Ford Mondeo

Two years late but loaded with talent

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

SINCE the days of Jeremy Clarkson’s notorious ‘Mondeo Man’, the quintessential Pommy rep, the rise of the premium brand has relegated many ‘bread-andbutter’ models to bit players in the fight for mid-size supremacy.

In Australia, the effect is dramatic. This year, the Mercedes C-Class has almost doubled the Mazda 6’s sales, which leaves the new-gen Mondeo a tough fight.

With several key rivals having just been refreshed or replaced by all-new models, Mondeo’s mission statement hinges on its astounding level of equipment.

Starting at $32,790, the only indicator the 149kW Ambiente is the base car is the modesty of its 16-inch alloy wheels, and its lack of a reversing camera. Standard sat-nav, nine airbags (including rear seatbelt airbags), dual-zone climate, an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen, digital radio, a superb leather steering wheel and beautifully trimmed cloth seats definitely don’t say ‘cheap’.

But it’s the $37,290 Trend that makes the best impression. An uprated 177kW 2.0-litre turbo combines with excellent heated leather/Alcantara seats, 10-way power adjustment for driver and front passenger, and a brilliant driving position to make the Trend really feel a cut above.

Trick gear including auto high-beam, active city stop and pre-collision assist with pedestrian protection are the icing on the Trend’s value story, making the step up to a $44,290 Titanium mostly a narcissistic one.

New Mondeo’s 40-percentstiffer body serves as a great foundation for its dynamic excellence. Dimensions might be similar, but this car is totally new, with ‘Integral Link’ multi-link rear suspension designed to absorb bumps more readily, without affecting handling.

And boy does it handle.

From the positivity of its front end to the corner-enhancing involvement of its rear, the Mondeo feels much smaller than it is. Fling one down a twisty road and you’ll revel in its poise and cohesiveness, guided by an electric steering system that feels hydraulic most of the time.

Ride quality and refinement are two other new Mondeo hallmarks. On narrow 215/60R16 Bridgestones, the Ambiente is the quietest and most cossetting, though the Trend’s 235/50R17 Michelins are also hushed, yet much grippier, and blend well with its uprated engine.

While the Ambiente’s 149kW 2.0-litre is strong and sweet, there’s something about the muted snarl of the 177kW version that makes it the pick, even though the petrol’s 8.2L/100km is well down on the diesel’s excellent 5.1.

We drove several diesels, including an Ambiente wagon on 17s (only hatches get 16s) and a Titanium on grippy 18s. While the 132kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel lacks the sparkle of the petrols, it’s a solid engine with decent grunt (8.6sec to 100) and a slick six-speed dual-clutch ’box.

The 54kg-heavier wagon cedes little to the hatch, and gets selflevelling rear suspension to boot, as well as cargo dividers on rails.

Terrific ESC tune, too, which keeps the car on line in hard driving without spoiling the show.

So while two years is a long time to wait, we think the new Mondeo has been worth it. At base level, its excellent refinement, great seats and superb dynamics make a Falcon seem virtually redundant, though in Turbo and V8 form, the homegrown Ford maintains its USP.

In so many ways, however, the new Mondeo is all the car most people could ever need.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Ford Mondeo Trend hatch 1999cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 177kW @ 5400rpm 345Nm @ 2300-4900rpm 6-speed automatic 1629kg 7.9sec (claimed) 8.2L/100km $37,290 May

PLUS & MINUS

Titanium cabin not special enough and below VW standard; weight Superb chassis; vast interior; sweet turbo-petrols; diesel efficiency

LIKE IT? LEASE IT!

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01 TREND SETTING

Posh Titanium gets full leather, techy instruments and blindspot/ lane-keeping assist, among other bits of tinsel, but its illogical climate-control layout could be from a cheap stereo bought at Aldi.

02 GREY GARDENS

Making the lower cabin grey instead of an all-charcoal abyss would’ve been far more effective at differentiating the Titanium. Sadly, Europe’s ultraplush Mondeo Vignale flagship won’t be coming here.

03 METAL OBSESSION

Worth the wait?

THE replacement for the circa-2007 thirdgeneration Mondeo has been a long time coming.

Unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2012 and on sale in the US from 2013, it has taken Ford Australia two years to source adequate stock of the new-generation European-spec Mondeo from its new home in Valencia, Spain.

The delay was partly due to the 2013 closure of Ford’s production plant in Genk, Belgium, which had built Mondeo since its inception in late-1992.

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