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First Drive: Ford Mondeo

Review by Feann Torr - 19/October/2007

Ford Mondeo ReviewThere's something cool about talking to your car. No, I'm not off my rocker and I haven't been hanging out with Ben Cousins either. I've just spent some time in the new Ford Mondeo, whose climate control, stereo and Bluetooth telephony systems are all operable via voice.

And that's not even the coolest thing about this car. Not by far.

There's seven airbags - including an airbag for your knees - standard across the range. Yes, even on the basic LX model that starts at $29,990. Dynamic stability control is standard, likewise ABS, 6-speed transmissions, electric front windows and mirrors, a capless fuel filler system, the list goes on.

The new Mondeo is feature packed, but it's more than just a automotive swiss army knife. It's easy on the eye, and is Ford's first car to use the new kinetic design DNA. It's the safest car in its class, it drives very nicely as we found out and, as a result, is going to pose some very serious competition to vehicles like the Mazda6, Honda Accord, VW Passat and other premium medium-sized cars. 

We've just finished driving the car which is new to Australia - the Europeans have had it for a while now - and we're very impressed. It does a lot of things well, and very few things poorly. But why now? Why the Mondeo after such an absence in the Australian market? Ford argues the medium car market is now much bigger than it used to be, and makes up a much larger slice of the overall Australian new car marketplace - more than 75,000 vehicles per year. It says the time is right for a new mid-sizer from the Blue Oval. 

Make: Ford
Model: Mondeo
Price: $29,990 - $41,990
Transmissions: 6-speed automatic, 6-speed manual
Engine: Petrol - 2.3-litre 4-cylinder, 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbo. Diesel - 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel.
Seats: 5
Car Supplier: Ford Australia


Ford Mondeo Review

Ford Mondeo Review

Ford's new Mondeo is not only a good driving
machine, but it's got class-leading safety, a new
design, diesel and petrol engines plus a big boot

How Much?

Starting at $29,990, the new Mondeo is one of the most affordable vehicles in the premium mid-size class, and goes up to around $45,000 if you buy the XR5 Turbo with all the trimmings. Ford also mentioned that the first 250 Australian buyers will get free European style number plates. The entry level LX is sedan-only, and the top level XR5 Turbo is hatch only. The other models are offered in both hatch and sedan with price difference:

 LX 6-speed automatic:         $29,990
 Zetec 6-speed automatic:     $34,990
 TDCi 6-speed automatic:      $37,990
 XR5 Turbo 6-speed manual: $41,990

Options:

 Prestige paint: $350
 Voice control with Bluetooth: $450
 LX 'Cruise Pack' option (cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels, etc): $1,500
 Sunroof (not available on LX): $1,900
 Leather trim (Zetec/ TDCi only): $2,000

Ford Mondeo Review

Ford Mondeo Review

Ford Mondeo Review

Ford Mondeo Review

Ford Mondeo Review

Styled using Ford's new 'kinetic' design
philosophy, both the interior and exterior
of the Mondeo exude a modern elegance

Driving the Mondeo over some 500 kilometres of Australian bitumen, from Canberra to Albury-Wondonga, winding across the tops of the Snowy Mountains and through Kosciuszko National Park, it was evident quite early in the drive that the Mondeo has a well-sorted chassis.

Even the entry level LX model ($29,990) managed to hustle through corners without wallowing too much or exhibiting too much understeer, as some front-wheel drive cars are want to do. All models had precise, progressive steering, and the brakes felt strong. In a nutshell, this is a very nice car drive.

The new Ford Mondeo deals with a range of different conditions without protest. There's enough compliance in the suspension to deliver a smooth ride around town and on the highway, and even some of the more acute bumps we crossed paths with didn't seem tounduly affect the chassis. 

It rides smoothly on the road and with 6-speed automatic gearboxes in all models except for the range-topping performance model (Mondeo XR5 Turbo) the driving experience was as refined as it was satisfying.

The inclusion of dynamic stability control (DSC), ABS, and seven airbags standard across the range also made the high altitude drive across the Snowy Hydro dams far more reassuring, and enjoyable at that. 

All models get central locking and intelligently designed steering wheels that are not too thin, but not too chunky either with good contours. These steering wheels also come with fairly intuitive directional pads not unlike a TV remote, which operate the car's functions and can be used to navigate the menu system located on the sporty instrument cluster. 

The standard feature list is class-leading including the plethora airbags, stability control, air-conditioning, a leather gear shifter, CD-stereo with AUX audio input for an iPod or MP3 player, and a capless refuelling system with misfuel inhibitor. Anyone who's ever lost a fuel cap behind will appreciate the tidy new filling system.

