Ford's family car is now in its fourth iteration, but is the Mondeo ready to take the fight to a world burgeoning with rivals?

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The Ford Mondeo and the One Ford plan are intrinsically connected, beyond Ford Motor Company’s latest plan to develop and sell singular models for all worldwide markets. The name – Mondeo – derived from the Latin ‘mundus’, meaning ‘world’, is a giveaway.

Even when the Mondeo was first launched, replacing the Sierra in 1992, Ford was thinking global. This was its first global car, designed and engineered for Europe but sold in the US, too, as the Contour.

The Mondeo estate faces competition from the likes of the Volkswagen Passat, Mazda 6 and Skoda Octavia

Except that it didn’t sell in sufficient numbers. Ford’s American buyers, spoilt by the capaciousness, if not the quality or driving dynamics, of cars like the Ford Taurus, took one look at the size of the rear cabin and gave it a swerve. 

It’s hard to make different cars for different regions and make them pay. Especially when your posh rivals can offer the same vehicles worldwide, at a premium, while enjoying enhanced residual values. The return of the global car is the only answer.

So here we are, with a Mondeo that, this time, was initially designed and engineered in the US, where it sells well as the Fusion. It went on sale there, though, in 2012. Why the long gestation period for European sales? Partly some factory-closing reshuffles in mainland Europe, but mainly because, One Ford or not, the Mondeo has to sell here for Ford of Europe to turn a profit.

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So it cannot afford to be a duffer and can’t arrive without the kind of careful tuning and interior quality and refinement that the Ford Ecosport tragically lacked when it turned up in showrooms.

Ford claims the Mk4 Mondeo comes with the widest range of powertrains yet, including a petrol-electric hybrid, and available in three bodystyles - hatch, saloon and estate (as tested here). The trim line-up will be more familiar, although in 2017 Ford has reduced the seven initial trims to a more manageable five - albeit with more equipment fitted as standard.  

Our test car was trimmed out in the Titanium spec, albeit on 16in wheels that won’t be standard at this trim level. Time to find out if the delayed reverse trip across the pond was worth the wait.



Ford Mondeo dynamic LEDs

‘One Ford’ may apply to the model, but it certainly doesn’t apply to the Mondeo’s power line-up. As befits a car that will be sold everywhere, the new Mondeo has a massively broad engine range.

The smallest petrol is the 1.0-litre EcoBoost, before the range moves through to 1.5 and 2.0-litre EcoBoost units in various states of tune. There’s also a 2.0-litre petrol-electric hybrid, which is only available as a four-door saloon.

Chrome roof rails are standard on all Mondeo estates. The panoramic glass sunroof is a pricey £900 option, even on a Titanium

Diesels run from 1.5 litres through to the 2.0-litre engine of our test car. The 2.0 TDCi can be had with up to 207bhp, but the meat of the range will be in 148bhp or 178bhp form. These latter two models are all available with Ford's Intelligent All Wheel Drive system, which sends power to the rear when it detects a loss of traction at the front wheels, but predominantly defualts to front-wheel drive mode in normal driving conditions. Our 148bhp test car was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. 

The Mondeo’s platform is Ford’s latest ‘CD’ architecture. In previous generations it has underpinned not only the Mondeo but also the Land Rover Freelander and Volvo's models. The breaking up of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group means it won’t any more, but it will still sit beneath the Ford Ford S-Max and Ford Galaxy.

As is the way with new platforms, the latest architecture is stiffer and lighter than before. Ford says up to 25kg has come out of the Mondeo, when you compare a 1.5 petrol model with its 1.6-litre predecessor. At 1599kg, our diesel estate was hardly a lightweight, but then this is the heaviest engine in the heaviest body style. Many rivals weigh plenty more.

The architecture uses MacPherson struts at the front, multi-link rear suspension and electric power steering. We’ll call the body itself a steel monocoque but, as is becoming common, there’s a bit more to it than that.

