By Jonathan Crouch
The MK4 Mondeo proved to be a very complete car, bigger, slicker and more refined than its predecessors but still offered primarily in either hatch or estate form. Fourth generation buyers got a car founded on a more advanced platform shared with Ford's Galaxy and S-MAX large MPVs, so the car could be larger. And it was more sophisticated under the bonnet, gaining an entry-level 1.0-litre petrol unit and even a self-charging petrol hybrid engine. It proved to be still very good to drive too, though increasingly in this form, technology, comfort and balance sheet efficiency were more compelling reasons as to why you might want one.
The Mondeo has changed with the times - as have its buyers. 'Mondeo man' is no longer the mascot of New Labour he was in the Nineties, today instead being a far more sophisticated person. He doesn't feel the need to pay extra for a German premium badge on the bonnet of his company car when this Ford is bigger, better equipped, arguably more rewarding to drive and in some ways more technologically advanced. Private customers can see the logic too, but there simply aren't as many of them as they used to be, traditional family folk tempted away by the trendier choices they could make for similar money. In its Kuga Crossover model and its smart S-MAX MPV, Ford also offers some of these options, but at the launch of this MK4 Mondeo in 2014, still maintained that there's a place for this car in its core model line-up. This MK4 Mondeo needed to be very good to justify that faith.
Back in 2014, Ford had had an awful long time to get this car right, the previous MK3 generation Mondeo dating all the way back to 2007. The US market got this MK4 design (badged there as the 'Ford Fusion') to replace it back in 2012, but a switch of European production for this car from Genk in Belgium to Valencia in Spain took longer than the brand anticipated and it wasn't until late 2014 that the fourth generation version was finally launched in Europe.
Still, it came fully-equipped to take on tough segment rivals like Volkswagen's Passat and Vauxhall's Insignia, claiming class-leadership in efficiency, technology and safety. There was a rejuvenated range of petrol and diesel engines, plus the option of Hybrid power for the first time. A plush top leather-lined 'Vignale' trim level was launched in 2015. This MK4 model sold in its original form until early 2019, when a facelifted version was introduced, complete with minor exterior upgrades, extra safety provision and more frugal EcoBlue diesel engines.
What You Get
The MK4 Mondeo range was mainly based around hatch and estate body styles. A saloon was also offered, but only with the rare hybrid engine. If there's one thing that's defined Mondeo design over the years, it's that it's become bigger and more up-market with each passing generation. This fourth generation version followed that pattern by emerging from its over-extended period of development as an altogether more expressive and polished proposition than before, whether you choose five-door Hatch or estate body styles. Put either one up alongside its predecessor and this looks a much costlier, more sophisticated thing, with its more prominent Aston Martin-style trapezoidal front grille and sweeping power dome bonnet.
Shape and contrast is also a feature of the inviting cabin with its wrap-around symmetrical centre console design delivering a snug, cockpit-like feel. Ford tried hard with fit and finish too, installing a soft-touch instrument panel, a flock-lined central front storage area, chrome touches and smart accents on the air-vents, along with more up-market switchgear. Fortunately not restricted to plusher Mondeo models is the feature that dominates the centre of the dash, the 8-inch SYNC2 colour touchscreen, which plays its part in reducing button clutter and giving the cabin a cleaner, smarter feel. This set-up's divided into four colour-coded sectors that allow you to control audio, sat nav, 'phone and climate control functions via touchscreen buttons.
In the rear seat, you'll appreciate the difference this car's larger-than-average shape can make for your passengers. Three big adults across the back seat of an Audi A4 or a BMW 3 Series is a squash that's only slightly improved if you opt for something mainstream like a Vauxhall Insignia or a Volkswagen Passat. Here, it's no problem at all, with superb space for shoulders thanks to the class-leading width of the cabin. Legs and knees are also well catered for thanks to thin front seat backs. And headroom's fine too, unless you're over six foot and in the back of the hatchback version, in which case the sweeping roofline might see you brushing the ceiling, particularly in a car fitted with the optional panorama glass roof. Thanks to its longer roofline, the estate version's a little better in this respect.
