What's New for 2000
The Contour LX is dropped, leaving either the Contour SE Sport or SVT Contour to pick from. New colors are offered and an emergency trunk-release handle is standard.
There is nothing like a little sibling rivalry to shake things up. The arrival of the 2000 Ford Focus has affected both the Escort and the Contour. Effectively, the Focus will be slotted between the Escort and the Contour in terms of price. To avoid having the Focus steal sales away from the Contour, Ford has taken the Contour upscale, discontinuing the entry-level LX series from 1999.
The 2000 Contour is very similar to the '99 Contour SE Sport. The 2.5-liter Duratec V6, 15-inch, eight-spoke aluminum wheels, rear spoiler, remote keyless entry, body cladding and foglamps are now standard. A 60/40 split-folding rear seat is also standard, though leather seats are no longer available.
Whether these upgrades will help alleviate the Contour's rental-fleet image, we're not quite sure. But we do know that when we've been behind the wheel of a V6-equipped Contour, we've generally had a good time. The V6 is just one part of an equation that makes this car such an excellent purchase for the shallow-pocketed enthusiast. The real excitement of the Contour's driving experience is the result of the car's excellent chassis, suspension and steering. Toss the Contour into a corner, and it's as easy to catch as a softball thrown by a preschooler.
Since its introduction, the Contour has won plenty of awards and has received great press from automotive critics. In 1998, Ford gave the Contour an exterior freshening to make the car more distinctive in the crowded family-sedan marketplace. The interior still receives some gripes, however. It lacks some of the refinement found in competing cars and Ford has never been able to solve the lack of room for rear-seat passengers.
People less concerned about driving and more concerned about spaciousness may want to investigate the Dodge Stratus and Chevrolet Malibu. They aren't as exciting as the Contour, but they can hold people more comfortably. And if you're disappointed that the Contour LX is no longer available, you need not worry-a quick hop to your local Mercury dealership will net you a 2000 Mercury Mystique GS, which is effectively the same thing.