Review: Ford Mondeo TDCi
Ford decided that the best way to face down the assault from the premium manufacturers was to endow the Mondeo with equivalent quality. Steve Walker reports on the TDCi diesel models
It speaks volumes about the enormous step change that this car represented that Ford was seriously considering calling it something other than Mondeo.
Drive one and it’s easy to see why. This generation car has very little in common with its predecessor. Where the old car majored on being sharp to drive and in offering a reasonable quality of finish, this Mondeo became bigger and plusher. This was understandable given that the premium brands have all but decimated the traditional family saloon and estate markets. Ford wanted to fight back and the Mondeo has done so, the latest diesel models add another string to its bow.
Going upmarket is all very well but eventually, a company like Ford will run into a glass ceiling constructed from its own brand equity. Buyers will pay premium prices for premium brand cars but Ford’s everyman image will only stretch so far into the territory that the German marques call home. Because of this, the Mondeo not only needed to be closer to the Teutonic compact executive saloons in terms of quality and engineering, it still had to surpass them from a value standpoint. With the fleet customers who are so crucial in this sector of the market continuing their fixation with diesel, the Mondeo TDCi range is faced with a very tall order that the latest oil-burning units should help it meet.
Jump in and expect the same dynamics as the old Mondeo and it’s possible you could come away disappointed. The front end of the car never feels quite so ‘pointy’ and you’ll always feel that there’s a lot more car around you (there is). Just two diesel engines are offered these days but the 2.0-litre TDCi Duratorq unit that forms the mainstay of the range comes in three different states of tune. A 1.8-litre TDCi Duratorq unit opens proceedings with 123bhp: it’s compliant with Euro IV emissions regulations but not the more stringent Euro V standard. The 2.0-litre unit is Euro V compliant in all its forms and buyers get 113, 138 and 161bhp versions to choose from.
"there’s still plenty to appreciate in the Mondeo’s do it all approach"
All of the Mondeo’s TDCi diesels use common-rail fuel injection technology. The 1.8 is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox but the 2.0-litre options get six-speed manuals with the two more powerful options available with a Powershift automatic.
The Mondeo feels a quality product. The slick steering, the weighting of the pedals and gearchange and the excellent damping are reminiscent of Lexus rather than Ford. Minus points would include rather poor visibility due to the chunky pillars and the sheer bulk of the car when parking etc. Once you learn to trust the front end, handling is excellent with a very clever ESP stability control system. Given the car’s roadholding levels, the wide front seats lack a little in terms of lateral support.
Take a seat inside the car and you’ll notice high quality surfaces, materials and finishes. As with the outside, dynamic lines and styling curves are again evident, plus the low profile instrument panel provides very generous cabin space for front seat occupants. The dashboard is clear and the major controls for the electronics systems are largely intuitive.
The design team has also paid great attention to interior detailing and examples of this include the impressive infotainment systems and the Ford Human Machine Interface (HMI). This easy to use system features steering-wheel toggle switches and introduces the availability of a large central LCD screen situated between the main analogue instruments in front of the driver.
Rear seat headroom and legroom are particularly impressive, with the Mondeo really making use of the car’s considerable exterior dimensions. The boot is on a similar scale and even a wardrobe sales rep would have a fighting chance of taking a sample along for the ride on a business trip in the Mondeo.
5-door hatch or estate bodystyles are available and the trim level range consists of five grades, Edge, Zetec, Titanium, Titanium X and Titanium X Sport. As you’d expect, all the usual features are in place. Even the basic Edge variant gets air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, a CD stereo with an MP3 connection socket, seven air-bags, ABS with Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), power front windows, remote central locking, a quick clear heated front windscreen and electric heated door mirrors. Zetec trim is recognisable by 16-inch alloys and front fog lights. Next up are the Titanium trims. At the top of the range, the Titanium X series aims to emphasise modern technology with a ‘contemporary’ interior and the Titanium X Sport adds some racy styling accessories.
Fleet sales are crucial to the Mondeo and that’s why the TDCi diesel models with their low running costs are so important. The medium range market sector where it competes against the likes of Vauxhall’s Insignia and Renault’s Laguna has been under attack from all sides of late with the compact executive cars, 4x4s and MPVs all taking pieces of the pie. It’s a tough market but the Mondeo is the embodiment of the all-round family car and should still attract Mondeo men and women in good numbers. The push up market means that entry-level models are no longer priced ultra-low levels and around £20,000 is the least you’ll pay for a diesel but equipment levels are high and the Mondeo feels like a good hunk of car for the money.
Once you’ve landed a Mondeo TDCi on your drive, ongoing running costs are set to be moderate particularly with the latest Euro V compliant engines. Residual values stand up reasonably well, though they aren’t as buoyant as those of the compact executive alternatives.
Fuel economy is excellent. The range-topping 161bhp 2.0 TDCi engine has to be the star in this regard because its economy and emissions are at identical levels to the less powerful versions of the same unit. Buyers benefit from 53mpg combined cycle economy and 139g/km emissions whether they go for 113, 138 or 161bhp. The entry-level 1.8 TDCI engine returns 50mpg and 149g/km and choosing the six-speed automatic gearbox with the 2.0-litre unit shaves around 3mpg off the economy total.
The latest Ford Mondeo moved the family saloon game on a few degrees. Yes, it brought virtually nothing revolutionary and some may feel that the Mondeo’s outstanding asset, namely its handling, was compromised in the process but Ford has produced a fantastic all-rounder and the latest diesel engines are a particular strong point.
The Mondeo did shift focus in its latest guise from something that the enthusiast would turn to first to a car with a rather fuzzier agenda. It’s a good-looking, spacious, economical and well-equipped family car though, and most of Ford’s rivals would kill for that kind of fuzzy. The Mondeo’s medium range sector has been eroded by other types of vehicles that specialise in particular areas and that’s a problem going forward but there’s still plenty to appreciate in the Mondeo’s do it all approach.