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Ford Contour
[[File:1996 Ford Contour|frameless|upright=1.25|alt=]]
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Also called Mercury Mystique
Production 1994–2000
Model year(s) 1995-2000
1995-1999 (Canada)
Assembly Claycomo, Missouri, United States
Cuautitlan, Estado de México, México
Predecessor Ford Tempo
Mercury Topaz
Successor Ford Mondeo (Mexico)
Ford Focus
Class Compact
Body style(s) 4-door sedan
Platform Ford CDW27 platform
Engine(s) 2.0 L Zetec I4
2.5 L Duratec V6
Transmission(s) 5-speed MTX-75 manual
4-speed CD4E automatic
Length 183.9 in (4,671 mm) (SVT & 1995–97)
Mystique: 183.5 in (4661 mm)
185.3 in (4,707 mm) (1998-2000)
Width 69.1 in (1,755 mm)
Height 54.4 in (1,382 mm)
54.5 in (1,384 mm) (Mystique, SVT & 1995–97)
Related Ford Mondeo
Mercury Cougar, Ford Cougar

The Ford Contour, and its sister, the Mercury Mystique, were compact cars that were derived from the first-generation, globally marketed Ford Mondeo. The Contour and Mystique replaced the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz in the U.S., and were based on Ford's CDW27 platform. Both the contour and Mystique were praised for its handling and ride quality, and were even dubbed "A fun four-door sedan that offered European moves at American prices" in an Edmunds review.[1]


Development of the European Mondeo and its derivatives, the Contour and Mystique, was a major project for Ford Motor Company. While the Mondeo has been afforded three body styles (4-door sedan, 5-door liftback and a station wagon), the North American variants were developed as sedans only. The interior was slightly different, though the Ford Focus would be more successful as "one design for the world"[citation needed]. Although the cars ended up slightly larger than the Tempo and Topaz, and the Mondeo was marketed as a large family car in Europe, reviewers would judge the car too small for American tastes compared to Japanese product lines where the Toyota's Camry was their next size up from compact cars.


Initially, three trim levels were available for the Contour a base GL, a more luxurious LX and a sporty SE.[2] A 125 hp (93 kW), 2.0 L Zetec inline four-cylinder engine was standard on the GL and LX models, while a 170 hp 2.5 L Duratec V6 was standard on SE models and optional on the GL and LX.[3] A 5-speed manual transmission was standard on all models, with a 4-speed automatic as an option. Prices ranged from about USD 14,000 for base GL versions to just under USD 20,000 for an SE with all available options. However, in April 1996, Ford produced a "Sport" model in both the 2.0 L four-cylinder and 2.5 L V6. The "Sport" model was an option in both SE and GL series. It was marketed as a car for a serious driver who wants an economical car.

The Mystique was initially available in entry-level GS, LS both available with the "sport" option. A base model was also available from model year 1997 through 1999.[4]


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Contour a "Poor" overall rating in the frontal impact crash. The head, neck, and chest were all well protected and the dummy movement was well controlled, however, excessive footwell intrusion contributed to high forces on both legs and a "Marginal" structural rating.[5]

The Contour received five stars for both the driver and passenger in the NHTSA test.

Initial Release and Lifetime

1995–1997 Mercury Mystique

Introduced in 1994 as a 1995 model, this version came well equipped compared to other cars in its class. Many magazines, including Car and Driver, compared the Contour to many European cars, due to its light yet nimble.[6]

In 1998, Ford restyled the Contour and Mystique. The restyle was based on the facelifted Mondeo which had been launched in Europe two years earlier. Ford has also added an SVT version for the Contour, which utilized a specially tuned and modified version of the 2.5 L V6 that produced 195 hp (145 kW)(1998 MY) / 200 hp (149 kW) (1999/2000 MY) and was only available with a 5-speed manual transmission.

1998–2000 Ford Contour SVT

Also included with the SVT Contour was new bodywork, seats and trim, white-faced gauges, larger wheels with ultra high performance tires, upgraded brakes and a retuned suspension. The Contour SVT was available primarily by special order by specially designated Ford dealerships.

Trim levels


  • GL • 1995–2000
  • LX • 1995–2000
  • SE • 1995–2000
  • SVT • 1998–2000


  • GS • 1995–2000
  • LS • 1995–2000


  • 2.0 L Zetec I4 125 hp (97 kW)
  • 2.5 L Duratec 25 V6 170 hp (125 kW)
  • 2.5 L Duratec 25 V6 195 hp (145 kW) (1998 SVT)
  • 2.5 L Duratec 25 V6 200 hp (149 kW) (1999&2000 SVT)

Year-by-year changes


  • First model year for the Contour and Mystique


  • The backs of the front seats were recessed, improving rear seat leg room.
  • Rear seat cushions were repositioned to increase room.
  • Chrome bumper strips were dropped, resulting in bumpers that were monochromatic. (completely body color)
  • Seven-spoke alloy wheels become standard for SE model.
  • Split rear seats now available on all models.
  • The powertrain control module was changed to the newer EEC-V to be OBD-II compliant.
  • Manual transmission was reworked for easier shifts.


