mustang84

Observations of a Ford Contour

69 posts in this topic

Today some friends and I went down to Des Moines and I rode with in a '96ish Ford Contour. One of the things I have always heard about this car is that the backseat is tiny. At 6'4", I was perfectly comfortable back there. There was as much legroom as my Lumina IMO. The one thing I did notice was that the rear headroom was a little low (my hair was rubbing a little), but it wasn't that bad compared to the '94 Mustang I rode around in where I basically had to duck the whole time.

One other thing I noticed was that it said "SRX" on the dash, but I looked and can't find any Contour trims with the "SRX" designation.

Build quality was pretty bad; lots of cheap plastic, although I didn't hear any rattling. It was also pretty loud, although the engine felt fairly strong. In general, I'd say it felt cheap, but it seemed to be a solid enough car.

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They were actually quite good small sedans, with very well tuned road manners--quite euro-like. Not particularly quiet and not hugely powerful, but could be pleasantly entertaining and tossable. The later SVT models really were fun, in their special V6/stick only and upgraded suspension, etc. form.

I liked the quick real world review. You often get a much better impression of something just from a few lines like yours :AH-HA_wink:

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Anything was better than the awful Tempo by that point.

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They were actually quite good small sedans, with very well tuned road manners--quite euro-like. Not particularly quiet and not hugely powerful, but could be pleasantly entertaining and tossable. The later SVT models really were fun, in their special V6/stick only and upgraded suspension, etc. form.

I liked the quick real world review. You often get a much better impression of something just from a few lines like yours :AH-HA_wink:

Thanks :)

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I bought a brand new 1996 Ford Contour in the spring of 1996. When I first bought it, I thoroughly enjoyed the car. Not long after, I began to have several problems with the car. After struggling with various problems and Ford's refusal to fix these problems under warranty for over two years, I decided to part ways with the car in the fall of 1998 (the car was in like new condition and had less than 15,000 miles on it). I don't know which situation turned me off more: the multiple problems or Ford's refusal to honor their warranty. I vowed to never own anything with the "FORD" name on it again (or Mercury and Lincoln for that matter). My views have softened somewhat over time, but I would be very cautious about purchasing another Ford product in the future. I know they have improved substantially in the quality ratings, but I still don't trust them after the nightmarish experience I had with this one product. Fortunately, nothing in their current lineup remotely appeals to me. It would have to be a spectacular product that would draw me back to one of their vehicles.

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I found the Contour to be yet another frustrating example of Ford dumbing down a very good European Ford for the North American market. They took a standard Mondeo sedan, changed the design aft of the B-pillars with a very coupe-like raked rear roofline cutting into headroom, and overly fussed around with the front and rear design treatment. They then dumbed down the equipment (some models didn't even get a rev counter), far worse materials than the Mondeo and the build quality was atrocious compared with its Belgian-built cousin. In addition, Ford reduced the engine choices for the Contour, reduced the bodyshell options from three to just one, and didn't bother offering the Mondeo's 4x4 system either. At least the Contour handled more-or-less like the Mondeo, although the Contour's smaller brake discs and calipers were noticeably different in feel.

I found the North American Focus to be almost just as frustrating. Again, remove the quality of materials and overall build - the removal of the German car's glass-like glossy B-pillars and mirror housings, and features such as three rear head rests, tachometer, heated windscreen elements, traction control and the high-quality seat fabrics (and leather seats from the Ghia model) were all noticeable in the Mexican-built car. Tack on the big bumpers and the NA Focus looked liked a complete duffer in comparison. One great aspect of the Mexican-built car was the retention of the superb MTX75 manual gearbox from the German model, but the omission of Ford's superb 1.8 litre TDCi was a bad move I think when VW owned the US market with the Golf & Jetta. Prototype testing US-spec model TDCis running around Detroit proved ultimately to be fruitless.

I'm hoping Ford doesn't butcher the seventh-generation Fiesta/Verve in the same way and give Americans a true European Ford for a change.

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I reread the initial post about the "SRX" insignia on the dash. The 1996 Contour I owned had the "SRS" insignia on the passenger's side of the dash which was to inform the passenger that the car had a "Supplemental Restraint System" (Airbag) on the passenger's side of the vehicle. I believe this may be what you saw when you rode in your friend's car. My Contour was an "LX" trim level and did not have any interior badging to indicate the trim level. I do have to admit that the dash design for the passenger side airbag housing was kind of unique at the time because Ford was able to integrate it into the dash without a lot of unsightly cut lines. I do remember looking at other cars at the time which had a rounded off rectangular shape cut into the dash for the passenger side airbag. The car was fun to drive (when it would work properly) and had a lot of thoughtful touches for a compact sedan at the time (heated sideview mirrors, illuminated interior door handles, etc.). Unfortunately, the nightmarish ownership experience overshadowed some of the more positive traits of the car.

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Yeah.... another example of Ford giving American cars a bad name.

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the svt contour was a FUN car.

contour was too small to be burdened by AWD.

I'd disagree with all due respect - the Mondeo 4x4 in Si trim was a viable, much more affordable alternative to an Audi A4 quattro. You could throw it around a motorway roundabout at 60 and it would hold the road like glue.

The problem was that developing the system made the car very expensive for a Mondeo, and the same went for the Vectra 4x4. Polices forces loved 'em, though. Both make a sound secondhand buy.

Edited by aatbloke
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aatbloke, I just looked up photos of the UK Mondeo, and the sedan looks identical to our Contour after the US MCE. What are you talking about?
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aatbloke, I just looked up photos of the UK Mondeo, and the sedan looks identical to our Contour after the US MCE. What are you talking about?

