FORD MONDEO

TO FINISH FIRST, FIRST YOU HAVE TO BEAT GERMANY…

DAMION SMY

T W E N T Y C A R O F T H E Y E A R S I X T E E N

Stage ONE

THE Ford Mondeo should have been at COTY three years ago, but make no mistake: this doesn’t feel like a three-year-old car. The Mondeo has grown in size over the years, but not stature in Australia, despite an increase in equipment and, with this new fourth-generation model, a broader spectrum of talent and character.

Even in base Ambiente trim at a value-packed $33,190, the Mondeo doesn’t feel like an entry-level model at all. The Ambiente’s sweet-spinning 149kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol ‘EcoBoost’ is quiet and responsive, and the base model also offers ride and handling that still remains elusive for some premium brands. Its supple ride, hushed refinement and well-honed, playful chassis combine with a roomy back seat (with more legroom than a Falcon) and generous boot area to demonstrate the mid-size Ford’s depth of talent in COTY’s function criteria.

It’s that polished ride on the Ambiente hatchback’s 16-inch alloys and the Trend hatch’s 17s that was one of the 2016 COTY standouts, proving price is no obstacle to comfort. Even on the top-spec Titanium TDCi wagon’s 18-inch alloys, which delivers a firmer ride, the Mondeo’s composure, bump absorption and road manners remain, supported by improved roadholding and a neater line through COTY’s lane-change manoeuvre compared to the smaller-wheeled models.

The Titanium’s larger wheels, darker grille and sequential front indicators also add some muchneeded sparkle to the Mondeo’s plain looks. We had one of each body type on hand – hatch and wagon – all sporting the One Ford corporate grille that has proliferated all the way from Fiesta to Falcon. Criticism of Mondeo’s styling as drab and uninspiring was vented, and perhaps it’s here that it shows its age, but Mondeo is hardly the worst in the ‘Conservative Corner’ segment.

While the ageing turbo-diesel lacks the EcoBoost petrol’s impressive refinement, that’s not ultimately what held it back. Alongside VW’s plush Passat, it was the slightly dated appearance of Mondeo’s dashboard and controls, particularly the rather dour Titanium, that let it down. Despite excellent seat comfort, a lack of attention to detail and some not-quite-there stitching and plastics quality lowered the Mondeo’s esteem. Even its lack of a digital speedo – when the latest Focus has one – shows that, while Mondeo doesn’t drive like a three-year-old car, it’s starting to look like one.

Thankfully, though, its safety kit is right up there with the best in class, even though you have to pay extra for autonomous braking on the base variant – just like Passat – not to mention a reverse camera.

But it’s a sign of the times that the Mondeo’s fiercest rival, and another COTY 2016 contender, is even in the same league – or better – as the once dynamically class-leading Ford. In a field this intense, even the Mondeo’s depth of engineering, chassis talent and luxury-car refinement were not enough to eclipse the over-achieving Passat.

So while life has never been so good for mid-size motoring, Mondeo needed some additional X-factor if it was going to take its journey further.

BODY

Type 5-door hatchback/ 5-door wagon, 5 seats Boot capacity 458 – 488 litres Weight 1605 – 1782kg

DRIVETRAIN

Layout front engine (east-west), FWD Engines 1997cc 4cyl turbo-diesel (132kW/400Nm); 1999cc 4cyl turbo (149kW/345Nm); 1999cc 4cyl turbo (177kW/345Nm) Transmissions 6-speed automatic; 6-speed dual-clutch

CHASSIS

Tyres 215/60R16 – 235/45R18 ADR81 fuel consumption 5.1 – 8.5L/100km CO2 emissions 135 – 199g/km Collision mitigation .

Crash rating 5-star (ANCAP) Prices $33,190 – $49,340

“TITANIUM LOADED WITH EQUIPMENT BUT LACKS INTERIOR PIZAZZ” NATHAN PONCHARD

“YOU CAN HAVE FUN IN THIS CAR. YOU CERTAINLY CAN’T SAY THAT FOR EVERY CAR IN THIS CLASS” BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

’ B A G S O N E O F T H O S E

In Australia, only the Mercedes S-Class can match Mondeo’s rear-seat safety feature: inflatable seatbelt airbags.

The inflatable seatbelts are designed to reduce head, neck and chest injuries and can disperse force over an area five times the size of a regular seatbelt. Unlike typical airbags, they inflate with cold (not hot) gas, deploying in 40 milliseconds away from the face. The best news?

They’re standard on every Mondeo.