The A and B-pillars and roof rails are of hydro-formed high-strength steel, while there’s a magnesium bootlid inner on saloon and hatch models. In all, 61 percent of the steel used is classed by Ford as ‘high-strength’, and the body itself is up to 115kg lighter than before.

That said a typical overall weight saving is only 25kg, Ford tells us that 90kg has gone back into improving safety, comfort and convenience.

There’s plenty of it, too, up to and including massage seats. More relevant are the standard inclusions of technology such as lane-keeping assist, automatic parking assist and automatic braking with pedestrian detection. Our test car has all of those, some as optional extras.



Ford Mondeo interior

By the end of its strung-out life cycle, the previous Mondeo’s cabin had become a curious concoction. Huge to sit in and fiddly to operate, it took an age to get comfortable in but then looked after you as sweetly as an old armchair.

Its Euro-centric nature was clearly discernible in the quality of trim intended to convince potential Audi and BMW buyers that the mainstream wasn’t worth fleeing. So while an elderly multimedia system backdated it like a cathode ray tube TV, the surrounding topography still had some substance about it.

The Ford's A-pillars are conventional and of average size, so the forward view is good

The latest Mondeo, with its mid-Atlantic accent, looks more at sea. Size is not an issue. Ford’s flagship has always been built to accommodate everything from offspring to workmates, and the new model is no different. Three abreast in the back isn’t a problem if you’re not going far, and the estate, with its extended roofline, will seat six-footers in the back without issue. 

The sense of spaciousness won’t be lost on the driver, either. While front headroom isn’t exceptional, the Mondeo remains a high-shouldered greatcoat of automotive presence. The estate’s load space isn’t peerless – the latest Volkswagen Passat wagon eclipses its peak volumes – but that doesn’t prevent the high, flat and wide boot floor from looking like all the capacity you’ll ever need. 

However, as it was primarily built to satisfy a continent where the description ‘full size’ applies as much to lifestyle choice as it does a vehicle class, the new Mondeo’s ample proportions were never in question.

Where it satisfies less completely is from the most important seat in the house. The dashboard, with a huge, well ordered centre console, has taken a leap forward on layout and incorporates Ford’s latest Sync 3 system. But while everything makes perfect sense, it is not necessarily a boon to the fingertips or eyeballs.

In too many places, the Mondeo’s dull matt plastics and Lego-block aesthetic make its Stateside positioning clear. This is a car intended to see off Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Nissan, not face off with premium marques, nor even, worryingly, Volkswagen

That small shortfall in perceived quality won’t do much damage to the UK’s core Mondeo buyer base, but those flitting between old-fashioned and new premium-brand large family cars have been given one reason less to return to the Blue Oval.

Ford’s ‘Sync 3’ touchscreen multimedia set-up is fitted to every Mondeo trim level, but there is no auxiliary controller on the centre console to marshal it — and you do miss one at first. Navigating the touchscreen functions takes some getting used to, but there are permanent shortcut keys in the corners of the 8.0in screen, making life a little easier.

That the system itself isn't as quick to respond to your inputs as others in this field is a bit frustrating. The voice control programming for the sat-nav works quite well, however, although the mapping is only averagely clear and detailed. When Ford upgraded its infotainment system from Sync 2 to Sync 3, Ford ensure it upped the ante with its system, and included smartphone integration, pinch-to-zoom gestures, 3D mapping and autocorrection when typing in locations.

As for the trims themselves, Ford has simplified the range from seven core trims to five - Zetec Edition, ST-Line, Titanium Edition, ST-Line Editon and Vignale. Entry-level Zetec Edition models come with 17in alloy wheels, projector headlights, LED rear lights, parking sensors, cruise control, electrically folding wing mirrors and a Quickclear heated front windscreen included as standard. Inside Ford's family car you'll find dual-zone climate control, an electric parking brake, leather wrapped steering wheel and Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system complete with DAB radio, sat nav, Bluetooth and smartphone integration.

