It exemplified the travelling businessman, a briefcase on the seat, trade samples and an overnight bag in the boot, a turbo diesel engine up front. Mile after mile, day after day, every week, all year, Mondeo Man was on the road.
It had a demure, pouty mouth which over the decades has grown wider and deeper. Paul McCartney morphs into Mick Jagger. Unlike the two lithe rockers, the Mondeo has become significantly larger. A series of updates has brought mechanical and quality refinement.
Twenty years ago its European annual sales stood at 227,000. Then the SUV boom happened and saloon cars faded. Mondeo sales dropped below 100,000 in 2010 and in 2018 had slipped under 50,000 (figures: Carsalesbase). Sales this year will be lucky to broach 40,000. Ford’s first “world car” has had its glory. Since 2014, with the arrival of the current fourth generation, it has been made in Valencia, Spain.
It still has a future, says Ford. It was refreshed for 2019, bringing model differentiation in the grille, a speed limit reader which reduces your speed. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is now controlled by a rotary selector combined with adaptive cruise control which will bring the Mondeo to a halt.
New diesel engines with 148bhp and 187bhp can be had with all-wheel drive and there is a 163bhp 1.5 petrol turbo. Ford is painfully aware that diesel is in its dog days despite the industry assuring us that the newest engines will not face any current clean air penalties.
This month it announced closure of its engine factory in Wales. In Europe Peugeot has pushed it out of the number three spot, behind Renault and the clear leader, Volkswagen.
Enter the revamped Mondeo petrol hybrid, now offered in the estate body as well as a saloon. It is the traditional hybrid system, assisting the petrol engine rather than giving pure electric progress for much distance.
Unfortunately the battery pack causes a hump in the boot floor – a handicap for carrying longer objects. It also leaves no proper space for a spare wheel.
The set-up is a non-turbo 2-litre petrol engine and electric motor producing 184bhp between them, and driving through a CVT automatic gearbox. This uses a conventional selector. This model is not available with the speed reduction monitor.
Prices start at £28,000 for the well-equipped Titanium trim saloon. Ford quotes 52.3mpg and 108g/km of carbon dioxide. My testing at normal speeds suggested 54mpg on the motorway and a stellar 58mpg on a 30-mile return drive on A roads. This is one of the highest figures I can recall from a petrol car, or even a diesel car of this size.
The car was thoroughly pleasant to use, with a quibble for just one inside grip to close the boot lid. The road noise from the 235/45/18 Michelin Primacy 3 tyres was notably lower than most other cars I try. Also, they gave a soft, comfortable ride.
The car starts silently on electric power with the petrol engine quickly coming in to give excellent acceleration and a not unpleasant roar. The instrument display is a restrained mélange of blue and green icons with access to the usual information on how the electric/petrol hybrid system is working.
It’s safest to ignore this hybrid data because it can be distracting, as can attempts to regulate your speed to influence the efficiency ratings.
Standard kit includes automatic high and low-beam headlights. A blind-spot monitor costs £500 and the sunroof added £600. The better-equipped Vignale version is £31,425 and estate versions are an extra £1,420.
Verdict: Loved it.