Out back, you'll notice that the huge - and very heavy - tailgate bisects the light pods, giving a really broad loading bay. It comes right down to bumper level too, so it's relatively easy to get heavy items in and out. Total capacity, as ever, depends upon whether you've got a car with a full-sized spare wheel or the potential roadside hassle of a mini-spare or, even worse, one of those tyre-inflatory 'instant mobility systems'. Do without a spare wheel and as much as 550-litres is on offer in the Hatch model, curiously more in fact, than the 525-litre capacity offered by an estate version in the same configuration.
What to Look For
Most MK4 Mondeo owners we came across in our survey seemed very satisfied, but inevitably there were a few issues with some cars. One owner had to replace drive shafts in a car with only 12,000 miles on the clock. Another had to change the EGR valve when the engine management light came on. Some owners complained that the alloy wheels showed signs of early deterioration. Another car had a software fault. Make sure you check the SYNC2 infotainment screen and Bluetooth functions thoroughly. And look out for signs of child damage in the back. Insist on a fully stamped-up service history as usual.
(approx based on a 2015 Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 150PS - Ex Vat) An air filter costs around £16 and a fuel filter costs in the £17 to £28 bracket. Front brake discs sit in the £77 to £95 bracket; for a rear pair, you're looking in the £60-£100 bracket. A radiator costs in the £132-£158 bracket. A wiper blade is around £17. A rear lamp is around £190. An alternator is around £360.
On the Road
The Mondeo has always been a car with a very advanced set of driving dynamics, sophisticated enough to be involving only when you want it to be. You could say it still is in this MK4 form, though you'd also have to qualify that statement by referencing the way that in fourth generation form, this Ford grew up, becoming a little more mature, slightly softer-edged and a whole lot more refined. In short, it became more the kind of car that a typical mile-munching business buyer might want, with lighter electrically-powered steering, a more luxurious feel and exemplary class-leading refinement thanks to design improvements that saw cabin noise levels drop by as much as three decibels over the previous generation model.
All of which might sound impressive, but a tad disappointing if you're the kind of person who really enjoys their driving. Perhaps even you're someone who remembers just how good earlier Mondeo models used to be, all quicksilver steering responses, firm suspension and zingy engines. If so, the good news for you is that not all of this eagerness has been lost in this Ford's move towards maturity. Part of this is down to the adoption of a clever integral link suspension system shared with Ford's Mustang sportscar, but mostly the credit must rest with the Blue Oval brand's expertise in good old fashioned chassis tuning.
If you know your cars, you'll notice this in the first 100 yards. It helps here that you'll already be in the right frame of mind, thanks to an ideal driving environment that sees all the controls working with beautiful precision and the weighting of the pedals and 6-speed manual gear change being more reminiscent of something like a Lexus than a Ford. In this respect, a version with the 6-speed Powershift auto transmission works even better. Pick up the pace and you'll note the absorbency of the ride - it's much better than that of the old MK3 Mondeo over broken urban surfaces - yet also the fact that you're always perfectly in touch with what the car is doing. Other rivals require pricey adaptive suspension systems to feel this good, an option the Blue Oval brand chose not to offer here. Fortunately, this Mondeo doesn't need it, as promised offering up a beautiful balance and flow over the long wave undulations served up by most faster A roads.
Turn off onto a tighter country route though and, as we've already suggested, this modern Mondeo will feel a little less at home than a predecessor would have done. For a start, when the road narrows and turns, you're very aware that you're managing what is now quite a big car: in MK4 form after all, this Ford's width gets within 2mm of an Executive segment Mercedes E-Class. Add to that the slightly lighter steering and the slightly softer ride and you get a car that no longer always entices you into taking the scenic way home. Don't get us wrong though: it can still deliver on such a journey. The electrically-assisted helm still gives good feedback, a 10% improvement in chassis stiffness keeps body roll in check and there's prodigious front end grip that as before is aided by a clever Torque vectoring system. This lightly brakes the inside front wheel through tight bends, sharpening turn-in and ensuring that all the power gets onto the tarmac.
