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The Ford Mondeo is a fine car in most areas. The family hatch is still a class leader even as its replacement nears

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‘Mondeo Man’ may no longer have the political sway he once did, but he still needs a car to drive. While premium family ranges from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz sell in ever greater numbers, sales of cheaper rivals from Ford and Vauxhall have been finding ever fewer buyers as the middle market becomes gradually squeezed.

Cars like the Ford Mondeo were once market leaders, matching their supermini stablemates for sales. Indeed, Ford shifted almost three quarters of a million examples of the original Mondeo in the UK alone in its seven-year lifecycle. Sales of this generation have don't even reach a third of that as it heads into its final months of service.

There is very little between the exterior dimension of the Mondeo and the old Scorpio luxobarge

Just ask French manufacturers how difficult it is to sell cars in the Mondeo’s class in the UK; Renault has axed the Laguna altogether, Peugeot had to replace the 407 and 607 with just one car, the Peugeot 508, and sales of the Citroen C5 have fallen off the edge of a cliff.

But that doesn’t stop these brands like Ford from having repeated cracks at this shrinking market. The numbers are worth chasing if the investment is spread across multiple models and you can tempt premium buyers by offering well kitted cars developed to the point of offering irresistible value.

That’s the theory, at least. The Ford instantly offers value by providing more metal than your BMW 3 Series as well as a level of finish, kit and sophistication that gets closer to what a BMW offers, for thousands less. It’s a combination that Ford hopes will at least allow the Mondeo to maintain its sales momentum, if not build on it.

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DESIGN & STYLING

Ford Mondeo Estate rear

The Mondeo was one of the first big Fords to usher in the firm’s first installment of its ‘Kinetic’ design language. First previewed on the Iosis concept of 2005 and making production on the Mondeo-based Ford S-Max seven-seat MPV of 2006, Kinetic was all about sharp tensioning lines to give the impression of movement even when the car is sitting in the car park.

The concept was essentially just a thinly veiled look at the new Mondeo, and sure enough, one year later, the Mondeo arrived at the 2006 Paris motor show sporting a bold new look that eschewed the understated, yet elegant styling of its immediate predecessor.

At the front, the Mondeo features Ford’s recognisable trapezoidal grille and headlight design. The new car is much wider than its predesscor around five inches, in fact, which results in a bulky looking front end. But the drag coefficient is the same: 0.31.

Heading towards the rear of the car, the C-pillars might help give the Mondeo a more slippery shape, but they are a real pain when it comes to rear visibility. This problem is only compounded by the high tail line. 

The Mondeo does have a few tricks up its sleeve, however. Ford hasn’t forgotten the significant importance of the fleet market to the Mondeo’s success: the lower half of the tailgate is a body-coloured plastic ‘sacrificial panel’, for improved dent resistance and cheaper repairs if it gets damaged.

Another notable introduction from the Mondeo’s launch in 2007 was the EasyFuel capless tank orifice — a one-time Autocar award-winning feature — that prevents misfuelling of petrol or diesel by only allowing entry of correct fuel nozzle.

The Mondeo underwent a facelift at the 2010 Moscow motor show, which brought with it a more technical look for the front end. It included new front and rear bumpers, a new headlight design and a new front grille, complete with lashings of chrome trim. 

There’s no longer a four-door saloon in the Mondeo range. Instead there’s a saloon-lookalike five-door hatchback as well as a cavernous five-door estate.

INTERIOR

Ford Mondeo dashboard

If you want to see where much of the graft – and money – has gone into this Mondeo, you need to step inside. The previous generation Mondeo's interior was hardly shabby, but this edition takes the cabin finish to a new level as Ford chases after the standards set industry leaders Audi and BMW.

The Mondeo doesn’t quite get there, but that’s because it costs thousands less than the equivalent Audi A4. And you could hardly call this interior cheap. Pleasingly grained, soft-touch plastics skin much of the dashboard and doors. Tastefully deployed aluminium dÈcor features extensively, as do piano-black lacquer inserts.

Only hatchback and estate models are offered. Ford killed the saloon when sales fell below one per cent of total volume

The instrumentation looks appealing regardless of trim level and the seat fabrics (featuring Alcantara in the case of the Titanium X), the steering wheel and the layout and design of the subsidiary controls lend the cabin a sophisticated, well planned, high-quality aura that makes it a pleasing place to be. There are minor cheap moments, such as the glovebox lid and the extent of the veneer abuse on earlier premium models, but on the whole it is an attractive piece of work.

At least as important is the spaciousness of this interior, especially in the rear. We wouldn’t quite call it limousine-like (as Ford does), but there really is a lot of legroom back there, besides a well shaped 60/40 split rear seat.

The top models come with B-pillar-mounted air vents, and there are optional seat heaters. The front chairs are comfortable, though the driver’s is slightly spoiled by the lack of a cushion tilt adjuster on the manually adjusted versions.

The boot is huge and well shaped, the rear seats fold to form a flat floor and a protective bulkhead, and there are load hooks and tie-downs. 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

Ford Mondeo side profile

The Mondeo has one of the widest ranges of engines of any model in the class. On the petrol side, there’s everything from the weedy entry-level 118bhp 1.6-litre unit to the most potent 237bhp 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine. Diesels include Ford’s latest Duratorq offerings, with 1.6s, 2.0s and 2.2s all available.

Of course, in this segment the diesels are the models that really sell. And the entry-level 114bhp 1.6litre TDCi is as much car and engine as most people will ever need. There’s no trade off for its impressive economy and CO2 emissions figures in performance terms.