Upgrade to ST-Line and the Mondeo gains a sportier look thanks to its 18in alloy wheels, bodykit, gloss black exterior trim, sports suspension, front sports seats, alloy pedals and a dark headliner. Also there is keyless ignition, premium velour floor mats and ambient interior lighting thrown into the package. Bulking out the middle-of-the-range now is the Titanium Edition trim which includes 18in alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, keyless entry and ignition, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, a leather upholstery, lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition over the Zetec Edition models.

Above Titanium is the ST-Line Edition trim, which sees the Mondeo adorn 19in alloy wheels, a sporty bodykit and suspension, tinted rear windows and red interior stitching, while losing the electrically adjustable passenger seat and only receiving a part-leather upholstery. Topping the range is Ford's luxury brand trim - Vignale, which originally was fitted to the Mondeo before funnelling slowly down to the Kuga, S-Max, Edge and Fiesta. Opting for the range-topping Mondeo will see you get all the equipment found on a Titanium Edition trimmed model, plus 19in alloy wheels, LED headlights, tinted rear windows, a handsfree powered tailgate, a premium leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, rear view camera and a Sony audio system.



Ford Mondeo rear

Here, thankfully, the Mondeo confounds your expectations of a car hailing from across the Atlantic. The sophistication evident in its powertrain and suspension feels truly European – and dominantly so.

The outright speed of a 148bhp, 1600kg car is never likely to attract attention, and less likely still when that car is so long-geared. Pulling 38mph per 1000rpm in top, the Mondeo is nine percent leggier than a Mazda 6 2.2d Sport and five percent taller geared even than a BMW 320d – both of which have more power and torque.

The Mondeo's 2.0-litre diesel responds quickly and willingly to throttle inputs

Our test car wasn’t even the Econetic economy version, which is longer-legged still. That Ford’s new all-aluminium 2.0-litre turbodiesel gives the Mondeo decent flexibility and pace shows how responsive the engine is.

It takes a little while to get going at the bottom of the rev range, with peak torque not arriving until 2000rpm, and 30-70mph in fourth takes longer than it perhaps should.

From 2000rpm upwards, the engine revs smoothly and freely to 4000rpm, before tailing off thereafter more than a BMW diesel would – but not enough to offend. Pedal response is excellent and pulling power always feels stout enough above that 2000rpm threshold for fuss-free acceleration and easy overtaking.

Meanwhile, the controls shine with evident careful tuning: uniformly and substantially weighted, with pedals and gearlever consistent and slick through the full range of their travel. Most impressive of all is cruising refinement.

With wind noise, road roar and engine noise all dealt with thoroughly, the Ford is fully three decibels less raucous at 70mph than a BMW 320d and Mazda 6, both tested as inherently quieter saloons.

You know you’re in uncharted waters when the biggest compliment you can pay a Ford is how hushed, leggy and grown-up it feels – but that is nonetheless where we are.


Ford Mondeo cornering

The Mondeo’s reputation for handling finesse precedes it by such a distance that the industry would once have expected a new version to earn unfettered praise for its dynamics, although some will have sniffily discounted that notion on learning about the car’s American connection.

The Blue Oval has already proved that it can make One Ford products that handle well on European roads. It has made another one here in the Mondeo, and yet it may not have made quite the vivacious repmobile you were expecting.

The Ford Mondeo would benefit from a slightly sportier chassis

On the motorways and trunk roads where they’ll become so common, the Mondeo handles remarkably well. Mixing tautness with just enough supple give, the suspension tune feels tailor-made for a typical 70-80mph gait.

The ride is expertly tuned as well as quiet and should make the Mondeo as comfortable over long-distance and daily use as almost any premium-brand saloon save the very best. That emphasis on comfort gives the Ford a mature, laid-back demeanour entirely appropriate for cars that’ll do tens of thousands of miles a year for their owners.

That the handling feels only moderately sporting would hardly be worth a mention if this wasn’t a Mondeo. But this big Ford feels its size on all roads and at all times and fails to disguise its bulk as cleverly as its predecessors.

Steering responses are clean and proportionate but fail to make the car feel particularly spry, while grip is balanced marginally in favour of stability rather than directional agility. Press the car really hard over a tough B-road and, rather than rewarding your enthusiasm, it’ll slowly but surely run out of body control.

