Ford's improved MK4 model Mondeo looks to revive the flagging medium-range family hatch sector. Does it have what it takes to break the spell of the premium marques? Jonathan Crouch reports on the improved range.
Ten Second Review
The revised fourth generation Ford Mondeo pulls out all the stops in a bid to convince British buyers that the medium-range 'D'-segment family hatch isn't a thing of the past. With tight pricing, comfort-orientated drive dynamics, the sort of cabin tech you might expect to be the preserve of the premium German marques and a sharp chassis with an all-wheel drive option, there looks to be life in the Mondeo yet.
A lesser manufacturer than Ford might well have given up. After all, sales of mainstream 'D'-segment medium range family saloons and hatches have collapsed in recent years, falling to around a third what they once were as recently as ten years ago. The Mondeo had the unfortunate distinction of being a car that got markedly better with every consecutive generation but which was rewarded with progressively worse sales. Can this current improved MK4 model turn things around?
It has market conditions on its side. The economy has improved and the love affair with premium badges couldn't last forever. As the used market became flooded with BMWs and Audis, resale values crumbled. If Ford could step in with a genuinely convincing reason to buy something bigger and more luxurious, buyers might return to the fold. To that end, the Blue Oval has pulled out all the stops with this current fourth generation model.
Ford's has slimmed down the engine choices on offer. Most customers choose a 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine good for either 150PS or 180PS, both variants featuring single variable geometry turbocharger technology. There is also a 165PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol unit. Buyers can even opt for a Mondeo Hybrid. It uses a specially-developed 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with two electric motors - one to drive the wheels and another to supply regenerative charging - and 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery.
The 150PS and 180PS diesels are available with Ford's Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system, which offers a seamless transition between front-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive performance to automatically enhance traction and road-holding when needed. The Mondeo's also the first model for Europe to be built on Ford's global CD-segment platform, which debuts Ford's integral link rear suspension. The all-new platform and body structure combination delivers 10 per cent more torsional stiffness than the outgoing model and the Mondeo also gets electrically-assisted power steering for the first time with variable weighting. More importantly, road noise reductions of around three decibels in the rear and two decibels in the front have been achieved.
Design and Build
If there's one thing that's defined the Mondeo's design, it's that it's become bigger and more expensive-looking with each passing generation. This one doesn't divert from that precedent. The front gets Ford's Aston Martin lookalike grille with laser-cut headlamps and a power dome bonnet, while the fuselage is far more sculptured and sophisticated in its design than its immediate predecessor. Ford calls the roofline 'a sports coupe profile' which might be pushing it a bit, but it's a handsome thing. The estate version incorporates a retractable panoramic glass roof for the wagon bodystyle.
Inside, Mondeo drivers are met with a digital analogue instrument cluster, while a wrap-around centre console design delivers a cockpit-like feel. Materials quality has stepped up a notch again, with a soft-touch instrument panel and flock-lined central front storage area and glovebox. Smart-design front seats feature a thinner seat back - enabling rear seat passengers to enjoy additional legroom without sacrificing space for driver and front passenger.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £21,500 and range up to around £34,000 across a range of five-door hatch, saloon and estate body styles. Trim levels now start with 'Zetec Edition', then buyers have the choice of something sportier ('ST-Line' or 'ST-Line Edtion') or plusher ('Titanium Edition'). For something truly luxurious, you'll need the flagship 'Vignale' variant. As standard, all models have navigation, a DAB tuner, front and rear parking sensors and cruise control with a speed limiter. 'ST-Line' series variants introduce extras including a body styling kit, lowered sports suspension, a Ford Power start button and a darkened headliner. Privacy glass and 19-inch 'rock metallic' alloy wheels are added on the 'ST-Line Edition' variants.
Safety technology is a strongpoint. All derivatves get 'Active City Stop' autonomous braking to mitigate or avoid low-speed collisions at under 31mph. Plus there's Pedestrian Detection, which identifies people and reduces the severity of collisions at speeds of up to 50mph. A radar system also drives the Distance Indication feature and Adaptive Cruise Control technology. Cameras support a Lane Keeping Aid and Traffic Sign Recognition, which provides the driver with the speed limit, cancellation signs and overtaking regulations flashed up on the instrument cluster display. There are also full adaptive LED headlights on offer, as well as Active Park Assist featuring Perpendicular Parking.
Cost of Ownership
The Mondeo can't succeed in its particular sector with off-pace economy and emissions. Despite fleet sales falling as a proportion of total Mondeo registrations, Ford cannot afford to overlook this target market segment, especially if it wants to resurrect its company car client base. Fleet managers will like the look of what they're seeing here though. The diesels have followed the downsizing trend of the petrol engines, delivering better fuel efficiency and emissions at the same time as power has increased thanks to advanced technology.
The 1.5-litre EcoBoost unit packs 165PS and in hatch guise delivers 42.8mpg on the combined cycle and emits 138g/km, efficiency figures that aren't especially stellar. The 2.0-litre diesel engine manages 58.9mpg on the combined cycle and 124g/km of CO2 in its most frugal 'ECOnetic' hatch form. The 2.0-litre TDCi 180PS diesel returns 55.4mpg and 132g/km. Finally, the petrol Hybrid model manages 58.9mpg and 108g/km.
For most of its customers most of the time, Ford's 'one world' medium range family car is a better bet than ever in fourth generation guise. A few may rue the fact that this Mondeo isn't quite the complete entertainer it once was. Throw one around and there's no longer the feeling that you're in a big Focus. But then that's probably quite intentional. Customers in this segment have made it quite clear that now, they want something much more sophisticated than that. Today, a car of this kind must be a far quieter, more luxurious and more technologically-advanced thing.
So this Mondeo is. You could pay more than twice as much for something with a prestigious German badge and still fail to match this car's refinement and much of the kind of high-tech kit that really sets this Ford apart from slightly cheaper rivals like Vauxhall's Insignia. And it's certainly a closer match and arguably a more interesting option in this sector than Volkswagen's classy eight generation Passat.