Ford might have kept us waiting for a hybrid vehicle but it hopes its petrol/electric Mondeo will make up for lost time. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Ford Mondeo Hybrid has no right to be as good as it is. Refined, economical and well-priced, it dips under 100g/km and despite losing 100-litres of boot space, you won't need to pack light. Unfortunately, it's only available in saloon guise with CVT auto transmission, a limiting factor for sales that'll also be restricted by many concluding that a diesel Mondeo model would simply do more for less.
Ford wasn't just late to the hybrid party here in the UK. It arrived at the party and found that the revellers had left, grown old and fat, got jobs in conveyancing and had then retired to Worthing. It was fully 17 years ago that the first modern hybrid car was launched in Britain, so as a wait and see policy, Ford have hardly been rushed into action. In that time, Toyota, Honda, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Peugeot Ferrari, McLaren and Audi have all developed hybrid vehicles. Our American cousins got the Ford Escape hybrid back in 2007, but for this nation with some of the highest fuel prices in the world? Nada.
Still, better late than never. And after waiting all this time and with the resources at its disposal, we're expecting quite a lot of the Ford Mondeo Hybrid. In fact, the blue Oval is launching two versions, a plug-in and a more conventional parallel hybrid that we take a first look at here.
We've yet to drive the Mondeo Hybrid but the recipe on offer certainly seems an interesting one. Power comes courtesy of 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 a 1.4kWh lithium-ion battery. A total output of 190PS means it's certainly not slow off the mark and the characteristic torque of the electric motor should make city driving easy. At low speeds, the electric motor powers the front wheels independently and top speed in EV mode is a reasonable 85mph.
Drive is deployed to the front wheels via a CVT transmission that aims to keep the engine in the fat part of the torque curve at all times. Underneath is 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 to match the "comfort," "normal" and "sport" chassis settings of Ford's Continuous Control Damping.
Design and Build
Unless you knew this Mondeo was a hybrid, you probably wouldn't pick up on the fact. It's low key, and only offered in the saloon body, closely related to its US cousin, the Fusion, with subtle green and blue badging. Like the rest of the Mondeo range, this one 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.
Inside, Mondeo drivers are met with a digital analogue instrument cluster, while a wrap-around centre console design delivers a cockpit-like feel. There are elements of the Chevy Volt in here with touchpad-style buttons for the major functions. Materials quality has stepped up a notch again, with a soft-touch instrument panel and flock-lined central front storage area and glovebox but it's still a little shy of the premium German marques. Unfortunately, the lithium-ion batteries rob around 100-litres of boot space compared to a conventional Mondeo.
Market and Model
Ford has pitched the Mondeo Hybrid at around £25,000, which seems extremely reasonable given that you'd pay this much for a mid-spec Prius, a smaller car that's got over 50PS less power. Equipment includes climate control, cruise control, heated seats and Bluetooth, plus there are a bunch of interesting options to choose from. The key technology to be introduced is Pedestrian Detection, which identifies people and reduces the severity of collisions at speeds of up to 50mph. If a pedestrian is detected in front of the car and a collision becomes imminent, the driver will first receive an audible and visual warning. Should that driver not respond, the system then shortens the time required to apply the brakes by reducing the gap between brake pads and discs. If there is still no response from the person at the wheel, the brakes will be applied autonomously and the vehicle speed reduced.
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 big question concerns whether this Mondeo can stack up as a financial proposition compared to its diesel siblings. That might prove difficult. Hats off to Ford for getting such a big car down to just 99g/km for its carbon dioxide emissions, which equates to a fuel consumption figure the right side of 67mpg. Still, even that's overshadowed by the ECOnetic Technology 1.6-litre diesel engine in the range that hits 94g/km. That is always going to make the Hybrid a hard sell, especially as the diesel's going to be offered in hatch and estate forms at considerably less.
The Ford Mondeo Hybrid is an interesting one. Taken in isolation, it's a gem. A big and economical hybrid with well-integrated technology at a price that's more than fair compared to other hybrids on the market. But we don't buy cars in isolation, and you'd have to be really sold on the refinement of the petrol/electric installation to choose one of these over a diesel. A diesel which, remember, is not only more economical and lower in emissions, but which is significantly cheaper and available in a series of more practical body styles.
As it stands, as intriguing as the Mondeo Hybrid is, it looks destined to remain a bit-part player. That said, it's a clear indication by Ford that despite coming late to the hybrid game, it's right in there at the pointy end when it comes to technical ability. Now they just need to work on the marketing proposition.