Compact car; Built in USA, Canada
  • 2-door coupe
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,000 – $1,500*

1990 Ford Tempo 2-door coupe

1991 Ford Tempo 2-door coupe

1991 Ford Tempo GL 4-door sedan

1992 Ford Tempo 4-door sedan

1992 Ford Tempo GLS 2-door coupe

  • Acceleration (V6)
  • Wet-weather traction (AWD sedan)
  • Acceleration (4-cylinder)
  • No antilock brakes
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Engine noise (4-cylinder)
  • Handling/roadholding

Though no match for Japanese rivals, you still get a lot of car for a very modest number of dollars. If it’s basic transportation that you’re seeking, Tempos are still worth a quick look.


Introduced for 1984, Tempo and the similar Mercury Topaz were facelifted in 1988. The front-drive 2- and 4-door sedans came in two trim levels for 1990: GL and GLS. A top-of-the-line LX edition came only as a 4-door. A driver-side airbag had been optional on 4-doors as early as 1986, though not many were installed. A part-time 4-wheel-drive option debuted in 1987, intended for use only on slippery pavement. This All-Wheel Drive system came only on 4-door sedans. A 98-horsepower 4-cylinder engine went into GL and LX models, while GLS and All-Wheel Drive Tempos got a 100-horsepower rendition.

Yearly Updates

1991 Tempo
Minor refinements to quiet interior were the only notable changes for 1991.
1992 Tempo
A V6 engine became available for 1992 (standard on the sporty GLS), and Four-Wheel Drive departed. Four-door Tempos had a new monotone body and fresh taillights.
1993 Tempo
The sporty GLS faded away, leaving only a base GL 2/4-door and the costlier LX 4-door. The new console contained a removable cupholder. An airbag was optional only with the 4-cylinder engine, and only with automatic transmission.
1994 Tempo
Airbag-equipped Tempos got a new seatbelt layout: a 3-point lap/shoulder belt for the driver, but motorized belt for the front passenger. In other Tempos, both positions had motorized belts.


transverse front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

GL and LX Tempos in 1990 held a 98-horsepower, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder overhead-valve engine. A 100-horsepower variant went into GLS and All-Wheel Drive Tempos. A 5-speed manual gearbox was standard. Three-speed automatic was optional, except in All-Wheel Drive Tempos, which all came with the automatic. The 3.0-liter V6 engine, introduced in 1992, developed 135 horsepower. Also that year, the base four gained sequential port fuel injection and lost two horsepower–but gained a little torque to make up for that shrinkage. The formerly optional, higher-output 4-cylinder engine was gone after the V6 arrived.

ohv I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/141
Engine HP 100
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 130
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
ohv V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/182
Engine HP 135
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 150
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
ohv I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.3/141
Engine HP 96-98
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 124-126
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
3-speed automatic

Road Test

With any 4-cylinder engine, power and performance rank as barely adequate. Torque is lacking for brisk pickup or top gas mileage when hooked to automatic transmission. Worse yet, the automatic likes to rush into top gear, then balks at downshifting for passing. The high-output four with 5-speed manual shift performs better, without much loss in economy, but fewer of those are around.

Though almost as noisy as the 4-cylinder, a V6 Tempo pulls smartly at all speeds and feels particularly spirited with stick shift. The engine also works pretty well with an automatic transmission, because the 3-speed unit isn’t prone to “hunting” between gears.

Tempos don’t stand tall in passenger room, trunk space, ride, or handling, either. Four adults fit easily, but the low seat doesn’t allow the most relaxed driving position. Confusing, poorly located controls for the fan and wiper/washer get to be annoying. Handling is humdrum, while the Tempo’s ride is nothing special. Easy-to-use 4WD put the All-Wheel Drive sedan a cut above many competitors, yielding impressive traction on slippery roads. All you do is flick a switch to engage or disengage the system. For enhanced roadholding and control, look for a GLS with its sport suspension and wider tires.


Model Tested: 1994 Ford Tempo LS 3.0-liter

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 3
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 3
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 3
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 3


Value - 4

Total: 39


2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
99.9 176.7 68.3 52.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.2 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.5 36.8 41.5 36.0
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
99.9 177.0 68.3 52.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
12.9 15.9 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.5 36.9 41.5 36.0
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1994 Tempo 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 87
Injury 123
Theft 28

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: After being parked overnight, the accelerator pedal may be stiff and the transmission may not upshift because the throttle cable may be out of adjustment or binding. (1990-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: If the car will not reverse in cold weather, the problem is likely due to reverse clutch piston seals sticking. (1990-94)
Automatic transmission
Description: The Teflon seals on the transmission pump support are prone to wear, causing the transmission to drop out of drive. (1993-94)
Blower motor
Description: Squeaking or chirping blower motors are the result of defective brush holders. (1993-94)
Exhaust system
Description: The flange that connects the catalytic converter to the front exhaust pipe can rust out. (1990-94)
Oil leak
Description: Oil or sludge in the air cleaner housing, or an oil leak around the air cleaner and transmission area on cars with a 2.3-liter engine, is caused by a PCV valve that is not properly calibrated to the engine. (1992-94)
Suspension problems
Description: The front springs may be too tall, which causes the car to shudder during acceleration from a standstill. (1992-94)

Recall History

Description: Engine cooling fan on some cars could wobble excessively during startup and rundown, possibly rubbing against fan shroud, which could cause fan motor to overheat and damage engine.
Description: Ignition switch could suffer short circuit, which can cause overheating, smoke, and possibly fire in steering-column area.
1992-94 cars registered in AK, IA, MN, NE, ND, or SD
Description: During high winds, heavy drifting snow and low temperatures, engine fan may become blocked or frozen and fail to rotate; can cause smoke/flame, resulting in fire.

Equipment Lists

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Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.