That, let’s not forget, is what almost all normal, diesel-powered large saloons and estates do when you really lean on them. Most owners would sooner have an appropriate, stable chassis than a more responsive but stiffer-riding one that annoyed them the majority of the time, and they’ll be entirely satisfied with what they find in the Mondeo.

But those who expect this car to offer more dynamic engagement than anything else of its kind – and count us among that number – might be left wanting.

The Mondeo acquits itself well for a car of its size on a hard-charged length of asphalt such as the Millbrook Hill Route, for example; the boundaries of its grip and body control are fairly easy to approach. 

Our test car’s 16in wheels weren’t ideal for exploring its dynamic talents but should have done little to affect the fundamental balance. The chassis kept good lateral control of the car’s body during hard cornering and maintained decent steering precision, albeit with some deterioration in steering weight.

Vertical body control was managed less deftly, with the car bottoming out in a couple of places where lateral loading coincided with a compression. The Mondeo’s handling security is beyond question. Up to and beyond the edge of adhesion, it reacts consistently and looks after its driver well, with excellent ESP tuning in evidence.

But there’s less sharpness, poise and verve than we’re used to from Ford.


Ford Mondeo

There’s no mystery in the positioning of the Mondeo, this new model mostly following on from where its aggressively priced predecessor left off.

Probably the most succinct way to summarise the already expansive range would be to point out that, for now, at the entry level, you can have a Vauxhall Insignia Grand Sport for a little less than the starting price of a Mondeo hatchback, but not a Volkswagen Passat, a Hyundai i40 or a Skoda Superb

Residual values for the Mondeo aren't great; the gap to a Passat or Mazda 6 is quite big

Spending just under £22k for Zetec Edition trim gets you a good level of equipment as standard – but is restricted to the lower-powered diesel engines or the 1.5-litre petrol.

Mid-level ST-Line spec adds the 2.0 TDCi 180 to the menu, however, with its luxury offering of a leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats being offered on Titanium models for a premium of just £1950, will prove a popular option in the UK.

As will the estate, which is a £1500 step up no matter which trim level you choose. At £25,645, the list price of our test car is predictably competitive against its rivals (proving, again, slightly more costly than an equivalent Insignia Sports Tourer while offering a comfortable saving over a Passat GT estate). 

On emissions, the business user’s barometer, the 2.0 TDCi’s CO2 output of 112g/km is competitive but hardly class-leading. Others, not least Vauxhall, do better here with similar outputs. Mondeo buyers chiefly concerned with the impact on their P11d will have to content themselves with the smallest oil-burner.

Likewise those keen to avoid fuel stations, as only the 1.5-litre diesel comes with a 70mpg-plus claim. Our test car’s 62.8mpg combined figure became 53.3mpg when subjected to our new True MPG treatment.

Most of Titanium spec's extras we could live without, so have a Zetec, on optional 17s if you must. Powershift gearboxes give poorer acceleration and CO2 performance, so avoid. Likewise the long-geared Econetic versions.



4 star Ford Mondeo Estate

We’ve waited a long time for this fourth-generation Mondeo – but not without justification.

The money, time and effort invested by Ford to turn a mid-size, mid-market US saloon into something sufficiently well executed to succeed in Europe has been well spent.

The Ford is less engaging to drive than it was before but it's still distinguished. Practical, and strong value for money, too

This car’s distinguishing quality is its chassis. It is less engaging than before, but its handling is no less fluent, while on ride and refinement the Mondeo is stronger than ever.

The rest of the puzzle remains familiar. The dark, plastic-heavy fascia simply isn’t attractive enough for any big car with big European sales ambitions, and the unimpressive multimedia system will do little to lure back customers lost to the premium brands. 

But counting its practicality, usability, refinement and value, the Mondeo does enough – just – to retain its long-held position at the top of our volume-brand ranks. For now.


Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

Ford Mondeo 2014-2022 First drives