Compact car; Built in USA, Mexico
  • 4-door sedan
  • transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,100 – $3,300*

1995 Ford Contour

1995 Ford Contour SE

1996 Ford Contour SE

1997 Ford Contour SE

1997 Ford Contour SE

  • Acceleration (V6)
  • Optional antilock brakes and traction control
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Steering/handling
  • Engine noise (4-cylinder)
  • Radio controls
  • Rear-seat room

Ford took a huge step forward in performance, refinement, and overall execution with its compact sedan. All told, Contour is a formidable rival to Japanese compacts and to the Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus.


Ford’s latest rival to the Honda Accord and other compact and mid-size sedans replaced the Tempo. Mercury offers a similar 4-door sedan, called Mystique. Both were based on the European Ford Mondeo. Contour came in GL, LX, and sporty SE price levels. Dual airbags were standard. Antilock brakes and traction control (which works at all speeds) were optional on all models. Bumpers that withstand a 5-mph impact are a bonus. Base engine was a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, producing 125 horsepower. Standard on the SE and optional on the others was a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter V6. Both engines were available with 5-speed manual shift or an optional electronic 4-speed automatic transmission.

Yearly Updates

1996 Contour
To improve rear-seat space, backs of the front seats were scooped out, yielding an extra inch of leg room. During the 1996 model year, rear seat cushions were repositioned to produce a little more leg and head space. Chrome bumper strips were dropped. A Contour Sport model debuted in April 1996 in standard GL or upscale LX series.
1997 Contour
A new lower-priced base model debuted later in the 1997 model year. Traction control was dropped, but antilock braking remained available separately. All models added a standard trunk light and tilt steering wheel.
1998 Contour
Ford dropped the Base and GL and added a high-performance SVT model. The SVT used the 2.5-liter V6 engine but in 195-horsepower tune. Five-speed manual was the only transmission, and the SVT also added antilock brakes, sport suspension, larger tires, and other goodies. All Contours got a new center console with armrest.
1999 Contour
For ’99 Contour shed the base and GL models, leaving only the LX, SE, and SVT editions. LX and SE models got more sporting suspension settings, and all models got a slightly larger fuel tank.
2000 Contour
Only a single Sport model remained for 2000, with features that had been optional on the SE, including a 170-horsepower V6. The high-performance SVT could still be obtained through selected Ford dealers.


transverse front-engine/front-wheel drive

Base engine was a 125-horsepower, 2.0-liter dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder. Standard on the SE and optional on others: a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter dual-cam V6, with four valves per cylinder. Contours could have a standard 5-speed manual transmission or optional 4-speed automatic. Ford added a 195-horsepower version of the V6 in 1998. It came with the 5-speed manual.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.0/121
Engine HP 125
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 130
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/155
Engine HP 170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 165
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.5/155
Engine HP 195
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 165
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual



Road Test

Smooth, responsive, and lively in acceleration, the 170-horsepower V6 is more than adequate for all ordinary driving situations. During testing, a V6 Contour accelerated to 60 mph in 9.3 seconds. The 190-horsepower SVT engine is even more powerful, but you really have to work the transmission to get the extra power. By contrast, the noisy 4-cylinder engine feels sluggish when going uphill and requires a heavy throttle foot for brisk acceleration. A V6 Contour with automatic averaged 21.7 mpg. Under similar conditions, the 4-cylinder with automatic did only a little better: 23 mpg, to be exact. Road noise has been prominent on all models.

Precise steering, sporty handling, and a firm ride make a Contour feel more German than American. Most road-testers praised the sporty SE, in particular, for its fun-to-drive qualities, though a few were less enthusiastic about its ride quality.

Front leg room is ample, but back-seat space for adults is barely adequate in 1995 Contours. That shortage of space was slightly improved in ’96 models, but remains a drawback. Head room is generous in front and adequate in back.

The modern, attractive dashboard is well-designed, but the stereo has too many small buttons that are difficult to decipher. Large gauges are easy to read. The climate system is controlled by three rotary dials that are clearly labeled and easy to use.