Mostly though, you'll probably be content most of the time to keep this car in its long-legged cruising comfort zone, revelling in the lazy torque that's a feature across most of the rejuvenated Euro 6-compatible engine range. We say 'most of the engine range' because pulling power is a characteristic you'd expect would be in rather short supply were this one-and-a-half-tonne family five-door to have to rely on an engine just three cylinders and 999cc in size for its forward motion. Yet that's just what you get in the entry-level 125PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol version of this car. As a potential confection, this one sounds unwise, yet a specialised engine calibration takes into account the greater weight of the Mondeo and creates a car that might well make a lot of sense to private buyers with lower annual mileages.
These people might also be attracted to the pokier EcoBoost petrol models, primarily the under-rated 160PS 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol variant. Here, you get near-50mpg regular economy, yet a car that sprints to 62mph in just 9.2s en route to 138mph. Quite a combination in a car that deserves to be far less of a minority-interest choice than the much pokier automatic-only 240PS 2.0-litre EcoBoost version. This makes 62mph from rest in 7.9s on the way to 149mph.
All three of these petrol derivatives will, of course, attract little more than a cursory glance from most Mondeo buyers. These people tend to be interested in little else but diesel power, the TDCi options in this Ford headlined by a new-generation 120PS 1.5-litre unit which was announced shortly after this car's introduction to replace the 115PS 1.6-litre Duratorq engine it was originally launched with. It's a decently lusty unit capable of 62mph from rest in around 12s en route to around 120mph, but a better choice we think is the 2.0-litre Duratorq TDCi variant.
This powerplant has to put out a bit more poke to compensate for the extra weight of a modern Mondeo: bear in mind that the MK5 model weighs nearly 600kgs more than the 1993 original. That means the need for an output upped from 140 to 150PS at 2.0-litre TDCi level, which means as much as 350Nm of torque and those lazy, loping reserves of pulling power we referred to earlier. 62mph from rest occupies 9.4s on the way to 134mph, but a more pertinent stat is the mere 9.9s required to cover the 31-62mph overtaking increment. It means that plodding artics and awkward caravans can be dispatched in one easy prod of the right foot.
To be frank, we can't really see the need to go much further up the range than that, but for those that must, Ford offers a 180PS version of this same 2.0-litre unit that improves the 0-62mph time to 8.3s and the top speed to 140mph. Quicker still, thanks to clever twin-sequential turbocharging, is the top 210PS Mondeo diesel variant which may tempt towers thanks to the impressive 450Nm it can bring to bear on the tarmac. These people might also be interested in the 4WD system Ford developed for certain versions of this car.
That only leaves by far the rarest but arguably the most interesting model in the Mondeo line-up, the intriguing Hybrid saloon version. Unlike the hybrid option you get in a rival Volkswagen Passat, this set-up isn't one of the pricey plug-in sort, which means you don't get astonishing all-electric style fuel returns - but then you do without the Passat's outlandish asking price too. Instead, a Mondeo Hybrid has the more conventional type of petrol/electric set-up you'd find in a slightly cheaper but smaller and less powerful rival like Toyota's Prius where the engine cuts in and out to assist electric propulsion as and when required.
In the Ford's case, that powerplant is a 187PS 2.0-litre unit whose efforts are supplemented by a 88kW electric motor driving the front wheels. There's another electric motor for regenerative charging only and a lithium-ion battery pack with an output of 35kW and a capacity of 1.4 kWh, the whole set-up operating via the kind of CVT auto gearbox that's a normal feature in hybrids of this sort. On paper, the 173Nm torque figure this set-up generates suggests that pulling power might be in short supply but in fact, the acceleration's satisfactorily rapid, 62mph from rest occupying a quite acceptable 9.2s on the way to 116mph. In truth, the Mondeo Hybrid was really only aimed at fleet folk - or people primarily city-based.
For most of its customers most of the time, Ford's 'one world' medium range family car proved to be a better bet than ever in this fourth generation guise. A few may rue the fact that in this form, 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. In short, this was a model rejuvenated. It's worth your attention.