Great road manners, great performance, expensive to maintain, and in the end, not worth repairing
Everything. Well, seems like it.
-Rear struts and springs needed to be replaced to pass safety inspection. (260k KM) One rear spring was broken in half, both struts were blown and the car looked like it had a full trunk of sandbags.
-e-brake cable replaced for safety inspection, worn out. (260k)
-brake rotors and pads all around also for safety (260k)
-lower ball joints for safety (260k). Both ball joints were badly worn and loose.
-3rd brake light failed and was replaced for safety inspection.
Cost me $1600 for parts and labour to get this car to pass safety inspection!
-Transmission was replaced. 3rd gear synchro was worn out, needed to double clutch up & down shift to prevent grinding, or skip 3rd gear all together. 2-4 shifting sucked. Was able to find a manual transmission from a wreckers for $500 and had it installed for $500. (273km). Used tranny had 216k on it upon installation. Works fine to this day, just very hard to shift on cold mornings and sometimes grinds into 4th gear from a high rpm 3rd gear shift.
-both CV shafts were replaced. Driver's side had worn out, so I figured if that side went, the other side would go soon, so I did both sides. The hanger bearing got stuck and would not release on the passenger side, and two swap both sgafts took 7 days and cost me $700 in parts and labour. (275k)
-both front wheel bearings were replaced. Driver's side had worn out, also did the passenger side as preventative maintenance. $68/ea for the bearings, then $137 for labour to have them pressed. Both were seized in place and would not come out.
-water pump failed on the highway. I knew the stock water pumps were garbage because they had a weak plastic impeller which usually shatters under stress on most cars. When mine failed, I thought mine had shattered, but the belt had actually snapped and the bearing seized, putting an end to my water pump. I installed a new one with a stronger metal impeller and a new belt. 2.5 hour job, fairly simple, did it myself.
-starter motor replaced. The starter motor started sticking on colder mornings, below 2 degrees C. I would start the car and the engine would start running, but the starter would continue turning for 10sec up to as much as 3 minutes before it would stop. Starter motor is a real pain to do on these,4 hours labour and my mechanic cursed me for it. (294k)
-Door locks freeze in cold weather. Common Contour problem. Same with door weatherstripping sticking to the door when you open it on a cold day. Another common problem.
-broken pop up cup holders. Just as useless when they aren't broken though.
-Ran over some already run over roadkill at approx 110kmh at night (raccoon sized). Check engine light immediately came on, and has been intermittent ever since. had the code scanned and was told it is an EGR valve problem. have yet to fix, and probably won't. I won't have the car before it needs it's next emission test.
-squeaky rear door hinges. Even with regular re-greasing, problem comes back within a couple weeks.
-trunk release mechanism does not always pop the trunk. Even after numerous tries. Then I give up and just use the key to pop the trunk.
-fuel door was broken off when I bought the car. I see many '95-97 Contours missing their fuel doors.
-bad paint chips on the front bumper and hood. I had a small chip on my hood the size of my pinky nail, and in 8 months had increased to the width of my fist.
-water leaks into the trunk through the seam in the licence plate frame.
I'm a Contour fan. I have a love/hate relationship with this particular Contour though. I had a hand me down 1998 Mystique GS 2.0L Zetec automatic which I loved, but the automatic with the 4 banger sucked and was horrible on fuel and I decided it was time for a V6 5 speed Contour, and I happened to find this one at the local dealer. Did a straight up trade and just paid the taxed on the V6 car and it was mine.
The V6 with the manual has great power and torque. It's much more powerful than it really needs to be. Cruise on the highway at 80kmh behind grandma, then drop it into 4th and blow her knickers off. The car has great acceleration for high passing or onramp merging. With the right tires, is also a great corner carver and I see myself taking S bends or onramps marked at 40 or 50kmh with ease at 80 to 110kmh with minimal body roll on the stock suspension.
Acceleration is quick, but not deadly fast. I find myself lagging off the line to other vehicles, but once I hit 2nd or 3rd gear they're in my mirrors.
