Contour, a front-wheel-drive sedan that is smaller than the Taurus may have a short future. Production of the similar Mercury Mystique ends Dec.23, and the Kansas City, Mo., plant that builds the Mystique and Contour will convert to production of a new car-based sport utility vehicle.
Production of the 2000 Contour will continue at a Ford plant in Mexico, but the company has not said for how long or in what volume. Industry observers predict the Contour will disappear at the end of the model year.
Contour and Mystique debuted in the United States as 1995 models, derived from the European Ford Mondeo under a $6 billion program to design and build cars for global markets.
However, the car was more successful in Europe than in the United States. The Contour's interior size was too close to the smaller Escort's, while the price was too close to the larger Taurus'. The new Ford Focus has a larger interior and a smaller price than Contour.
Contour comes only in conservative four-door styling. The sporty SVT version is more noticeable because of its front air dam, round fog lamps, side sill extensions and 16-inch aluminum wheels.
All models seat five, but the rear seat is surprisingly short of legroom for a car with a 106.5-inch wheelbase. A split, folding rear seat augments the 14-cubic-foot trunk.
Under the Hood
A 125-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the base engine and a 2.5-liter, V-6 with 170 horsepower is optional on the Contour. The high-performance SVT Contour uses a fortified version of the V-6 with 200 horsepower and has a stiffer suspension and larger tires.