Used 1997 Ford Contour Review

Edmunds expert review

What's new for 1997

The addition of a Sport Package for the GL and LX models and the inclusion of a standard trunk light are the only changes for the 1997 Contour.

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.

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, antilock brakes and a CD player with premium sound and the sticker stays under $21,000, 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 Duratec V6.

Much has been made in the automotive press about the Contour's rear seat, and after spending a week with one, we found ourselves wishing for more room. Acceptable only for quick trips to the grocery store, the Contour's rear bench will squeeze most adults. The front seats in the Contour are great, offering plenty of room and very good support; not what one would expect in an American compact.

In the last two years, the Contour has won plenty of awards and has received great press from automotive critics. Thus, the 1997 Contour offers very minor changes. The most notable is the newly optional Sport Package which transforms the rather dowdy GL and LX models into attractive sport sedans with the addition of fog lights, aluminum wheels, and a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

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 for people who need more interior room the Dodge Stratus offers a convincing argument to shop around before buying.

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.