The Powershift automatic gearbox is Ford's answer to the VW Group's DSG unit

The 1.6 TDCi Mondeo can still cruise easily with motorway traffic in its high sixth gear, or accelerate from zero to 60 mph in around 11.6 seconds. More important than any actual figure is the fact that the car feels both energetic enough for decent open-road passing, and flexible for dribbling smoothly around down. And it’s around 100kg lighter than bigger-capacity diesels. There is certainly no feeling that it’s underpowered. 

Opt for the mid-range 161bhp 2.0 TDCi model and you’ll be met with Ford’s linear power delivery, which builds torque smoothly rather than delivering a sudden lump. Equally impressive is the refinement of this model. There’s a little vibration at idle, but noise is well suppressed. That makes the coarseness higher up the rev range more noticeable.

The range topping 237bhp Ecoboost petrol engine, mated to Ford’s double-clutch Powershift gearbox, should provide enough thrills for the Mondeo owner looking for a more performance-biased motor. It’s eager to respond to throttle inputs and the double-clutch system provides quick and smooth changes.

It’s also quick, the 237bhp EcoBoost engine powering the Mondeo from 0-62mph in 7.5sec and on to a top whack of 153mph. A 200bhp version of this engine is also offered; it offers much the same real-world performance, if lacking the final rung of shove to really put a smile on your face in the way the 237bhp version does.

Opt for the range-topper on the diesel front, the 197bhp 2.2 TDCi, and you get one muscular engine. Once past some low-speed lag you just feel a smooth surge of thrust almost regardless of speed or gear, even from 1600rpm in sixth. It makes the Mondeo a supremely relaxed and quiet cruiser.

RIDE & HANDLING

Ford Mondeo cornering

It only takes one fast-charged bend to reveal the excellence of the Mondeo’s chassis. Its nose turns in with clean, swift confidence, and the body comes after it without any sign of the heave and flop that you might expect of family wheels. There is some roll, but Ford should be commmended for how the whole car moves of a piece and stays that way even through a set of briskly attacked corners.

Body composure is impressive, then, but not as striking as the Mondeo’s resistance to understeer, which is emphatic enough to encourage you into leaning on it harder. And it responds very well. In the end it will understeer, of course, but gently and controllably.

The optional 18in wheels don’t damage the ride massively, and also have the steering wheel squirming slightly over camber changes, which keen drivers will like.

Switch the ESP off and you can adjust its line with the throttle; leave it on, as is sensible, and the car will neatly perform the trajectory trimming itself. Your confidence is only heightened by well judged steering that delivers a smidgin of feel, besides consistent (and quite light) weighting and decent precision.

If you go for the sports suspension and 18in alloys that may take a lot of Mondeo owner’s fancy came, you’ll have a fairly firm ride that is just pliant enough to avoid jostling over bumps and jarring over potholes. But it’s a fraction firmer than it needs to be, which is why we’d recommend the standard suspension and wheel size. With this set-up you lose almost nothing in body composure, and gain a ride that is rarely uncomfortable and often teeters on the exceptional.

ESP is standard, and there’s an optional electronic, adaptive, three-setting damper set-up, called CCD (continuously controlled damping) that functions in league with Interactive Vehicle Dynamics Control (IVDC), a system that also includes a hill-holder. IVDC employs a yaw sensor to deploy damper settings that suit the road conditions and the driver’s style. But the standard suspension is good enough.

The minor spoiler here is the braking. There are no issues with stopping power, but the pedal feels over-servoed and we found it hard to heel and toe.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Ford Mondeo 2007-2014

With the beady eyes of budget-sensitive fleet managers on the Mondeo, Ford will be keeping service and repair costs low, though the use of a cambelt rather than a chain means eventual expense with this engine. The ‘sacrificial panel’ – a body-coloured plastic section of the tailgate that absorbs knocks to save the steel pressing – is an example of its attention to detail.

Things have stabilised lately as mass manufacturers have lifted their cars’ quality and equipment — and started achieving amazing results on economy. The 114bhp TDCi (equipped with stop-start) in Eco trim is the perfect case in point: suddenly this spacious and well equipped family car can return the deeply impressive combined cycle fuel figure of 65.7 mpg, along with CO2 emissions of just 112g/km. Real world economy in all but the most difficult crawling traffic should be well into the 50s.

Economy is even impressive on the 237bhp Ecoboost range-topper; its stop-start system (which can reduce fuel consumption by up to five per cent) helps return a respectable 36.7mpg; pretty remarkable considering an impressive torque figure of 251lb ft.

Ford has less control over used values and the Mondeo’s (relatively) lowly branding, and its segment are all likely to condemn it average residuals, despite its excellence. But that makes it a fine used buy.

Likewise, its insurance ratings also stand up next to rivals including the Vauxhall Insignia.

VERDICT

4 star Ford Mondeo

The Ford Mondeo has the qualities to be a more than plausible competitor against similarly priced premium offerings. If it were a little more stylish, it might win over more brand obsessives than those already tempted by its impressive roster of qualities.

Not only are the basics right, such as packaging, comfort, convenience and economy of ownership, but the Mondeo also serves up plenty of the sophistication that premium buyers seek.

A fine car in most areas, Ford’s family car is still among the class leaders

Many premium buyers will ignore all this and remain unable to contemplate a Ford, despite its lower price — but that’s their loss.

Against its direct competitors, such as the Vauxhall Insignia, it is an easy winner.

The only real disappointment is styling that’s less exciting than the hardware wrapped within. That apart, this is an excellent car.

Many will struggle to accept that a Mondeo can be worth its relatively high price next to direct rivals, but given the equipment levels and the improvements that have been made – and the fact that it still undercuts the nearest premium rivals – the Ford makes a strong case for itself.

It's worth sacrificing the prestigious badge for, we'd say.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Ford Mondeo 2007-2014 First drives