Don't ever buy Ford! This Contour, at 6 years and 100,000 miles, was a nightmare since I bought it in '02 at 46K miles. The car's trade-in value is about $1500; that's a 6-year-old car that was $21,000 new! The BIG problem is that to get even that low trade value I have to make repairs of about $1500 (the catalytic converter, about $1200, and the oxygen sensor). Basically, that brings the value of the car as it is to $ZERO. I called Ford, they won't pay for the converter (warranty expired at 80K). The V6 engine is crammed and labor around it is VERY expensive (the alternator at 70K miles and again at 80K, A/C line at 60K, A/C clutch at 85K about $850).
V6 engine + 5-speed manual transmission, hard to beat combination. Great ergonomics, good space, at least in front. The Sport SE package is a delight to drive. Great exterior looks, especially with the alloy wheels.
Very poor RELIABILITY! Had many problems, all around the engine bay, very pricey labor for the 6 cylinder engine models.