Used 1996 Ford Aspire Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1996

The Aspire loses the SE trim level and several items of standard and optional equipment. Four new colors debut.

Vehicle overview

Commonly known among Ford salespeople as the "Expire" because of its asthmatic acceleration, the Aspire replaced Ford's spunky Festiva in 1994. Originally, the Aspire was the only subcompact available with standard dual airbags and optional anti-lock brakes. Now, all subcompacts on the market offer standard dual airbags and optional antilock brakes.

The Aspire is available in three- or five-door hatchback body styles, in a single trim level. The uplevel SE sport variant, which included little more than additional trim and features, has been canceled for 1996. A torquey 63-horsepower engine motivates the Aspire, but the optional automatic transmission effectively severs what little power it is able to transmit to the front wheels.

Aspire is surprisingly roomy inside, and the dashboard houses easy-to-read, if not basic, instrumentation. Base prices start at just over $8,500 and can climb to a maximum of about $14,000 for a fully loaded five-door hatch.

This year Ford drops several standard and optional items from the Aspire's equipment roster. Formerly optional premium and compact disc audio systems are no longer available, and aluminum wheels have been dropped. The front chin spoiler has been deleted, and the passenger seat back memory feature is gone from the three-door model. New is a standard storage bin in place of last year's rear seat ashtray, and four new colors are available.

Aspires are affordable and reliable, but there are other models in this class that offer the same with much more go power. We can only recommend the base three-door model with a manual transmission, because prices escalate quickly once the options are added, pushing the Aspire into Hyundai Accent territory. Pile the options on and you might as well buy the bigger, more powerful Ford Escort. Stick to the basics, and the Aspire is a good value, especially when the local Ford dealer offers them up for a big discount in price.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.