Cruise control is not standard on entry level Mondeo LX models, which is a shame. You'll need to purchase the 'cruise pack' for that, which costs $1500 and adds rear power windows, 16- alloy wheels, and a leather wrapped steering wheel as well as cruise control.

The mid-level Mondeo is the Zetec ($34,990) and gets all of the features of the LX then adds things like 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and an Aston-martin inspired premium front grille to the exterior design. And I have to say, the angular 5-spoke alloy wheels do look pretty swish. Interior features for the Zetec comprise front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, dual zone climate control, an upgraded Sony 6 stack CD player and rain sensing windscreen wipers. 

It comes as no surprise that Ford is predicting the Zetec model to be the big seller in the range with such a profusion of features. Diesel TDCi models cost a bit more than the Zetec models ($37,990) but get exactly the same level of specification.

The big kahuna of the range is the Ford Mondeo XR5 Turbo ($41,990), which adds the bigger, brawnier turbo petrol engine, a sweet shifting 6-speed manual Getrag gearbox, and it gets a far more aggressive look with 18-inch alloy wheels and a sports body kit complete with rear spoiler, rear diffuser, and twin tail pipes. Sports suspension enhances the Mondeo XR5's handling (we'll get to that later on) and it benefits from premium alcantara suede and leather trimmed sports seats. 

Ford's XR5 Turbo Mondeo is also the car with all the techno gadgets, including a keyless ignition. Leave the key fob in your pocket, and you simply thumb the 'Power' button to start the engine. It also benefits from a huge colour screen on the instrument cluster, which Ford fondly refers to as the HMI, or human machine interface. This basically allows you control most of the cars functions without ever removing your hands from the steering wheel.

The voice activation system is standard on the Mondeo XR5 Turbo too, though it is a relatively inexpensive $450 option on Zetec and TDCi models, and well worth checking out. Sure, we've seen this sort of technology on all the prestige German brands like Audi and Mercedes-Benz, but to use it on a Ford Mondeo is quite a thrill.

Just push a button and with a number of voice commands you can change the temperature in the cabin, adjust the radio, change the CD, or make a handsfree phone call with a Bluetooth phone. 

After playing silly buggers for a while and asking the car for things like ice cream and guided missiles (to no avail), I said "climate" and a female voice then asked temperature?. I said "17" and the temp dropped. Nice. Then the softly spoken voice asks fan? and I said "Two". The fan speed then automatically sets to the low setting. Marvelous.

This feature came in handy during the tight and twisty sections of the launch drive as I turned off the air-conditioning without taking my hands of the wheel, nor my eyes off the tight hairpins and fast switchbacks.

As well as an array of intelligent features, the strong safety suite and impressive ride and handling, there's always the Mondeo's design to consider. It's a very smart looking automobile, available in both hatchback and sedan body styles. Even James Bond drives one these days!

Ford calls the new design philosophy used on the Mondeo as 'kinetic', which will eventually permeate all models - possibly even the upcoming 2008 Falcon.

The Mondeo has a European appearance, yet takes one or two cues from the Japanese medium sized cars in terms of its overall look and feel. Ford talks about 'instant visual impact' and the smaller design cues - the swept back headlights, the steeply angled front and rear windscreens, the feature lines on the bonnet - contribute to this. But for mine it is the Mondeo's overall body shape that works best. It's sleek to look at, even the sedan, has a high belt line and the pumped wheel arches add street cred.

The interior has a similarly modern look and feel. Punctuated with a small monotone LCD screen (and a large colour screen on the XR5 Turbo) the instrument cluster has a really fresh design that eschews the typical 'perfect circle' design of most cars. The dash plastics are quite good and there's a uncluttered feel about the cockpit, though the plastics around the gear shifter seemed to scratch easily.

Interior space is surprisingly good; the front seats are comfy with firm European-style seat backs, and the steering wheel and voice controls ensure that you'll rarely have to reach over to adjust the audio or the heater. Even the rear seats are quite spacious, offering ample leg room for 6-foot plus adults. 

According to the figures, both front and rear legroom is greater than the Honda Accord's, plus there's three rear head rests and three lap sash belts. Boot space is huge too, more than 500 litres in both hatch and sedan models.

With three engine choices in the Australian Mondeo range, including one petrol, one diesel, and one turbo petrol performance engine, all the bases have been covered.

Starting with the 2.3-litre petrol engine, which is very similar to the engine from the Mazda6, it powers the entry level LX and mid-level Zetec Mondeos. This 4-cylinder engine generates 118kW of power and 208Nm of torque but because the new Mondeo is fairly lardy, weighing between about 1550 and 1600kg depending on the grade, it struggled up steep hills and could do with a touch more mid range torque.

