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 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 I will list the problems I have had with this vehicle, which I'm sure is no suprise to you the readers. Engine stalls cold. Battery discharges after a couple of days. Window fell of track (drivers side). Engine Idle RPM varies while stopped in traffic. Overheating came because Ford had used a plastic not metal impeller for the water pump. The whole engine wiring had to be replaced because it was falling apart (the plastic insulation). Fan not working light comes on despite you actually seeing the fans working. Now brake pedal is intermittently hard to push during stop. Happens without warning. Now for the interesting part..This vehicle of my original ownership only has 17780. Presently
My Contour has treated me well. The heater switch failure was recalled and the cupholder was redesigned (97) to not spill on your passenger when taking left hand turns. After 96, Ford made 15" wheels standard for a smoother ride and eventually the 6 cylinder was standard. Why Ford discontiues a car if all the bugs are worked out, I don't know. Maybe the Engineers are bored have to "Focus" on some other problem. My Contour still handles and runs well at 92000 miles.
I bought my Contour used and have put a lot of happy miles on it. It has the largest standard wheel/tire combo available and I suspect the engine management chip may have been tweaked by a previous owner. It handles like a dream, virtually the same as my '03 Focus SVT (it helps that it's lower and wider than the SVT). Power from the Zetec 4 is quite adequate for occasional gusto driving, and works well with the OD automatic transmission. The state troopers once gave me a certificate that it can indeed go 92 MPH without breathing too hard. The only costly maintenance has been to replace the timing belt at 60k miles as recommended.