Motor review: The new Mondeo

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THE Mondeo is Ford's largest car in Europe. It is big enough for most of us. In Britain eight in every ten are bought by companies and it takes 25 per cent of its market.

It still makes a good car for the private buyer – and don't forget to bargain, because bulk buyers do. Just don't expect a lot off, because Ford is bouncing back into profit after stringent housekeeping.

The Mondeo is being relaunched in Europe with a midlife revamp. It is a type of car that has slid out of favour. In 1998 it led its segment. Not any longer. Vauxhall's German-built Insignia has usurped the Belgian Mondeo, as has BMW's smaller but more prestigious 3 Series.

Ford wants a different perception for Mondeo, to move it up a notch.

The saloon version is being dropped in Britain because we didn't buy many, leaving the more practical hatchback and the load-friendly estate. Prices are mostly unaltered (from 17,295). Headline news includes a more restrained face, with a slimmer top grille and a wider, lower intake which gapes like a Peugeot. These shapes make the Mondeo front look less like a Ford. I think buyers will be attracted. There are LED running lamps on the high-grade models and a reprofiled bonnet, with subtler changes at the back, where the wider LED lamps visually shrink the boot lip.

Inside, the Mondeo team has provided clearer and less fussy instrumentation and soft-touch switches. The overhead lights are moved back in the roof, a small move but more logical, with a bright LED beam. It makes routes easier to see if you still use a map. There is a new quality in the touch and feel. For example, the closure of the lid on the central locker uses spring assistance in its last inch, obviating the need for a mechanical latch.

There are new engines with more power and lower emissions and better mileage. These include a two-litre petrol turbo in 203ps and 240ps "Ecoboost" tune, which will be small players because nine out of ten Mondeos will have diesel motors. A 160ps 1.6 petrol of interest to private and business users with low CO2 is on the way. The paramount diesel is the new 2.2-litre with 200ps and masses of torque. It is the most beefy diesel to date in a Ford car.

This Mondeo is the first to get the option of active safety systems, such as "driver alert" which warns you of drowsiness by monitoring your posture. Signals include the picture of a steaming cup – the same emblem used by Volvo on its latest S60. Another option warns if you are drifting over the white line. You may also specify automatic dipping of the headlamps.

The 203ps, 240ps and two-litre diesel engine introduce active air intakes to the non-premium market. By monitoring the cooling demands of the engine this closes as much as 85 per cent of the vanes on the lower grille. At full closure it achieves a 6 per cent gain in streamlining, helping pace and economy.

The engines available for testing were the 240ps Ecoboost and the 200ps 2.2 diesel. The Ecoboost has a standard-fit six-speed Tiptronic automatic twin-clutch gear change. It covers 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and is rated at 36mpg and 179g/km CO2. These are considerable improvements on the old 2.3 automatic, and Ford's plan is they will be good enough to rival the attraction of diesel.

It is a curious rationale because although this petrol motor sounds sweet, smooth and sporting, there is the allure of the new 2.2 diesel, which with stacks more torque is a match for the Ecoboost. It has a 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds, can reach 143mph, and is rated at 47mpg and 159g/km CO2. Then there are the two-litre diesels in 115, 140 and 163ps tune, all rated at less than 140g/km. The 140 and 163ps motors are available with the six-speed automatic gearbox.

Some models have regenerative brake-charging, which like the active air intake system will filter down to other models. Still to make its debut is stop-start ignition. Most major car makers offer it. Ford is either unconvinced or maybe just not ready.

The test route was an enjoyable inspection of decorous Bavarian villages, most with a square white church tower and all connected by roads smooth enough for a game of billiards. They allowed the Mondeo to show its cornering poise but gave no hint how it will cope with Britain's tougher country roads.

First impressions are that this Mondeo looks better at the front, much the same at the back and sides, is nicer inside, and when suitably dressed with extras can be safer.

It is: Ford Mondeo's midlife change for the hatchback and estate. The saloon is no longer sold in Britain. Principal changes bring a new front with a sleeker image, a reprofiled boot lid on the hatchback, LED lamps front and back, door mirror indicators, new engines, smarter cabin design, safety options, brake regenerative battery charging on some models, double-clutch automatic gears, and improved economy and exhaust emissions.

Prices: Mostly unchanged, from 17,295 for the 1.6-litre 120ps petrol Edge hatchback and 18,395 for the estate with the same specification. Diesel: from 18,295/19,395 for the hatch/estate in 1.8-litre 125ps tune. Prices for the 240ps petrol and 200ps diesel are awaited.

Automatics: from 20,745/21,845 for the 140ps two-litre diesel.

Power ratings: Ford uses the European ps system. To get brake horsepower, divide by 1.014. Example, the 120ps engine has 118.3bhp.

Verdict: Tough on the streets, with Vauxhall's Insignia fielding a massive model range with saloon, hatch and estate bodies. Volvo's new S60 may make inroads on the more expensive models if you can cope with its teeth-rattling ride.