I loved this car. I had a 2000 Cougar before it, until it was in an accident a year later; I loved it so much, I replaced it with the newer 2001 model. By the 2001 model year, Ford worked out the bugs in this car.
In terms of safety, it's a heck of a safe car, having been in 2 major accidents with them, and walking out without a bruise.
It has incredible looks that have stood up very very well since it was introduced in 1999. After 7 years, people would still compliment the design. Can't say that about most cars!
I had no problems with the interior design or comfort, I liked it well enough. The leather seats are comfortable on trips. The rear is cramped, but that's normal for this type of car. Ride is comfortable. The car body and interior are very sturdy, never rattled. Sport Suspension package is sturdy and keeps tight on the road. Lots of cargo room when you put the seats down -- I always got surprised looks from people who couldn't believe how much it could carry.
The stock sound system is much improved in the 2001 model over the 2000 -- it wasn't bad, I had no reason to upgrade it.
Repairs were quite minimal for this car. I felt it was highly reliable, and never noticed the 'early warning' signs the dealer was raising -- like, requiring replacements for sway bars and brake rotors. But I'm happy my dealer (Lincoln Heights Ford) was pro-active in correcting these before I had a chance to notice them!
Gas mileage is just okay... not as good as an import. But, I drove the car very hard.
The only 2 or 3 times I ever brought the car in for something for 7 years, was for a power problem related to the alternator, and ABS/Engine lights coming on caused by bad sensors.
My ONLY COMPLAINT about the Cougar... is the lack of engine power. The 2.5L V6 just wasn't enough engine for this car. Acceleration just wasn't there. But, that's a minor complaint for an otherwise excellent car. Brake fade and other things I consider to be normal wear and tear.
I bought the car for CDN$30,000 in 2001. In 2008, I got CDN$11,000 for it. That was an unexpected (good!!) resale value.
I would buy another 2001 or later model year if I could... but there simply aren't very many of them on the market. I've test driven other Fords recently, and didn't like any of them. So, my next car would probably by a 2008 Nissan Altima or Honda Accord.