07-28-2012, 12:25 PM
When I began looking for a car a few months ago, all I really cared for were these 5 things:
1) It had to have a V6.
2) It had to have a manual transmission.
3) It had to have leather seats.
4) It had to cost around £1000.
5) The mileage had to be below 100,000 miles.
Since moving to the UK, I realized that the size of the engine had more impact on my wallet than fuel economy. In my case the car’s insurance group had to be below – Insurance Group 15, anything above that would’ve been too expensive to insure, so V8s were out of the question, but I still wanted the biggest engine I could get, so a V6 was as large as I could go.
Finding a car with a manual transmission wasn’t a problem, considering that I live in Europe. A bigger problem was finding one with leather seats and since most cars only offer them in their higher end trims, it meant that I was looking for a fully loaded car.
The price wasn’t an issue either. Cars are extremely cheap in Britain and just to make it clearer, a 2000-05 Neon costs around £500 and it’s possible to get an R/T that much money. Also, my friend bought a fully loaded 2008 Honda Accord, aka. the ’09 Acura TSX in the US, for around £7,000! So I was pretty sure I could find something in my price range.
And so, I began looking for my car... and it didn’t take me long. After a few days I realised that the only car that fully met my requirements was the 1999-02 Ford (Mercury) Cougar. The Cougar could, leather seats and had lots of equipment to offer for their price. The closest other car was the 2002 (‘03MY) Hyundai Tiburon, with the 2.7L V6, but it was a newer more expensive car, that had 3HP less than the Cougar... and was a Hyundai :/ so I decided to stick with the Cougar.
Despite the fact that all Cougars were built in the US, they were designed in Europe and although they were based on the late 1990s Ford Mondeo, those cars looked nothing alike. On the contrary, in the late 90s Ford of Europe was introducing a new styling theme, called the "New Edge", which gave the Cougar a sharp 2000s look, rather than taking the outdated mid 90s design theme from the Mondeo. Just like the Ford Probe, which it replaced, the Cougar is a 2-door sporty coupe. It’s more fun to drive than a family car, but isn’t an actual sports car, which IMO is the perfect combination for someone who’s young and lives in the UK , because it’s sporty, comfortable, roomy, but at the same time not too expensive to insure, while offering decent performance. (for what it is)
The Cougar stands out mostly because of its exterior design, it looks different and doesn’t look like any other car. Some will like it, some will hate it, but it’s definitely not a bland design, especially comparing it to other cars from the late 1990s. Although Ford could’ve done a better job when they were designing the rims.
There should be no surprise that, the Cougar is pretty roomy from the inside... if you’re sitting in the front. It can offer more than enough legroom and headroom for someone like me, who’s 6’4’’, but like in most 2+2 cars, there isn’t much space for those sitting in the back . The seats are comfortable to sit in, but they don’t provide proper lateral support when cornering at a higher speed. On the bright side it can offer a relatively long list of equipment, like dual front airbags, side airbags, traction control, climate control with air conditioning (which doesn’t seem to work on mine), central locking, power seats/windows, a trip computer and a stereo system with six-stack CD changer that came standard... all of this for just £1000! Also, since the Cougar is actually a hatchback, it has loads of space in the trunk and the rear seats can be folded down to make some more.
The Cougar's 2.5L 24V V6 isn’t a high performance unit in terms of maximum power output or outright acceleration, but it’s good enough to produce 168 horses and 160 lbft of torque, that should allow the car to accelerate from 0 to 60 in around 8.2 seconds (with the 5-speed manual), which isn’t bad for a car that’s pretty much 2-door Mondeo. The Cougar was also available with a 2.0L V16 4-cylinder engine (129HP/ 131lbft) and the V6 model was also available with a 4-speed automatic transmission, which made it's 0-60 slower by 2 seconds. After driving it for over 500 miles in the city, highway and various country roads and I must say it handles pretty well, but once again is no sports car.
After all the time I spent driving the car, I believe the Cougar can offer a good value for the money. It’s quite luxurious, yet sporty and shouldn’t be expensive to maintain, since it shares most parts with the Mondeo. The market value for those cars starts at around £400 and goes up to around £2000, so for £1000 and bit over, it’s not hard to find one in a good shape. The Cougar will provide you with a decent amount of power, comfort and lots of equipment for a low price and you can also get one with a stick!