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1997 Ford Aspire

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 3.5

Reviewed by 15 users

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shoplmart is an Advisor on Epinions in Cars & Motorsports

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Not exactly BUILT TOUGH.


by shoplmart:      Jun 8, 2002 - Updated Apr 23, 2003


Product Rating: 2.0 Recommended: No 

Pros: Excellent fuel economy, Used Price's
Cons: 3-speed automatic, Engine, interior, exterior, resale value.
The Bottom Line: My final Recommendation would be to find another car if at all possible, even if it's older, that offers close to the same fuel economy, but offers much more integrity.


Like the Geo/Chevrolet Metro, the tiny Ford Aspire has the same ultimate goal in mind; excellent fuel economy between point A to point B transportation. If you buy the Ford Aspire, and 'aspire' something from this car other than the fuel saving micro machine that it is, than you are setting yourself up for a unfortunate let-down.

Since the Ford Aspire's introduction in 1994 as a replacement for the Festiva, it has come in 2 trim lines; a 2 door hatchback and a 4 door hatchback (my test car). The same 1.3 liter SOHC 4-cylinder engine has been used since introduction. The engine out-put remained the same until its last year in '97 at 63 horsepower at 5,000 RPM, and 74 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 RPM. Ford offers 2 transmissions for the Aspire, a 3-speed automatic, and a 5-speed manual gear box.


Driving Impressions:

Off-the-line acceleration is what you would expect from a car pumping 63 horse power to the front wheels via a 3-speed automatic; very slow. I'm sure the standard 5-speed manual transmission would have increased the performance a bit, but we are still talking about a car with 63 horses and a curb weight of around 2,100lbs, so even a 5-speed gear box would not have been the saving grace for this car. At a light, or from a standing start, the Ford Aspire, under full throttle, almost doesn't know what to do. At first the car stalls, as if it is preoccupied looking at the much more intimidating car next to you, then it realize's that the driver needs to move in a hurry and does its best to scoot from the light. Unfortunately 'its best' comes in the form of a buzzy exhaust note, tons of engine noise, poor shifting, and acceleration that could match an 18-speed bicycle.

Handling is also not exactly something to write home about. The 13" wheels and the tiny 90.7" wheelbase make this car very skittish over poor road surfaces, and the suspension doesn't help this car achieve any driver confidence while on the twistys.

Cruising in the 1997 Ford Aspire is, to say the most, uninvolving and quite annoying. The 1.3 liter engine, when it finally does reach a freeway speed limit, is still very loud. Wind, road, and engine noise plague the cabin of the car.

Braking, despite having a dinosaur set-up of disc brakes in the front and drums in the rear, braking was quite good. Braking in the Aspire assured relatively quick emergency stops with little fade.

Fuel Economy: The 1997 Ford Aspire is rated at 34 city/42 highway, yet I observed around 28 city and 32 highway, this significantly lower observed rating is undoubtedly due to the optional 3-speed automatic that was equipped in my tester.


Interior Accommodation:

The interior, unlike the performance of this car is not what you'd expect. Despite the tiny size, this car is actually relatively roomy (about the room you'd find in a Ford Escort). The Instrument cluster is easy to read, but the dash looks cheap, as does all the materials in this car. Cheap 'kids toy like' plastic is what Ford has always loved to use in their economy cars, and the Aspire is no exception. Amenities are far and few, my option list included a 4-speaker cassette player, air conditioning, power steering, and driver & front passenger air bags are standard. The seats are stiff and offer no lumbar supports, but I found them to be relatively comfortable, and superior to the seating in the Geo/Chevrolet Metro. Front leg room is adequate, but like most compacts the rear is very cramped. The seats in the rear fold down to offer a boat load of cargo room, something I did not expect.


Exterior Innovation:

You have no doubt seen the exterior of a Ford Aspire, they are almost everywhere on the road, despite being in production for only 4 full years before its demise in 1997. The Body of the Aspire is very oval, almost reminding me of an 'egg on wheels,' I believe this opinion is shared by many. The wheels are also very small (13") so this exacerbates this unattractive 'egg' theme. My test Aspire came with a rear spoiler, and semi sporty hubcaps, I'm not sure if this made this car look more 'sporty' or made it look more like a mistake.

Price & Reliability:

Back in '97 the Ford Aspire ran for around $10,000-$12,000, depending on the optional equipment. Today most people who are selling their '97 Ford Aspire's ask for less than $3,000. If you go to a dealer/used car lot you can expect to pay around $4,000 or more. These cars have been very reliable over the past 8 years (according to many owners), although I have a sneaky suspicion that these cars will have their share of problems after 100K miles due to the engine constantly working overtime to keep these cars up to speed.



Other cars to consider:

1. Hyundai Accent
2. Ford Escort
3. Geo Metro http://www.epinions.com/content_51265113732 (My Review)
4. Pontiac Sunfire
5. Chevrolet Cavalier
6. VW Jetta
7. Honda Civic http://www.epinions.com/content_59101580932 (My Review)
8. VW Golf
9. Daewoo Lanos
10. Kia Spectra http://www.epinions.com/content_61327838852 (My Review)


- Happy Car Shopping




Amount Paid (US$): Tester
Model Year: 1997
Model and Options: Aspire, 4-door hatchback, 3-speed automatic
Product Rating: 2.0
Recommended: No 
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