I purchased this vehicle after driving my '86 Toyota Celica to the ground delivering pizzas. I was then done with that job and wanted a decent car to last me a long time. I found a two year old Contour for $9000 and decided it was a good deal and got it.
And in fact it hasn't been a horrible car. Despite a few recalls, it keeps running with minimal maintenance. I think the worst problem I had was that the tires needed replaced.
But there is always a feeling owning this car that it is going to break down any time. The engine is loud (the V4) and doesn't have a very smooth sound. There were some knocking too that had nothing to do with the type of gas I was giving it. I had also spoken too other people who had owned the car, and their opinion was more negative than mine. They said that the car was plagued with recalls and was not very reliable.
The drive was decent, nothing too notable. Compared to the Celica I had, it rode up high. The V4 didn't have a lot of muscle, despite the fact that my Contour had a manual transmission. I am certainly glad I didn't get the Automatic.
All in all, it was a good car while we owned it. We traded it in after it had 65,000 miles. I didn't want to press my luck any further. Speaking of trade in, I didn't get much for it, $2k for a 1995. I know I could have gotten more but not much more. But overall, there are much better choices out there. I traded it in for Toyota and I am very happy with that. The "comfort" level, i.e., the confidence in the car, owning the Toyota is much higher than it was for the Ford.
If you can find a good deal on a Contour, a really good deal, go for it, but otherwise keep searching.