It isn't identical. The US model is different from the B-pillars backwards. The rear roofline of the US car is more steeply raked, as is the rear window which is a also a different shape. The rear doors, wings, boot lid are rear design are not shared. The easiest tell-tale sign is the shape of the rear passenger windows. Pictures are of the post 1996 facelifted model. I've got some extensive experience with both the Mondeo and Contour cars also, so I can assure you first hand!

Ford Contour:

101-0170_IMG.JPG

P1010017.JPG

Ford Mondeo:

1153896808-P1010018.JPG

Edited by aatbloke
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Can everyone but me see the Mondeo picture? I can't see it.
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Link doesn't work.
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Yes, I knew the decklid and taillights (and hence, quarter panels) were different between the two cars, but now I see what the hell you're talking about. The rear half of the greenhouse is more upright than our car. The doors appear identical from the beltline down, but the slope is more severe on our car above the belt.
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Yes, I knew the decklid and taillights (and hence, quarter panels) were different between the two cars, but now I see what the hell you're talking about. The rear half of the greenhouse is more upright than our car. The doors appear identical from the beltline down, but the slope is more severe on our car above the belt.

The rear doors are different to accommodate the sharper rake on the more coupe-like Contour. In fact the Mondeo and Contour shared no identical body panels, with the exception of the front doors and bonnet. Even though the headlamps on both pre-96 and post-96 facelifted cars look the same, they are in fact a different shape and design, which meant the front wings were slightly modified to accommodate the Contour.

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I'd disagree with all due respect - the Mondeo 4x4 in Si trim was a viable, much more affordable alternative to an Audi A4 quattro. You could throw it around a motorway roundabout at 60 and it would hold the road like glue.

The problem was that developing the system made the car very expensive for a Mondeo, and the same went for the Vectra 4x4. Polices forces loved 'em, though. Both make a sound secondhand buy.

the contour was already priced on top of the taurus of that era. no offense, but there was not any market for that kind of car 10 years ago in the US, and at that price would not have sold in a ford showroom.

the svt was already joined with the prelude as the two best front drive cars available and was often compared to a bmw in chassis dynamics without the awd.

just because vw packages a compact with excess weight powertrain and awd and sells for twice the base model does not mean it would sell on the pond here. a 3600 pound contour for 36 grand would rot in showrooms.

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oh... BTW:

Back in 2001 I was working as a salesman at a Chevrolet dealership. (while in college)

I took out a Mercury Mistake (Mystique) out for a D.D. run and while driving the car on

a smooth road, NOT hitting a pothole & NOT beating on it at all the flex pipe fell (tore)

off at the exhaust manifold. Just effin TORE off and started dragging down the street,

sparks and all.

Granted there's a very good chance some dumb driver/mechanic who messed it up

previous to me was responsible. Perhaps it was never bolted on tight durring a service

visit or some moron drove over a curb and sheared the flex pipe?

Either way I came away with a mixed impression, other than that the loaded up

Mistake was nicer & better styled than a simillary priced Accord/Camry.

(it was a M.Y. 1999 btw)

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the contour was already priced on top of the taurus of that era. no offense, but there was not any market for that kind of car 10 years ago in the US, and at that price would not have sold in a ford showroom.

the svt was already joined with the prelude as the two best front drive cars available and was often compared to a bmw in chassis dynamics without the awd.

just because vw packages a compact with excess weight powertrain and awd and sells for twice the base model does not mean it would sell on the pond here. a 3600 pound contour for 36 grand would rot in showrooms.

I didn't say it would sell in the States; what I did disagree with was that the car is "too small to be burdened" (as you put it) to house a 4x4 drivetrain. Again, it's fair to say that comments which apply to most markets worldwide really don't apply to the US and, to a slightly lesser extent, Canada, and since I comment using an international approach I apologise for the misunderstanding. That said, the mk1 Mondeo Si 4x4 was almost hooliganish, while the Ghia 4x4 wagon was an extremely sound secondhand load hauler.

The Contour was yet another poorly converted mainstream European car which could only be made attractive to US denizens by severely dumbing down the product. This concept is nothing new; Zastava for example once took all the good parts of a Fiat 127, threw them away, and created the Yugo 45.

The A4 isn't the only car in its class to offer 4WD here - everyone from Ford to Opel to Volvo to Subaru to Renault to BMW to Jaguar have offered C-segment and D-segment machinery here with the option of 4WD.

Edited by aatbloke
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the whole small car with awd thing didn't become feasible in this market until the WRX took off. so until then, i think the mitsubishi eclipses were pretty much the only ones with reasonable prices and awd for common market segments.

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the whole small car with awd thing didn't become feasible in this market until the WRX took off. so until then, i think the mitsubishi eclipses were pretty much the only ones with reasonable prices and awd for common market segments.

That's because rallying is a relative novelty in the States. Audi's quattro technology wouldn't likely have been homologated for production had it not been for its entrance into the sport and the sheer popularity of it around the world. The same goes for Ford's system.

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quattro became popular here for audi because it was sold as a luxury item which justified the prices here for their overpriced vw's. that, and it went over big in inclement weather states.

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The problem with this market is consumers want any sub-E segment, non-luxury brand car to be CHEAP first and foremost. Compacts and some intermediates that could be equipped to the teeth are stripped to death more often than not. This makes crummy chick cars out of even the ballsiest machines.

Only boy-racer JDM-freak demand eventually got the Civic Si VTEC, Lancer Evolution and such to eventually come here. The horsepower war that resulted got us the Neon SRt4 and Cobalt SS as well.

The Mazda3 is also thankfully quite nice inside.

But for these cars, the compact game would be REALLY ugly.

And Camcord still keeps the intermediate segment following them down the hellhole of blah.

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