1989 Ford Tempo

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$1,000
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Expert Reviews

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chicagotribune.com
There comes a time when you must accept your limitations.

When age and waist size become one, for example, playing in the company softball game on Saturday means you have to expect the bones to ache until Tuesday.

We were reminded of having to recognize your limits when test driving the 1989 Ford Tempo, a front-wheel-drive compact with pleasant styling but a vehicle whose fleetness of foot is best measured with sundial not stopwatch.

Traveling along the Edens Expressway the driver of the Ford Taurus ahead suddenly decided that counting the construction barricades along the roadway required easing back on the throttle to the slow motion setting.

We signaled and pressed the accelerator to the floor while pulling out into the passing lane. Better we should have counted barricades, too, because suddenly we became the obstruction.

The standard 2.3-liter 4-cylinder develops 98 horsepower. Like the 98- pound weakling that gets sand kicked in his face at the beach, the 98 h.p. 4-cylinder gets a snout full of exhaust fumes from all those bullies on the roadway.

When calling upon the Tempo to sprint past the Taurus, it was as if the engine responded: ``Say, what?``

The Honda Prelude behind us in the passing lane slowed to allow the Tempo time to gather a head of steam. After what seemed like minutes but was several long seconds, the Tempo completed its chore and swung back into the slow lane where it belonged.

And swing is an appropriate description because the front-wheel-drive car is nose heavy and most maneuvers that divert you from other than a straight line result in lots of body sway, lean and roll.

We test drove the Tempo LX four-door sedan with standard 2.3-liter 4- cylinder engine and optional automatic transmission replacing the standard 5-speed manual.

Engine and transmission combination is quiet if not powerful. The EPA rating is 22 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g. highway. And that`s one reason folks buy a Tempo.

With the four-door LX you have a stylish if not eye-popping sedan that holds four adults in comfort along with luggage or groceries but still gets very good mileage.

Tempo is one of those functional cars that doesn`t look stodgy. It does what it`s called on to do, though with little flash or flair. You won`t tow a boat with Tempo but you can fit a tow head or two inside and cart them off to the theater or beach without burning up half a tank of petrol.

The other attraction of the Tempo is price. The base two-door GL coupe starts at $9,974 and the top-of-the-line LX we drove starts at $10,156, only a few hundred more and about what many folks paid for a fully equipped Hyundai Excel in that South Korean subcompact`s heyday.

And for the next several weeks Ford is offering a $750 rebate on Tempo.

Standard equipment includes such high priority items as power brakes and steering, AM-FM radio and al l-season radial tires.

The car we drove had a special option package that usually runs $2,314 and includes silver metallic clearcoat paint, cloth bucket seats, driver side air bag, automatic transmission, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel and deck lid luggage rack. That package is being discounted by $1,215, so all those goodies cost $1,099.

Other common options are 6-way power driver`s seat for $251, upgraded AM- FM to include cassette player and digital clock for $137 and power windows for $296. We`d pass on the power seats because the controls are under the driver`s seat and are not only difficult to reach but tricky to adjust considering you`re attempting to get the right back angle at the same time you`re bent over fiddling with the buttons.

The car we drove carried a $13,383 sticker, but with option discounts ran $12,593, which included a $425 freight charge but not the $750 rebate. Lot of car for the money.

We`d advise some chan es, however. There`s good room in the back seat, but it would be even better if the seat back were tilted toward the rear and not forward. A nice touch would be to use the wasted space under the center console armrest for a cup holder. For those who still smoke, placement of the ashtray behind the gear shift lever means you have to put the lever in low to empty the ashtray-a task because the large lip prevents dumping the butts. Thinner door armrests up front would improved hip room. And, finally, re- examine headlamp lenses to determine why moisture sits inside for days.

If you accept the limitations, if you`re willing to stay in the far right lane and if you can accept holding onto the pop can or coffee cup in a sharp turn so it doesn`t spill, the Tempo offers a lot of value for the economy minded.



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