For the last seven years, the Ford Mondeo has set the gold standard in my view for ride and handling in the affordable mid-sized car class, which means its recently launched successor, has very hard act to follow.
That task is made even more daunting with the car arriving here almost two years behind schedule, after Ford decided to shut it’s factory in Belgium where the Mondeo was built, and shift production to an all-new plant in sunny Spain. It took a fair amount to get this facility out of the starting blocks and firing on all cylinders as it were up. While this was happening, changes were occurring in the mid-sized car class, most notably a fairly dramatic cooling off in sales of large cars such as the Mondeo, as buyers shifted to more compact models or SUV’s.
This latest Mondeo has smart looks, and is packed with equally smart technology, including safety features such as inflatable rear seat belts standard across the range. They operate like conventional seat belts with the added ability in the event of a collision to deploy a ‘mini-air bag’ over an occupant’s torso and shoulders in 40 milliseconds. This spreads crash forces over five times more area of the body reducing in the event of a crash, pressure on the chest and controls head and neck movement for rear seat passengers.
The company wasn’t prepared to stop there in its efforts to push the safety envelope. The mid spec Trend and top-of-the-line Titanium, feature Fords pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection. It is designed to reduce the severity of and, in some instances, even eliminate frontal collisions involving pedestrians. The system provides a collision warning to the driver and, if they fail to respond in time, it can automatically apply the vehicle brakes. Ford should be applauded, for introducing this sophisticated technology to what is a mass-produced mainstream car. In doing so, they have thrown down the gauntlet to its rivals, to lift their safety game to the same level.
The new Mondeo is offered in wagon and hatchback body styles. The hatch features a sports coupe profile complete with a low- slung roofline. It may look great, but it isn’t great for back seat occupants, who miss out several millimetres of head and shoulder room compared to the old model. A boldly styled front end showcases Ford’s trapezoidal grille, with its Aston Martin look-a-like power-dome bonnet and slim-line, laser-cut headlamps.
The improvements have been rung throughout the cabin and bring to the table a superior look and feel compared to the car it replaces. A modern digital analogue instrument cluster and sleek wrap-around centre console make a positive impression.
This Mondeo is the first model sold here using Ford’s new global platform featuring an integral link rear suspension for improved refinement and more dynamic performance. The body structure is 10 per cent stiffer than before and the car has more advanced on-board handling-enhancing technology, including Torque Vectoring Control.
Powering the new Mondeo is a 149kW/345 Nm EcoBoost engine on the entry level Ambiente or optional 132kW/ 400Nm TDCi diesel on Ambiente and Trend. The $48,990 Trend hatch fronted for this road test featured a high output 177kW version of the 2.0 litre EcoBoost turbo charged petrol engine. This motor featured for a short time in the rear wheel drive Falcon, where it worked superbly, sadly buyers could not get their head around the idea of four-cylinder Falcon. As result, it never got the kudos or sales it so richly deserved and paid the ultimate price by being culled from the Falcon range last year
The 2.0-litre 177kw Ecoboost used in the test car features lightweight all-aluminium construction, high-pressure direct injection system, low-inertia turbo charging and Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing. With 345nm of maximum torque generated across a broad 1750–4500 rpm rev continuum, brilliant low-speed pulling power, that is as good as I have experienced in a car in this price range. Buyers who head down the Ecoboost route, can look forward to strong low-end torque and top draw performance. The only down side is fuel consumption. This is a bit higher than the medium car class average, but then so are the driving enjoyment levels. Some may figure that parting with a fuel extra dollars at the petrol pump, is small price to pay for a motor with larger than life performance. Ford’s new Power Shift six-speed automatic teams well with the engine, using its intuitive and timely gear changes to good effect, to keep the engine operating in its sweet spot most of the time.
All New Mondeo’s feature MyKey safety technology. This lets you program a key that when used can control certain functions including incoming phone calls to help reduce driver distraction. It can also restrict the top speed of the vehicle, prevent deactivation of driver assistance and safety features, and reduce the maximum volume of the audio system. While on a tech tangent, Ford’s SYNC2 is on the money with its voice-activated communications and infotainment system, which includes – 2 USB ports, iPod and audio/video RCA inputs, Bluetooth® connectivity and Satellite Navigation System.
Given the new Mondeo’s size and bulk, road holding is nimble and decisive through the corners. The steering, while not as sharp or responsive as the old model, still remains a key contributor to what is a mighty fine driving car, in fact one of the best I have experienced in this price range. Probably it’s biggest challenger for that crown will be the recently launched Volkswagen Passat, although it would have to be something fairly special, to upstage the Mondeo on the ride and handling department Whatever way this contest goes there may be so little between the two models it may come down to price and what badge buyers prefer on the bonnet.
What’s the verdict? Class leading handling and performance, smartly styled and well equipped, there’s lots to like about the new Mondeo liftback, apart from the lack of rear head room for back seat passengers