Model Tested: 1996 Ford Contour SE auto

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 - 4
Fuel Economy - 6
Ride Quality - 4
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 4


Controls/Materials - 4
Room/Comfort Front - 5
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
Cargo Room - 4


Value - 5

Total: 45


4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.5 183.9 69.1 54.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.9 14.5 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.0 36.7 42.4 34.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 Contour 4-door sedan


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 3
Rear Passenger Injury - 4


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

Collision 87
Injury 111
Theft 53

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: The transmission may go into limp-in mode due to a faulty manual lever position sensor. (1995)
Description: Ice in the parking brake cables will not allow the parking brake to release or release fully. (1995-97)
Dashboard lights
Description: A slipping drive belt causes a lack of power steering and the charge warning light to glow. A new belt, idler pulley, and a splash kit are needed. (1995-97)
Engine misfire
Description: Lack of acceleration in below 32 degrees Fahrenheit on the 2.5-liter engine is often due to ice on the throttle plate. A revised engine computer prevents the problem. (1995)
Engine temperature
Description: Engine overheating on 2.5-liter engines may be due to broken plastic water pump impeller blades. (1995-2000)
Heater core
Description: Installing a restrictor in the heater inlet hose may repair heater cores leaks. (1995-2000)
Steering problems
Description: If the steering wheel vibrates while idling with the transmission engaged and the A/C running, the steering mass damper, airbag module, and radiator mounts must be replaced. (1995-97)
Transmission leak
Description: Transmission fluid may leak from the vent hole of automatic transmission. A revised vent tube is available. (1995-96)
Transmission noise
Description: Gear clash going into third on the manual transmission can be remedied by a rebuilt input gear shaft and a new shift fork. (1995-97)

Recall History

Description: If right rear-door window breaks, glass fragments will exceed allowable size.
Description: Fuel-tank filler reinforcement can leak.
Description: Metal shield on plastic fuel-filler pipe can develop static charge during refueling; could serve as ignition source.
Description: Passenger-airbag’s inflator body is cracked and may not inflate properly.
Description: Front-seatbelt anchor tabs may be cracked.
1995-96 w/traction control
Description: Throttle cables were damaged during assembly, leading to fraying or separation; could prevent engine from returning to idle.
1995-96 w/V6
Description: Tightening of the engine-cooling fan-motor bearings can result in increased motor torque and higher than normal motor current and accompanying high motor temperatures.
Description: Automatic-transmission control can be damaged if subjected to certain interior cleaning products; gear indicator can deteriorate and incorrectly indicate actual gear position.
Description: Fuel-filler-pipe vent hose may have less than intended level of ozone resistance, which could result in brittleness and cracking.
1996-97 w/bi-fuel engine
Description: If natural-gas fuel line is damaged in a collision, gas leakage could occur.
1996-98 w/o ABS
Description: Pressure reducing valve in rear brakes may be subject to corrosion, which could result in malfunction when operated in areas that use salt compounds for deicing or dust control.
Description: Overheating at headlamp and wiring-harness terminals could result in open circuit for instrument lights, parking lamps, and taillamps.
Description: An open circuit in the wiring harness could lead to electrical arcing that could melt the connector housing material, increasing the potential for a fire.
Description: Airbag-sensor wiring insulation can become brittle and crack over time; could cause airbag warning light to illuminate and disable airbag system.
Description: Text and/or graphics for headlamp aiming instructions, provided in owner guides, are not sufficiently clear.
Description: Accelerator cable may have burr that could fray the core wire; cable could stick, bind, or cause high engine rpm.
Description: Front coil springs may fracture as a result of corrosion in high corrosion environments.
1999 w/automatic transmission
Description: Ignition key can be rotated to “Lock” position and removed, without shift lever being in “Park” position.
Description: Improper label was installed on some cars, with incorrect instructions for activation of childproof safety locks.
2000 w/ABS
Description: A pressure-conscious reducing valve in the rear brakes may corrode and malfunction, locking rear wheels and adversely affecting handling.
Description: Seatbelt-buckle assemblies were not properly heat treated and do not pass the load-bearing requirement.
Description: Fuel leak could result from a damaged fuel-tank-filler pipe grommet.
Description: Brake performance may be reduced due to incorrect power brake booster and master-cylinder assembly.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


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.

Share this: