Used 1997 Ford Aspire Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

This Kia-built entry-level Ford gets a higher final drive ratio on models equipped with an automatic transmission. New wheel covers, paint choices and interior trim are the only other changes.

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 antilock 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. 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. We have received considerable mail from people who have rented the Aspire when on budget vacations or cheap business trips who were horrified to discover that the car was unable to maintain freeway speeds when confronted with the most innocuous of inclines.

Aspire is surprisingly roomy inside, and the dashboard houses easy-to-read, if basic, instrumentation. Base prices start at just under $8,600 and can climb to a maximum of just over $14,000 for a fully loaded five-door hatch.

This year Ford limits revisions to interior/exterior color changes, new wheel covers, and a higher final drive ratio on models equipped with an automatic transmission .

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. Beware of inexpensive program cars, though, chances are that they have been driven at or near redline by Hertz renters in Orlando for all of their 20,000-30,000 miles.

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.