First Drive: Ford Mondeo

It’s been delayed for a couple of years, but is the replacement for Ford’s most important model worth the wait?

Ford has been producing the new Mondeo for the last few years over in America, where it sells as the Fusion, but it’s only just made it to the UK now. The Mondeo we’re getting isn’t just a straight copy of the US version though, as there have been some significant modifications made to appeal to us Brits.

Most obviously, that means we’re getting a five-door hatchback and estate, with the US-favoured saloon being relegated to one single model – the forthcoming part-petrol, part-electric hybrid.

The changes also mean we’re getting a range of Euro-friendly engines, including a tiny 1.0-litre petrol and a super-frugal 1.6-litre diesel, both with low tax bills.

The new Aston Martin-esque grille adds some individuality, although beyond that it does all look rather similar to the outgoing model, but there have been enough changes under the skin for Ford to consider this a new car. There’s extra-strength steel and new suspension, combining to make things smoother and more refined, and there are adaptive dampers available for the UK market if you want to switch things to ‘unnecessarily sporty’.

Walk up to the car and at first glance the Mondeo is a pretty car. Surprisingly big, but still pretty. No longer does it shout ‘mini-cab’ to you, almost getting away with a premium look to rival the likes of BMW and Audi. Almost.

However, step inside and it’s a quantum leap from the Mondeo’s of old. You now find an eight-inch touch screen mounted high up on the centre console, powered by Ford’s impressive SYNC2 system that brings together stereo, sat-nav, voice control and bluetooth, amongst other things, in to a single unit.

The system actually works, too. Tell the car you’re hungry and it’ll find local restaurants and direct you to them. Ask it to play some Billie Piper and, if by some miracle it’s available, Because We Want To will blast out of the impressive Sony stereo system.

Around the screen lies an uncluttered dash design that throws away the US’s touch-panel controls for tactile buttons and knobs for important bits like heating and volume controls.

The Mondeo has always been a spacious proposition, and the new model doesn’t change that. Accommodating adults in the back of the car is no problem at all, so squeezing in some children won’t concern you. Go for the estate model and the higher roofline makes it an even more comfortable affair, but you’ll be perfectly happy with either variant.

The same goes for boot space, which is a significant 525 litres if you don’t specify a spare wheel. Fold down the seats in the estate and that increases to a cavernous 1,630 litres – that’s more than you’ll get from a Volvo estate.

Interestingly, the rear seats can be specified with airbags inside the seat belts themselves, reducing load on a passenger by 80% in the event of an accident. However, there’s a word of caution with that technology; while Isofix is standard across the range, non-Isofix child seats are not compatible with the seatbelt airbags, and there’s no way of turning them off. That’s something to take note of when if you’ve got kids that travel with you.

Out on the open road there have been more significant changes made. Where the Mondeo was once a razor-sharp proposition that enjoyed being driven quite hard, Ford has realised that most really spend their time pounding the nations motorways. Accordingly, comfort has come to the fore, and it’s a more refined and smooth riding car now than it’s ever been.

Point the car towards some bendy bits of road and it’ll still cope, but the firm suspension and rock-steady body control has given way to something a little less involving. The tactile steering has also been replaced with electric power steering that robs the car of some of its feel.

The 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel model tested settles down to a remarkably hushed rumble when cruising, adding to that sense of refinement, but there’s still plenty of torque available to wheelspin your way out of a junction with ease. Should you wish to behave like a hooligan, the traction control computers will be working overtime.

The 2.0-litre diesel doesn’t offer the best option in terms of economy or tax, returning an official 64.2mpg with CO2 emissions of 115g/km. That means a car tax bill of £30 per year. Opt for the smaller, but still very capable, 1.6-litre ECOnetic diesel and emissions drop to 94g/km of CO2, with economy of 78.5mpg and a tax bill of precisely zero.

The new Mondeo is very much like the old Mondeo, but more Mondeo-y. As the old car was comfortable, spacious, well equipped and efficient, that’s a good thing – the new model takes all of that and improves on it in every area.

It’s the level of composure and comfort on offer in the latest Mondeo that is by far its most compelling feature. After a long day driving up and down the M1, you’ll step out feeling relaxed and alert, which is something that can’t be said of all of its rivals.

The fact it will still handle the fun roads is encouraging, even if the smiles aren’t quite as big as they once were.

It might be arriving on these shores a lot later than was ever planned but, despite that, it’s still as good as a large hatchback gets. For now.

Model tested: Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 180PS Titanium
Price: £24,545
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 140 mph
0-62 mph: 8.3 seconds
Power: 180 PS (178 bhp)
Torque: 400 Nm (295 ft-lb)
Combined fuel economy: 64.2 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 115 g/km
VED Band: C / £30 per year
Car insurance group: 27E
Kerb weight: 1,584 kg

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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