Ford's latest Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 150PS model might not promise fireworks, but it's easy to appreciate the brilliance in its delivery. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The latest Ford Mondeo is bigger, glitzier and in 2.0-litre TDCi 150PS guise, quite befuddlingly economical. This one gets to 62mph in 9.4 seconds yet will return almost 70mpg on the combined cycle. Pricing has been kept reasonable and equipment levels are strong enough to give the premium marques something to seriously worry about.
Here in Europe we have a rather supercilious view of American cars. In short, we see them as crude, cheap things with chintzy interiors and engines that consume fuel like there's no tomorrow. Like most stereotypes there's an element of truth there, but it doesn't apply right across the board. Our transatlantic cousins have been enjoying Ford's fifth generation Mondeo for a little while now and we're only belatedly picking up the pace with this model.
Perhaps it's not surprising that Ford would wait a little while for European market conditions to swing back towards the Mondeo a bit. Big family saloons and hatches with mainstream badges have been about as popular as a rattlesnake in a ball pit in recent years but there are signs that this might be changing. Specify a current Mondeo with a 2.0-litre TDCi 150PS diesel engine and you'll have a car that will keep you set for the long run.
The sum total of 150PS might not sound very much when you're looking at a vehicle as big as the latest Mondeo, but cool your jets a minute. This is a diesel engine we're talking about, so the peak power output is actually not really as relevant as the torque it makes. Developing a rippling 350Nm of torque at just 2,000rpm, this engine has more than enough to give the Mondeo a respectable turn of pace. It'll get to 62mph in 9.4 seconds and run onto a top speed of 130mph but even those numbers give little clue as to its midrange strength and flexibility.
The engine features a revised engine block, cylinder-head and fuel injection designs, and Ford's lean NOX trap exhaust after-treatment system for even cleaner emissions. Want more? Ford's delivering. This 150PS unit will also be offered with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive, 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 debut 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 to match the "comfort," "normal" and "sport" chassis settings of Ford's Continuous Control Damping. 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 is 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. There's ample space for five, and the hatchback boasts a 550-litre boot, which expands to 1,446-litres with the seats folded down. The estate's numbers are 525 and 1,630-litres respectively.
Market and Model
The range runs through Style, Zetec, and Titanium but there are a couple of subtleties to observe here. In Titanium trim, the 2.0 TDCi 150 diesel engine is offered in two versions, normal and ECOnetic, the latter being a tint bit more fuel efficient. Ford also offers a 'subtrim' as well, namely Titanium with 19-inch alloys, which it prices separately at the top of the mainstream range. Prices open at £21,545 on the road for the five-door hatch in Style trim, with the estate costing £22,795. Both of those prices are for the manual car. If you want the Powershift auto, it's only another £1,000 to land it in the next trim level up, Zetec, and the upgrade also nets you gear such as cruise control, a Quickclear heated windscreen, chrome windows trims, powerfold door mirrors, front fog lights, height and lumbar support on the passenger seat as well as a rear seat ski hatch. You can also spec in DAB sat nav for the surprisingly reasonable asking price of £300.
One key option to be introduced is Pedestrian Detection, which identifies people and reduces the severity of collisions at speeds of up to 50mph. Active City Stop, a spin-off of this technology, operates at speeds of up to 25mph and aims to prevent you rear-ending the car in front in stop/start traffic. 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 2.0-litre diesel engine is offered in both 150 and 180PS power outputs and, as you'd expect, the more modest output results in better fuel economy and lower emissions. Emissions open at 107g/km for the Style hatch manual, with the estate recording only marginally worse numbers at 109g/km. The ECOnetic hatches return 68.9mpg with a manual gearbox, while the non-ECOnetic versions are still hardly fuel guzzlers at 64.2mpg. The Powershift twin-clutch transmission knocks the economy down a bit to 58.9mpg. Those numbers change slightly if you go for the 19-inch alloy wheels with a Powershift hatch then recording 57.7mpg and 128g/km or 56.5mpg and 130g/km if you take the estate.
The ECOnetic powertrain includes 16-inch alloys and the sports suspension, which seems a bit of a strange combination but it clearly works. Despite fleet sales falling as a proportion of total Mondeo registrations, Ford cannot afford to overlook this target group and fleet managers will like the look of what they're seeing here. Private buyers will also enjoy the amount of equipment that Ford is including for such a modest sum.
The Ford Mondeo has changed. It's no longer that scalpel-sharp thing you'd be able to blast down a B-road in, sticking to the tail of a Boxster. It's grown huge and a bit softer, but don't for one minute think that means it's got old and fat. Far from it. The Mondeo is a very cleverly executed thing. Of course, it's also fair to say that having been denied this car for three years since we saw the US model Ford Fusion at the 2012 Detroit Show it's a new car that's not in its first flush of youth. That's as maybe, but Ford has updated the interior from the US car, ditching the chintzy touch-sensitive climate control and improving materials quality.
The 150PS diesel engine makes all the right numbers on economy too. It's hard to believe you can get 70mpg on a run in a car that's bigger than a current Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The Mondeo has a lot of work to do to resurrect sales to their former grandeur. Can it get there? Let's just say that after driving this car you might not bet against it.