Convincing the doubters

AS modern cars go, Ford’s Mondeo is one of the better known.

AS modern cars go, Ford’s Mondeo is one of the better known.

There’s a good chance that most people will have heard about it but it’s less easy to predict what they’ll have heard.

On one hand, the Mondeo is regularly held up as the epitome of the unremarkable family car.

It’s the transport of choice for ‘Mondeoman’, the hypothetical Mr Average that the Labour Party famously targeted in the 1997 general election.

But while it’s gently derided in some quarters, the Mondeo is strongly appreciated in others.

Large, comfortable but also keen-handling, the latest model’s talents have gained it major critical acclaim. Today’s facelifted version looks even better equipped to convince the doubters.

Times aren’t particularly good for the Mondeo and other D-segment family cars. Small 4x4s and compact MPVs, as well as premium small cars and compact executive models, have all tempted drivers out of traditional middleweights like the Mondeo and Ford had to think long and hard about how to woo them back.

This Mondeo, launched in 2007, was an impressive response and although it’s unlikely to return the sales levels a Ford family car could have generated in the good old days, incremental improvements have kept it intensely relevant.

The current Mondeo engine range looks stronger than ever. The highlights on the petrol side are the 2.0-litre EcoBoost units with their lightweight aluminium construction, direct fuel injection, variable cam timing and a turbocharger.

There are 200bhp and 237bhp versions of this engine and both are combined with Ford’s PowerShift automatic gearbox, an advanced dual clutch transmission with six-speeds.

The diesel engine range will continue to generate most of the Mondeo’s sales with the 2.0-litre TDCi unit proving particularly popular.

Buyers get 113bhp, 138bhp and 161bhp versions of the engine to choose from and all are compliant with the latest emissions regulations. Ford is also offering a 2.2-litre TDCi diesel with 200bhp that achieves very strong performance.

The Mondeo always feels a quality product.

The slick steering, the weighting of the pedals and gearchange and the excellent damping are reminiscent of Lexus rather than Ford.

Minus points would include rather poor visibility due to the chunky pillars and the sheer bulk of the car when parking.

Once you learn to trust the front end, handling is excellent with a very clever ESP stability control system.

Given the car’s roadholding levels, the wide front seats lack a little in terms of lateral support but they’re great for sitting out long journeys.

The looks of the Mondeo are safe rather than groundbreaking but it’s an attractive car that disguises its prodigious size effectively with some well-judged detailing.

Many of the key styling features are replicated across the Ford range including the trapezoidal front grille which has been made bolder on the latest cars with a more slimline opening above.

LED daytime running lights also feature and the bonnet has more sculpted shape. At the back, the rear light clusters also feature LED technology.

Take a seat inside the car and you’ll notice high quality materials and finishes. As with the outside, dynamic lines and styling curves are evident, plus the low profile instrument panel provides very generous space for front seat occupants.

The latest ‘flow-through’ dashboard and centre console give a cohesive look to the front of the cabin and Ford’s user-friendly touchscreen control interface features on upspec models.

Rear seat headroom and legroom are particularly impressive, with the Mondeo really making use of its considerable exterior dimensions.

The boot is on a similar scale and the rear seats drop down easily to increase the available capacity.

Hatchback or estate bodystyles are offered and equipment levels are generous. Even the basic variants get air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, a CD stereo with an MP3 connection socket, seven air-bags, ABS with Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), power front windows, remote central locking, a quick clear heated front windscreen and electric heated door mirrors.

Ford has upped the technology count on the car in recent times and some high-tech features are now available.

There’s a Lane Departure Warning system, a Blind Spot Information System, a rear-view camera to help when parking and a speed limiter. Music fans will be attracted by Ford’s Premium Sound System.