The new Ford Mondeo had a massive fight on its hands to overcome the obstacles of its late arrival, threats from premium rivals like the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class, and the continual improvement of trendier family crossovers. We’re delighted to report that the Blue Oval’s perennial repmobile has risen to the challenge. It’s an excellent car, and still very much relevant and worthwhile considering in its fourth iteration.
Available as a five-door hatchback, four-door Hybrid saloon and an estate (arguably the best looking of the bunch), the Mondeo offers petrol, diesel and petrol-electric drivetrains, a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions, and a focus more towards the comfort and safety and of the spectrum where once the Mondeo was an out-and-out driver’s choice.
The usual Ford range tiers apply – the entry level Mondeo is the Studio, then Zetec, while Titanium and Titanium X version top the tree. We’re eager to drive the new £30k Vignale luxury version when it arrives in 2015. While it won’t be as fun to drive as the class-leading Mazda 6, it ought to play the new Mondeo’s strengths of stress-free cruising and real attention to detail in aerodynamics, noise, vibration and harshness.
Our choice: Ford Mondeo Estate 1.5 EcoBoost manual Titanium
It’s a good job the Mondeo has a clean, crisp look that’s unlikely to date badly. The styling was first seen on the US-market Ford Fusion back at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show, but production delays cause by the global recession pushed back the car’s European launch.
Almost three years on, the car still looks fresh – the front similar to the Focus and Fiesta’s facelifts complete with Aston Martin-like features, while the rear is similar in shape to the old car, but cleaner in its detailing. The shape looks more aerodynamic, thanks to that arching roofline, and it is. Ford claims the new shape, active grille shutters and underbody panels contribute to a 10 per cent reduction in drag versus the previous Mondeo.
Inside, the Mondeo is not only a major improvement over the chintzy old car, but over the US-spec Fusion too. Sober materials give a more mature look and feel, and the American version’s touch-sensitive climate control panel has been ditched for a far-more user-friendly physical button set-up. Like the facelifted Ford Focus, the overall effect is of a much neater cabin. That said, a VW Passat still has the last word in absolute fit and finish, with our first Mondeo test cars all exhibiting ill-sitting trim around the centre tunnel.
How you react to the way the new Mondeo drives will depend largely on if you enjoy your cars to be interactive and fun handlers, and if you enjoyed those qualities in the old versions. That’s because although the Mondeo is a far more refined prospect than before, it’s also lost its handling magic, thanks to body control focused more on comfort than entertainment and light, over-assisted and quick steering. It’s still enjoyable, but not as superlatively so as the old car, nor as much as the class-leader, Mazda’s enjoyable 6.
A massive engine range will blossom in the Mondeo family over the next year, but for now the main choice is between the 178bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel, the 1.5-litre petrol EcoBoost, and the petrol-electric Hybrid. We can discount the Hybrid first, as it’ll only make up a handful of UK sales despite being good for 99g/km of CO2, the only Mondeo to dip below three figures. It’s a hybrid of the old school, with a screaming CVT transmission and lack of response plus optimistic economy claims. Plus, the battery pack’s weight and eco tyres further blunt the handling.
Though diesel Mondeos will make up over 60 per cent of sales due to more fleet-friendly emissions levels, the 1.5-litre petrol EcoBoost is the pick of the engines so far. It doesn’t have a major hit of low-down torque, but it revs very cleanly, sounds rather rorty and is supremely quiet when not under load. The 2.0-litre TDCi doesn’t feel like it has the claimed 178bhp of punch, so for diesel fans we’d wait for the less powerful but more economical 1.6-litre TDCi due in 2015.
Engine highlights on the way include a 240bhp petrol Mondeo (which won’t be badged as ‘ST’ despite having hot hatch performance) and a 1.0-litre three-cylinder EcoBoost petrol that marks the biggest challenge yet for Ford’s dinky downsized engine.
Ford has work to do here, as you told us in the Auto Express 2014 Driver Power survey where Ford finished a lowly 25th out of 33 carmakers, below VW, Nissan, Renault and Peugeot - some major competitors. The Mondeo’s new engines will yet need time to prove themselves before we can provide definitive data on whether or not the new Mondeo will turn the tide for Ford’s disappointing recent reputation.
The Mondeo makes a better showing for safety tech, though. Available safety features include automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and, for £175, rear seatbelt airbags which inflate in an impact to decrease load on the passenger’s body. The car is yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but with a plethora of passive and active safety systems on board, plus a stiffer now body structure, Ford will be targeting the ultimate five-star rating.
The new Mondeo’s rakish looks don’t compromise its interior function. There’s space for five, and in the standard hatchback a whopping 550-litre boot, which expands to 1,446 litres with the seats down. The estate has slightly less seats up room, with 525 litres, but has the larger seats-down capacity with 1,630 litres.
Meanwhile the Hybrid disappoints – it only has 383 litres on bootspace due to the battery pack eating up space and the seats cannot be folded away. Inside, a deep centre armrest, big cupholders and extra space behind the floating centre console mean oddment storage in the cabin is a Mondeo strong suit.
The Hybrid Mondeo is the only current version to offer CO2 emissions below 100g/km, but its claimed fuel economy of 67.3mpg isn’t the best of the Mondeo range.
Right now, the best of the bunch is the 2.0-litre TDCi, which scores up to 69.9mpg. Next year’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost has less wildly optimistic claims than the rest of Ford’s three-cylinder range, with a figure of 55.4mpg. The six-speed automatic gearbox is more harmful to mpg and CO2 emissions than VW’s DSG gearbox too.
Ford is only predicting 20,000 annual Mondeo sales – the car used to shift 100,000 units – but even so, residuals aren’t likely to be as strong as the VW Passat’s due to the perceived badge value.
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