1996 Ford Contour Review

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$325 - $835

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

Ford spent $6 billion developing this new "world car," designed to be the best compact in every market in which it was sold. The program tested Ford's ability to utilize all of its worldwide resources to create a car that would streamline production, thereby slicing overhead and building bigger profits.

Who cares? The result is the Ford Contour, and for the average amount of a typical car purchase in the United States today, you can get one loaded up with equipment, with performance and road feel you never would have expected from a sedan made in America. Actually, the road manners of the new Contour are no mystery, given that Ford of Europe did the development work on this car.

Contour replaced the Tempo last year, which in 1984 represented cutting-edge styling but was as stale as flat Diet Coke by 1994. The SE variant of the Contour comes with a 24-valve, twin-cam, 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter V6 engine that doesn't require a tune-up until the 100,000-mile mark. Also included on the SE are a sport suspension, big tires mounted on alloy wheels, and more sporting front seats. Load on air conditioning, power windows and locks, moonroof, cruise, traction control, anti-lock brakes and a CD player with premium sound and the sticker stays under $20,000, with lots of room for negotiation. Contour GL and LX are equipped with a four-cylinder engine, and are surprisingly zippy in feel when mated to the manual transmission. Optional on GL and LX is the uplevel V6.

Much has been made in the automotive press about the Contour's rear seat. Our editor is six-feet tall, and he has never once griped about discomfort in the back seat of the 1995 Contour. Nonetheless, Ford has wisely redesigned the front seatbacks, scooping them out to provide another inch of leg room. Later in the year, the seat cushion will be lowered and moved back to further increase space. We've applauded the high, firm, supportive rear seat of the Contour; hope these changes don't make the Contour's rear seat a mushy, unsupportive, eat-your-knees-for-breakfast affair like those found in the back of the "roomy" Dodge Stratus.

Other changes for 1996 include five new exterior colors, the deletion of the bright chrome strip on the front and rear bumpers, and improvements to shifting effort on the manual transmission. Contour GL models can be ordered with a split-fold rear seat and 15-inch alloy wheels are available on GL and LX. One thing we wish had been changed is the stiff seatback adjustment knob. Why a knob? Credit European design influences. It's hard to turn, and it's hard to adjust while driving. Put a lever on there like a normal American car.

The Contour looks good and handles like higher-priced German sedans. The body structure is stiff, and the ergonomically correct instrument panel features legible dials and well-placed controls. We really like the way the Contour feels, but the Dodge Stratus offers a convincing argument to shop around before buying, unless you pop for the five-speed SE variant.

1996 Highlights

Designers sculpt and adjust interior seating to make more leg- and headroom in the backseat. Five new colors are available and improvements to shift effort on manual transmission models make the 1996 Contour more competitive.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1996 Ford Contour.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Don't buy this junk.
This car has been a nothing but trouble. Every problem requires a trip to the mechanic because the car is designed so you can't fix anything without special tools and disassembly of the entire engine. The water pump is a constant problem having to be replaced twice as well as the timing belt. Engine is continually running hot because of poorly designed coolant system. Doors creak terribly when opened. The car has terrible fuel mileage compared to its small engine and pathetic amount of power. The only plus to this car is the availability of used parts. You can find several of these cars at almost any junk yard. That is where mine is headed shortly.
First, last & only Ford I will ever buy
1996 V6 LX. Bought mine with the Ford 100,000 mile warranty and I am sure glad that I did. I estimate that I had about 12 to $15,000 worth of repairs under that warranty. Hood, roof & trunk painted twice. 4 Catalytic Converters. A/C, Power Seats & Right Power Window all failed. Just about every sensor in engine has been replaced at least once. Constant thump from rear suspension that was never fixed. Persistent stalling problem. Finally at 110,000, I dumped $2500 into it to try to fix the stalling problem to no avail. Traded it in for $1500 and bought a Camry.
This car has been nothing but trouble. I have had many sets of brakes, new calipers and new caliper kits, new rotors. Several recalls for the blower and the blower switch. I had all new fuel lines and fuel sensors, o2 sensors replaced on 2 occasions. The cup holder holds 1 can drink and has been broken for a long time and it cost $80.00 for a new one. I have had to replace the moonroof motor. The switch for the windows is broken and it is $50.00 just for the part. If this car had been driven hard before I got it I could understand. But, I bought this car new. It had 7 miles on it when I drove it from the lot. I will NEVER buy another Ford product.
I had a lot of problems with the car after 60,000 miles. Around 70,000 to 80,000 most people who own this model will need to get a new transmission. The check engine light now around 90,000 is constantly on. I am about to get rid of it and I don't even want to sell it to anyone, I am trading it in for a Honda Civic.


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Ford Contour

Used 1996 Ford Contour Overview

The Used 1996 Ford Contour is offered in the following submodels: Contour Sedan. Available styles include GL 4dr Sedan, SE 4dr Sedan, and LX 4dr Sedan.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Ford Contour?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 1996 Ford Contours are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1996 Ford Contour for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1996 Ford Contour.

Can't find a used 1996 Ford Contours you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Ford Contour for sale - 6 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $16,882.

Find a used Ford for sale - 11 great deals out of 17 listings starting at $16,109.

Find a used certified pre-owned Ford Contour for sale - 8 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $21,171.

Find a used certified pre-owned Ford for sale - 7 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $24,845.

Should I lease or buy a 1996 Ford Contour?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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