An interesting read from the June, 1978 Popular Mechanics issue gives us a look at the thoughts of the day regarding the then-new Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr pair. These first Fox platform cars were rear-wheel drive, compact class replacements for the phased-out Ford Maverick and Mercury Comet.
Attractive looks and economical transportation were the driving force behind owners choosing an F/Z car when new. Fuel consumption was a significant issue for drivers in the late 70s and though many purchased a Fairmont or Zephyr due to high MPG expectations, it was also the most disappointing part of post-purchase reality. The generous EPA ratings did not match what drivers were experiencing and it was reflected in this poll.
Strangely, despite being nearly identical, Zephyr owners were far more likely to give stellar marks to their particular model versus more critical Ford owners. Perhaps the perception of Mercury being a more premium brand influenced this curious reaction.
Take a look at the data gathered by Popular Mechanics which covered over 1 million miles driven here:
PM OWNERS REPORT: FORD FAIRMONT AND MERCURY ZEPHYR