One of the automaking giant's first "world cars," the Ford Contour was known for its superb handling and performance. It was an affordable car for those who took delight in the joys of driving. Many changes were made in its short, five-year production run, during which it has repeatedly garnered praise for its spirited drivability. Described as "a fun four-door sedan that offered European moves at American prices," it truly was a car for the world.
1995: A world car enters the scene
The Ford Contour was developed to compete with compact cars from Europe and Japan. Known as the Ford Mondeo abroad, it was a front-wheel drive sedan equipped with traction control and anti-lock brakes and powered by either a 2.0L Zetec inline four-cylinder engine or a powerful 2.5L double overhead camshaft (DOHC) Duratec V6 engine capable of 170 horsepower at 6250 rpm. It was a fun car to drive and landed on Car and Driver magazine's "Ten Best" list and named an Automobile Magazine "All-Star."
1996: Improved seating and driving experience
Although the Ford Contour handled well, it was criticized for having a cramped interior. Ford remedied the problem in the car's sophomore year by adjusting the front seats to provide more leg room for the rear-seat passengers. The rear seats were also remade in a way that allowed for more headroom. Finally, the manual transmission was reworked to make shifting easier.
1997: Minor tweaking
There were few changes for the Ford Contour in 1997. These include the introduction of a Sport Package for the GL and LX models for more serious driving and the addition of minor features like a power antenna and an interior trunk light.
1998: A facelift and the debut of the Contour SVT
The Ford Contour's exterior was restyled with a wider chrome grille and larger headlights. It also gets new alloy wheels and slightly more spacious rear seating. This year also saw the debut of the high-performance Ford Contour SVT, which was hailed for its superior handling. Its 2.5L Duratec 25 SVT V6 engine had a higher maximum output of 195 hp and 165 ft.-lbs. of torque.
1999: Added power and control
This year saw the Ford Contour reach the peak of its performance. The 2.0L Zetec I4 engine now produced an additional 5 hp while the SVT's maximum power peaked at a higher 200 hp. A new all-speed traction control system became available for V6 models with anti-lock brakes. This made more aggressive driving possible. The rear seat room was also increased for the third year in a row for better seating. The car's reputation for great drivability at an affordable price remained strong that year when Edmunds.com named the Contour SVT the "most wanted sedan under $25,000."
2000: Final production year
Other than the addition of more color options and a standard emergency trunk-release handle, only minor changes occurred this year. The last Ford Contour left the assembly line on October 19, 2000.