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Ford Contour
1996 Ford Contour
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Also called Mercury Mystique
Production 1995-2000
Assembly Claycomo, Missouri, United States
Cuautitlan, Mexico
Predecessor Ford Tempo
Mercury Topaz
Successor Ford Mondeo (Mexico)
Class Compact
Body style(s) 4-door sedan
Layout FF layout
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
Wheelbase 106.5 in (2705 mm)
Length 185.3 in (4707 mm)
183.9 in (4671 mm) (SVT & 1995-97)
1995-97 Mystique: 183.5 in (4661 mm)
1998-2000 Mystique: 184.8 in (4695 mm)
Width 69.1 in (1755 mm)
Height 54.4 in (1382 mm)
54.5 in (1384 mm) (Mystique, SVT & 1995-97)
Related Ford Mondeo
Mercury Cougar, Ford Cougar

The Ford Contour and its rebadged variant, the Mercury Mystique were compact 4-door sedans marketed from model years 1995-2000 by Ford Motor Company in North America. The Contour and Mystique replaced the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz, were based on Ford's CDW27 platform, were manufactured at Ford's Kansas City Assembly and were derived from the first-generation globally marketed Ford Mondeo.

The Contour and Mystique ceased production without a direct replacement in Ford's lineup in USA and Canada, while in Mexico, Ford replaced the Contour and Mystique with a locally manufactured variant of the European Ford Mondeo. In addition, Ford stopped selling Mercury vehicles in Mexico from 2000-2003. The larger Ford Fusion was introduced in 2005 [1] to replace the Contour in the United States and Canada, and the Ford Mondeo in Mexico, also falling between the compact Focus and mid-sized Taurus.



Development of the Contour, Mystique and the Mondeo in Europe was a major project for Ford Motor Company. Reportedly US$6 billion was invested in the development of the CDW27 platform. 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. Despite external appearances and the original goal of being a world car, the only external items the Mondeo shared with the Contour were the windscreen, front windows, front mirrors and door handles. The interior was also slightly different, though the Ford Focus would be more successful as "one design for the world". Although the cars ended up slightly larger than the Tempo and Topaz, and the Mondeo was marketed as a family car in Europe, reviewers would judge the car too small for American tastes compared to Japanese product lines where 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 trim. 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 models. 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.

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.[2]


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Contour a "Poor" overall rating in the frontal impact crash test.[3]

First Generation (1995-1997)

1995 Ford Contour with chrome bumper strips
1995-1997 Mercury Mystique

Trim levels


  • GL • 1995-1997
  • LX • 1995-1997
  • SE • 1995-1997


  • GS • 1995-1997
  • LS • 1995-1997


Year-by-year changes


  • 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 OBD2 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)

Second Generation (1998-2000)

1998-2000 Ford Contour SE
1998-2000 Ford Contour SVT
1998-2000 Mercury Mystique

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. 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 • 1998-1998.5
  • LX • 1998-1999
  • SE • 1998-2000
  • SVT • 1998-2000


  • GS • 1998-2000
  • LS • 1998-2000


Year-by-year changes


  • New design for front and rear fascias, including a chrome grille 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 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.

In mid-production for the 1998 model, 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


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 may 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.[4] The Contour was also named as an Automobile Magazine All Star for 1995, 1996 and 1997. For the SVT trim, named the Contour SVT the most wanted sedan under $25,000 for the year of 1999.

See also


External links

  • [1] - Ford Contour 1995-2000 Prices & Review - (compares to Honda Accord)
  • [2] -, Contour Enthusiasts Group (CEG)
  • [3] - FordContour.Org, (FCO)


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