oil changes, traveled half of East Coast, mostly a commute car, comfortable, about to do 90,000 mile maintenance, spent too much time diagnosing and dealing with problem locally. Ford dealership found problem and quickly and resolved, zeroing in on specific problem area with computer diagnosis.