  • New value-priced base models introduced in late 1997 for both Contour and Mystique.
  • Traction control is dropped as an option.
  • Added interior trunk light.
  • Steering wheels now tilt.
  • Power antenna added.
  • Heated mirrors are dropped as an option.
  • Backs of the side mirrors were no longer painted and were left black.
  • "Unleaded fuel only" label was removed from the fuel gauge.
  • Various interior plastic pieces and covers on the Contour are no longer spray-painted silver and are left black.
  • Remote fuel door release is dropped.
  • Mystique - optional CD player and power front seats. (standard on LS, optional on GS)


  • New design for front and rear fascias, including a chrome grille surround and larger headlights; Mystique gets side Mercury emblems on the rear quarter windows.
  • Mystique's interior also received new fabric choices (leather seating, previously optional, became standard on LS models) and faux wood trim to make it more upscale than the Contour.
  • 5-speed manual transmission changed from rod shift to cable shift.
  • High-performance Contour SVT version debuts, available only in Silver Frost, Toreador Red, and Black Ebony with Midnight Blue or Tan interior.
  • Roof line altered and the rear deck shortened for improved rear seat headroom.
  • Seat recliner is changed from a knob to a lever.
  • Seatbelt for rear center seat is improved from 2-point to 3-point.
  • New center consoles; Pop-up cup holders are replaced and are now molded into the console.
  • Glove box light, underhood light, lighted sun visors, and door handle lights are removed.
  • Integrated rear child-safety seats optional on the Mystique
  • Warning lights on the instrument cluster were relocated to different spots. Moldings stayed the same
  • The red empty marker on the fuel gauge is left white.
  • Less forceful "second-generation" airbags were made standard

In mid-production for the 1998 model, (manufactured after Feb 98) Ford decided to make several more changes to the SVT Contour. This resulted in a noticeable distinction between early and late 1998 SVT Contours. To differentiate between the two, the late 1998 model is sometimes referred to as the "1998.5", or alternatively the early 1998 model as the "E0" and the late 1998 model as the "E1". The mid-year changes are as listed below.

  • Split rear seats are now available only on the SE model.
  • In-dash clock is relocated to the stereo head unit display.
  • New Cobra-style SVT aluminum alloy wheels.
  • SVT specific Goodyear Eagle F1 tires replace Goodyear GS-C tires. The 205/55-16 size is retained.
  • Different strut valving and tires raising skid pad numbers from .84g to .90g.
  • The word "normal" was removed from the temperature gauge. "C" for cool and "H" for hot were added.


  • All models are equipped with a slightly larger fuel tank (now 15.4 gal)
  • Slight change in dash design. Plastic piece around front window was eliminated
  • Seats were again altered for additional rear leg-room.
  • The 2.0 L I4 engine received an additional 5 hp
  • Contour SVT's engine rating was upped 5 hp to 200 hp due to additional abrasive flow machining of the primary and secondary intake ports
  • SVT is offered in Tropic Green
  • SVT gains tan leather interior for Tropic Green, Toreador Red and optional on Black Ebony cars.
  • SVT gets new BF Goodrich KDW tires. Size changes to 215/50-16.
  • Revised transmission syncros to address an issue in the 98 SVT's
  • Mystique's suspension tuned for a softer ride.


  • Displacement on the Duratec V6 engine decreased slightly, but the compression ratio is increased to compensate. This was done to keep the engine used in Mazda vehicles to maintain a lower engine displacement based tax level in Japan.
  • 4-cylinder Contour models continue as fleet vehicles only
  • Mystique GS and LS models returned with emergency in-trunk releases. Mercury pulled the Mystique from its lineup early into the 2000 model year. Production ended for the Mystique on November 19, 1999 and the Contour production ended on February 18, 2000


The Contour and Mystique were on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1995, 1996 and 1997. Although Car and Driver staff wrote an article in 2009 apologizing for the inclusion of the Ford Contour on the "Ten Best" list, it was the only car the staff did not outright recant from the list, but did cite that, in hindsight, the car should have been considered too small for its price range to properly meet criteria, and that this is the likely reason for the car's failure to achieve widespread appeal.[7] The Contour was also named as an Automobile Magazine All Star for 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998.[8] For the SVT trim, named the Contour SVT the most wanted sedan under $25,000 for the year of 1999.

American sales

Calendar Year Contour Mystique
1999[9] 134,487 39,531
2000 45,109 16,208

See also

  • Ford SVT Contour, production numbers and features


External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • [1] - Ford Contour 1995-2000 Prices & Review - (compares to Honda Accord)
  • [2] -, Contour Enthusiasts Group (CEG)
  • [3] - FordContour.Org, (FCO)
  • [4] - ContourSVT Forum
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