The Ford Cougar was introduced as a replacement for the somewhat maligned Ford Probe. Designed in Europe and produced in the US, the Cougar is a good-looking sports coupe that was sold here between 1999 and 2004.
While Ford has had relative success with its larger performance cars, at the smaller end of the range, it has not fared so well. The Puma, Probe, and Cougar all failed to deliver what the classic Mustang had managed to do in spades, and this remains largely true to the present day.
The Cougar is based on the rather more popular Mondeo base, and it shares with the Mondeo and Falcon its distinctive nose shape, tapering up to a squared-off coupe rear. In the looks stakes, the Cougar scores pretty highly and has largely stood the test of time, remaining a good-looking specimen, but this is not really backed up by the drive.
Standard Ford Cougar engines are a 2.5L V6 with a choice of manual or automatic transmission, giving 125kW of power at 6250rpm and 220Nm of torque at 4250rpm. The engine is decent enough but nothing really to write home about and the dynamics of the chassis fall into the same category.
Comfort is rather compromised in the Cougar, with the seat styling really not living up to the sleek looks of the exterior. This is not a car for long journeys, on which you are bound to feel the lack of lateral support. For the driver, this is further compounded by the rather awkward layout of the pedals, particularly in the manual version, which are clustered to the left and not complemented by a decent footrest.
The Food Cougar handles well, and the manual gearbox in particular helps to get the best out of the moderately able engine. It pulls well in the higher gears and has a decent amount of poke for those quick bursts of acceleration at speed. The drive is aided by good-quality tyres, and there is plenty of grip in all conditions thanks to the traction control.
Fuel economy comes in around 10.4L/100km combined, split to 9.3L/100km on the open road and 12.6L/100km around town.
For a performance car, the Cougar feels as though it is rather lacking in attention to detail in the interior, and time has not been particularly kind to some Cougars. That said, they do pack in a fair amount of equipment for the money. Expect to find a decent level of safety equipment, including dual front airbags, front side airbags, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. Other kit includes semi-automatic climate control, power windows, a trip computer, 6-stack CD system, alarm, remote central windows, and alloy wheels as standard.
The lack of comfort in front passenger seating is echoed in the back, however, with unusually deep dips in the seats making for an uncomfortable seating position. Rear legroom is also reduced; unless you’re carrying three small children at the back, expect the Cougar to accommodate no more than 4 passengers, comfortably or otherwise.
Some of the rear seating compromise is offset by the enhanced boot space. There is plenty of room for luggage, and the 50/50 split rear-folding seat means you can accommodate longer or larger items too.
Fitted out with the full spoiler kit, the Cougar adopts an attractively aggressive appearance, and it is certainly worth considering if you are looking for one on the used car market.
The Ford Cougar faces stiff competition from its Japanese contemporaries. The Honda Prelude and Toyota Celica in particular give it a run for its money, and in the eyes of many, come out trumps for their superior styling and more comfortable and user-friendly interiors. If you are in the market for a Ford Cougar, you may also want to consider its predecessor, the Probe, which was originally brought to market as an alternative to the enduringly popular Mustang. In reality, neither the Probe nor the Cougar were able to touch their much-loved predecessor, but on the plus side, their lack of ‘classic car’ status means their price tags are also far from classic.