Inside, the interior is well laid out. Front seats are very comfortable, though the seats in the early SE models are the best seats in the world. Leather seats are also awesome, but I just have the regular cloth seats in mine, and they do a great job. 3 hour drives are no problem, when I come to a rest stop, I'd rather keep sitting in the car because I'm so comfortable! However, rear seat legroom is severely lacking and is a huge reason why these cars weren't very successful in the North American market.
The cupholders are useless, and I need to use one of the cardboard drive-thru trays placed on my passenger seat as my morning coffee cupholder.
Controls are well laid out, easy to reach and operate, gauges are easy to read, but I wish I had an oil pressure gauge and voltage gauge, as well as a low fuel warning light. I ran out of gas on my way to the gas station after taking delivery of the car from the dealership.
The stock stereo is terrible, as is the case with most Fords of the era. A Sony head unit and Pioneer speakers cured my case of bad sound.
I have a fullback non-folding rear seatback, which is annoying, because I had 60/40 split seats in my Mystique which always came in handy for carrying larger loads.
Rotary knobs for seatback adjustment are annoying, compared to the lever used on 98-00 models.
Lots of storage space inside. Nice door pockets in the front, large glove box, lots of storage in the armrest console, ashtray, and a little cubby between the radio and ashtray,greay for stowing a cellphone etc, as well as the little change pocket in the dash. The trunk is a generous size as well, but like I mentioned with the fullback rear seat, doesn't make the most of available space as you can with the 60/40 split.
The car rides fairly smooth, and is a great highway cruiser. It's a good all around car for taking mom out shopping and then ripping up some backroads later on.
It's a really good car, and they have great potential when modified. I have an SVT-style catback dual exhaust on my car which has netted me a little more power, and an open element air fiter which gave me a noticeable improvementin low end torque and fuel economy.
My car had high miles when I bought it, and wasn't really mechanically cared for by the previous owner. Everything seemed to break and wear out within a 20 000km stretch and for a couple months the car was in and out of the shop having repairs done. Now, even with almost 300 000km, it runs as well as it ever did and now that almost everything has been repaired, it gives me the peace of mind knowing I probably won't have to worry about much more to go wrong on the car. When it breaks, it breaks hard, but when it runs, it runs well, and gets me almost 600km to a full tank of gas with a lead foot.
This is definetly an awesome car if you want something bigger and better than an Escort, but not as boring as a Taurus. It's a car with some quirky characteristcs, and if you like to fiddle with your cars, it's a good car to play with. The 4 cylinder engine are dead easy to work on and I love the Zetec. The V6,which my car has is a dream to drive, but I hate working on it. Were I to buy another Contour or Mystique, I would buy a 4 cylinder with a manual. I've had too many problems with the V6,and it is very difficult to work on because there is NO space in the engine bay whatsoever.
It's a good used buy, you can pick them up cheap because they aren't worth much unless it's an SVT. I wouldn't pay much more than $5-7k even for 2000 model, even if it did have low miles. It's going to be an expensive car to maintain, and the resale value on them is low anyways, so anyone selling a 98-00 for more than $6500 is usually asking too much. I was able to get my '98 Mystique for $1000,with 211 000km in good shape. This V6 Contour would have cost me $1600,but I got $1000 for the Mystique in the trade in and only owed $600,and then I bought a '95 Contour GL Zetec manual a few months ago as a beater for $650 with 260k KM.
I don't think I'd buy another one though, I'm already on my 3rd one, I think it's time for a change. I'd be tempted by an SVT, but then I'd rethink it because it's got the V6 which I don't enjoy working on. 4 cylinders are great on gas and a hoot to drive with the manual. They are almost as quick as the V6 and also usually cheaper on insurance for younger drivers as well.
My biggest problem though, is you don't pay much money to buy the car, but you'll be spending a ton to fix it, and the way I look at it, I've spent well over a couple thousand dollars fixing my car, and now it's only worth around $500-1000,and has almost 300 000km, so really, I put money into a car that I could have junked and bought a nicer car for $3500-7000.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th February, 2006