Self-proclaimed ‘Mondeo Man’ Matt Allan drives the latest Ford flagship in Zetec trim, while Stuart McHugh climbs the spec ladder with the Titanium version
Zetec 1.5 TDCi
I’ll admit I’ve got a soft spot for the Ford Mondeo. I’ve owned three and even the ‘delightful’ aubergine shade of my first Mk2 didn’t detract too much from its overall does-it-all appeal.
Of course, things have moved on from the days of that bug-eyed model and its questionable paint options. The latest Mondeo is a more serious, more attractive proposition, but does it still deliver as well as its predecessors?
From the front there’s no mistaking the Mondeo for anything other than a Ford. The wide, trapezoidal grille, shallow headlights slashed back into the wings and deep front bumper may carry a hint of Aston Martin but mark this out unmistakeably as a Ford. And it’s all the better for it, Ford’s corporate ‘face’ being one of the more striking on the market. With a gently curving roofline and sharp creases on the flanks, the Mondeo is a handsome car let down only by our test model’s 16-inch alloys. Yes, they’re better for economy and offer a comfier ride but nowadays, when 17-inchers are de rigeur for many, they look a bit meagre.
The car’s exterior styling carries over to the interior. In particular to the centre console, which is a bastion of simplicity with only ventilation and the most basic stereo controls to break up its smooth lines. Where rivals feel the need to surround their touchscreens with a host of extra buttons, Ford’s Sync2 system handles everything on-screen. The large screen splits into four segments – one each for navigation, media, phone and climate. Each segment offers big, easy-to-use buttons for the most common tasks or you can switch to full screen for further options. It’s easily the most user-friendly system I’ve used recently and should be a lesson to some rivals (I’m looking at you, Honda).
The system offers the usual plethora of connectivity, along with sat nav as standard. Our Zetec test car is towards the lower end of the range but still also featured automatic air con, cruise control, a stop/start system and Ford’s impressive take on the increasingly common parking assist technology.
While this is a decent amount of kit, it’s much as you would get from any rival model. Having reached something of a stalemate in the equipment stakes car makers are focussing attention on NVH – noise, vibration and harshness – and reducing it as much as possible. It’s clear that Ford has spent time on this for the latest Mondeo. Door seals are incredibly thick and once those doors are closed there’s little in the way of intrusion from engine, road or wind. It’s also smooth and controlled over most surfaces, thanks no doubt in part to those high-profile tyres.
It used to be that the Mondeo’s handling was head and shoulders above that of its rivals. It’s still a pleasure to drive – stable and responsive – but the competition has now caught up, robbing it of its undisputed title. Where it still beats some rivals is that this quality is always there rather than having to be selected in some electronically managed “sport” or “dynamic” setting.
Under the bonnet, our test car was fitted with a 1.6-litre 115bhp diesel. This will do the job but feels a bit lacklustre for the Mondeo’s size. It needs to be worked hard and I’m not sure how many drivers in the real world will see the economy savings over the higher-output models. Thankfully, there are plenty of other options to choose from including 1.5 or 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrols offering 158 or 237bhp, and 2.0-litre diesels in 148 or 178bhp guise.
The 1.6’s lack of oomph becomes particularly apparent when the car is heavily laden and it’s easy to weigh this car down thanks to generous amounts of storage space, whether you opt for the hatchback or estate. Passengers are equally well served, with lots of space to sprawl out in the comfortable seats. However, neither the boot nor passenger space is class-leading, and this is the Mondeo’s biggest problem. When it first arrived, the Mondeo was leagues ahead of its rivals but now they’ve all caught up, in equipment, space and quality. That’s not to say there is much wrong with the Mondeo – it still has that ‘does-it-all’ appeal – it’s just that so do a lot of others, meaning it has a much tougher fight on its hands.
Titanium 2.0 TDCi Powershift
The Mondeo is highly computerised – admittedly, most modern cars are, but the Mondeo seems to have reached a tipping point, where the car must be running to achieve, well, anything. There’s no just turning on the radio or whatever, there’s always that few seconds lag. I nearly wrench off the rear view mirror – of course, it’s not supposed to be manually adjusted, like everything in the cockpit. Appropriately, the steering wheel with its paddles isn’t unlike something out of Star Wars. A clue may lie in the manual, with nearly 30 pages on the instrument cluster and info display alone.
Happily, there is an answer. It’s called mykey. Cleverly, it saves your settings, so if someone else does use the car, you can reset it to your own preferences when you enter. It also stores the individual climate control settings for driver and passenger, as well as seat positions, audio volume and the like.
We’re at the second top trim level, which is pretty well-equipped, remote starting,massage seats and a parking camera the only things of consequence missing. You’ll need Titanium X for those.
Ostensibly an automatic, beneath the hood (and, in fact, behind the steering wheel) is the semi-automatic Powershift gearbox – controlled by a couple of rapid-fire paddle shifters for that extra kick.
Voice control, cruise control and the heated steering wheel may be features that look a bit ordinary as manufacturers up the ante in the race to ladle on extra selling points, but , adaptive headlamps which angle themselves at (or away from) other road users and track around corners, and an alertness warning – a personalised version of a ‘Tiredness Can Kill’ gantry sign - will spot if you’re drifting between lanes – and, yes, the Lane Keeping System will drag you back on course.
On the down side, the blacked-out rear windows, combined with a chunky door frame, make overtaking a real hazard.