On the whole the base 4-cylinder engine motivates well and the 6-speed Aisin automatic (with a true tiptronic mode that holds gears to the rev limiter) makes the most of the available power.

The second engine in the Mondeo range is diesel motor. The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine dwarfs the 2.3-litre unit's 208Nm with a whopping 320Nm from just 1750rpm. It's smooth, improves drivability substantially, and is remarkably quiet. With such an expanse of torque low in the rev range - again coupled with the competent 6-speed automatic gearbox - the Mondeo TDCi feels a lot quicker than the petrol model. It's got guts this one.

Unlike the 2.3-litre petrol engine you rarely need to engage the tiptronic mode to wring the most out of the engine as it rides on a chunky wave of mid-range torque. Just flex the right foot and the car effortlessly plows forward, and not even the steepest hills in the Snowy Mountains posed a problem.

The third engine in the range is the heavy hitter, the 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine. An an unorthodox layout in modern motoring, this inline 5-cylinder engine returns the same fuel economy as the 2.3-litre engine (9.5L/100km), emits the same amount of C02 (227g/km), but offers superior acceleration and tractability. 

To be concise, the Mondeo XR5 Turbo is fast.

In terms of acceleration it's not as forceful nor quite as quick as the Ford Focus XR5 Turbo because its a longer, heavier car, but it has plenty of poke nevertheless and provides for effortless overtaking at highway speeds. It's also the only model in the Mondeo range that is without a 6-speed auto. It only comes with a 6-speed manual, but with 162kW @ 5000rpm and 320Nm @ 1500rpm, it's butch mid-range punch bests even the turbo diesel's so you can drive it lazily if you want.

It's a very nice car to drive too. It is somewhat more conservative to punt than it's smaller sibling, the Focus XR5 Turbo which gets the same engine, but with large 18-inch alloy wheels, grippy 235/40 R18 tyres, and sports suspension tune it cleaves through corners very nicely.

It can be a lot of fun through twisty roads and pours on speed in a straight line very quickly thanks to the intercooled turbo engine, and you can get on the gas early to punch out of corners with only mild levels of understeer as the engine power finds its way to the road through the front wheels.

There's a fair amount of feedback from the wheel in the XR5 Turbo, moreso than in the lesser Mondeo models, and it has good turn in. It'll hold its line faithfully through a corner and responds to steering adjustments without complaint, and because there's a touch of compliance in the suspension mid-corner bumps and dips didn't seem to fluster the chassis too much. 

There's only a small amount of body roll when you really crack it into a corner and when all things are considered, this range-topping performance model is a fitting flagship for the Mondeo line-up. Sure, it's a more conservative car than the Focus XR5 Turbo, it's less aggressive, but still has a generous performance envelope. It'll take on the Mazda6 MPS (not sure whether it'll beat it though) and makes for a very engaging drive.

Overall, the new Mondeo range is difficult to fault. There were really only two issues I could uncover. Tyre noise didn't seem to have been completely isolated, and while the capless refuelling system is a great solution to getting rid of a fuel cap, owners will need to get an adapter for the TDCi diesel models when refueling with larger-sized truck nozzles.

Conclusion

Designed in Germany, built in Belgium, the new Mondeo is a premium European mid-sized car with a very friendly price point. Having already seen the car, I had a feeling it was going to generate a lot of buzz. But after driving it and messing with all the gadgets I was taken aback with its levels of sophistication. 

If it wasn't for the highly competitive era in the mid-sized market at the moment, I'd say Ford is going to sell more of these than umbrellas on a wet day. But when you've got cars like the Toyota Camry, Mazda6, Honda Accord, VW Passat, Holden Epica, and the recently launched Skoda Octavia all vying for attention, it's going to be a tough slog even if you've got the best product on the market. And from the looks of things, the Mondeo seems to have what it takes to be the overall class leader. Bold words, but it's a bold car.

The new Ford Mondeo went on sale last week at the motor show in Sydney, and ultimately completes Ford Australian's new car range. There used to be a gap between it's small cars like the Fiesta, and the large cars, such as the Falcon. That gap now sealed. 

There's a lot to like about the new Mondeo, with its safety features, smooth ride and crisp handling at the top of the list. The European media has been raving about the German engineered car for a while now, and it's not hard to see why.

I can picture younger drivers loving the Mondeo's gadgetry and sharp handling, but the European car won't put mature buyers offside as it's still a relatively conservative car with a smooth ride and remarkable safety levels. And if you get bored, you can always talk to the car.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Driving Dynamics
  • Standard Features
  • Safety Suite
  • Exterior Design
  • Tyre Noise
  • Space Saver Spare
  • Fuel Filler (Diesel)

Comments on the review? The Car? Your Car? Email us.

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