The Mondeo needs little introduction. Since it took over Ford’s medium size sedan duties from the Telstar in the mid nineties it’s become a popular fixture on NZ roads. With strong four- and six-cylinder engines and broadly appealing styling the Mondeo has clocked up impressive sales through the years. But at times during its four generations, the Mondeo has taken criticism for being dull, vanilla and a bland sales rep’s car. When the current model Mondeo was released in 2007 it neutralized these complaints with fresh dynamic design and new technologies scored during Ford’s ownership of premium brands Volvo and Jaguar. For 2011 Ford has pushed the Mondeo a step further into the fun zone with tweaked ‘kinetic’ styling a twin-clutch transmission and more equipment than the NASA space program. So will the facelifted Mondeo spin sales reps and private owners into a frenzy? Car and SUV saddled up a top dog Mondeo Titanium hatch to find out.
When it comes to exterior styling the fourth-gen Mondeo was already a looker, so Ford has understandably played it safe with the cosmetic updates. Changes on the Titanium include new front and rear bumpers, a new bonnet and grille, revised taillights and modernizing LED daytime running lights at the front. The result? It’s the meanest looking Mondeo yet. The front aesthetic is particularly aggressive with its bulging bonnet line, wide-mouthed air dam and thin, blackened-out grille. At the rear, jeweled two-piece tail lamps and a low air diffuser extend the kinetic design.
The detailing is slick, but what gives the Mondeo its road presence is an advanced stance achieved by a high rear deck, raised shoulder line and pumped out wheel arches. Finishing the top brass look on the Titanium variant is chrome trim around the window line and split-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels.
In the cabin the sports styling continues with a premium cockpit trimmed in leather/Alcantara and finished with high grade materials. The dashboard mixes black soft-touch plastics with silver alloy accents. It looks very smart and the switchgear is clear and highly functional. It’s also a clean and uncluttered set-up with a prominent push start button that adds a sense of occasion. The only small complaint with the switchgear is the entertainment screen, which is an older looking orange and black unit where rivals are switching over to full colour multi-function systems. But it’s not a major issue because Ford has elected to put the Mondeo’s main control screen within the driver’s instrumentation. This colour display (Human Machine Interface) looks great and allows access to a vast array of menus and features through steering wheel mounted buttons. In fact almost everything can be controlled from the steering wheel making it that much easier to relax back into the well-bolstered seats and just cruise.
The equipment level on the top-spec Mondeo is bountiful and could easily embarrass many European vehicles from the next class up. Standard equipment includes gems like a sunroof, adaptive headlights with cornering function, heated front seats, parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, 9 speaker CD stereo, Bluetooth with voice control and keyless entry. While there is plenty to play with it’s the standard safety kit that’s most impressive. The Mondeo Titanium has a driver alert monitoring system to detect fatigue, a lane departure warning system, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control with speed limiting and a perimeter alarm. It’s a staggering swag of useful features and makes the Mondeo about as safe as, let’s say… a Volvo.
In terms of cabin space, there is a fair amount on offer for front and back passengers. The dashboard and inner door trims have a Euro-spec bulk but not to the point of restricting overall comfort levels. Three adults can wedge in the back seat without issue, but it is best suited for two. Under the liftback there is a capacious 816-litre luggage capacity in the long and high loading bay. Fold the rear seats forward and capacity increases to a massive 1,919 litres, just 250-litres short of the Mondeo wagon’s limit.
Under the bonnet the NZ-spec Mondeo Titanium is available with either diesel or petrol motivation sources. Our test subject was powered by Ford’s 2.0-litre TDCi engine that produces 120kW of power and a healthy 340Nm of torque. With max torque available from 2,000rpm the Mondeo is peaky low down and given too much throttle from standing it can attract attention from the traction control system. That said, this isn’t an agro performance machine, it’s more a well-powered cruiser. The common rail diesel mill is particularly strong from 60kph up, which makes for safe overtaking on the open road and relaxed motorway cruising. Like most diesel engines, there can be slight lag with power delivery but Ford’s diesel units are better than many. There is some clatter from the motor particularly at idle but it’s much louder outside the car than in the cabin.
Mated to the Mondeo’s diesel engine is Ford’s six-speed Powershift transmission. The twin-clutch box is very smooth in its shifts and effortlessly changes down gears with heavier throttle input. It’s well suited to the diesel engine, working hard to get optimum performance but without altering its calm character. The Powershift transmission also helps at the pump with the diesel Mondeo only requiring 5.6 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. That’s thrifty motoring and can’t be matched by the petrol Mondeo which needs 8.0-litres for the same distance. Towing capacity on the diesel Mondeo is rated at 2,000kg with a braked trailer and 750kg unbraked.
Dynamically the Mondeo further pushes its case as a consummate all rounder. During cruising it’s refined and quiet in the cabin but it’s also capable of being pushed harder through the bends in an engaging manner. Even with its 18-inch alloys and low profile rubber the ride is generally compliant although intensely broken road surfaces can be jarring. The steering is razor sharp and the chassis is well sorted for keeping the Mondeo flat and predictable during cornering. Grip levels are high through the front driving wheels and the Mondeo’s low, wide body keeps the sedan balanced when changing direction quickly. All up, the Mondeo is a very competent steer; in fact the chassis and suspension set up could easily handle more power from the engine.
The top-spec Mondeo has plenty of high-tech safety systems mentioned earlier but also has the more basic safety kit covered. There’s seven airbags including a driver’s knee bag, a collapsible steering column, stability and traction control, seatbelt pretensioners and side impact door beams. With a five star ANCAP safety rating it’s one of the safest sedans on the road.
The diesel-powered Mondeo Titanium is a tough car to fault, but with a price tag of $54,990 it’s not exactly cheap motoring. That said, it’s about as good as you’re going to get before moving up a class to German competition. Can the Mondeo really be compared to BMW and Audi’s offerings? In its highest trim level, yes definitely. The Mondeo’s kinetic styling is contemporary sleek and its interior is elegantly appointed with a massive cache of standard equipment. The powertrain is frugal but lively and the Powershift auto makes for smooth cruising while adding a sharper edge to overall performance. The Mondeo Titanium may prove very tempting to those looking at Japanese and Korean mid size sedans and also has the power to pose serious questions to buyers of pricier European fare.
What we like:
- Exterior styling looks fresh and dynamic
- Interior design and space
- High equipment levels
- Economical powertrain
- Dynamic ability
What we don’t like:
- Diesel motor can be noisy
- Expensive for the segment
- Needs more power to be a true sports sedan
Who will buy this car: Corporate types who need something a little showy for business use but also something practical for family duties. May also see service for retiring baby boomers that enjoy touring.
Cool Factor: Med/High, she’s a looker for sure, but the Mondeo also has an accessible charm that appeals to many walks of life.
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo