We drive possibly the most important car of 2007
Ford's marketing men must have been rubbing their hands with glee when the term 'Mondeo Man' was coined by the Labour party and leader Tony Blair during the election in 1996. It can't have done any harm to the fleet and UK's favourite, as according to research from Ford, Mondeo is the most recognised car name. Sales of the Vauxhall Vectra rival launched in 1993, now total 1.1 million, with the UK taking 30% of total production.
Possibly the most important car of 2007, the Mondeo MK4 is bigger, more spacious and is designed with enough 'premiumness' to tempt buyers away from top-end rivals. Previous generations of the Mondeo have built a reputation for the sharp driving experience. But, despite being a cracking drive, the last Mondeo's design was mediocre at best, against stylish rivals the Passat and Honda Accord.
So when the first offical photos were published of the new car, with it's new 'kinetic' shape, I must admit that I thought that Ford should have dumped the Mondeo name altogether, as Vauxhall is rumoured to be doing with the next Vectra replacement. After all, the new look is so different from previous cars, surely it deserved a new name? As I found out, a name change was high on Ford's agenda but public awareness of the Mondeo name pursuaded them that to change it was a bad idea.
On sale from the end of June and priced from £15,010, Mondeo MK4 stands out with its bold styling cues on the exterior and interior. On the outside, the four-door saloon, five-door hatch and estate are identified by the angular raised waistline with a BMW-like kick up behind the rear door. Other key Mondeo exterior styling includes the large Jewel-like front lights (available in three different versions), chromed side repeater detailing and the jewelled rear light clusters.
Overall, I think the new-look is very attractive. My particular favourite is the estate version that is more distinctive than the car it replaces. The shape suits big wheels and bright, modern colours. For example, the Tango orange paint and 17-inch wheels of the V6 work particularly well.
The inside of the MK4 Mondeo is equally 21st Century. The new dashboard archetecture is attractive, with it's circular airvents and slush plastic finish. Other interior highlights include the delicate faux-metal finishes to the steering wheel and door pulls, with the classy centre console and raised gearshift. Even entry-level Trend versions include standard features such as air-conditioning.
Ford is debuting new technologies in the latest Mondeo. Possibly the most important kit is the Ford Convers+ Human Machine Interface (HMI), which is standard on the range-topping Titanium X and optional on Ghia trims. The system works via a display that sits between the rev counter and speedometer. Controlled by a simple keypad on the steering wheel, HMI can operate the in-car audio, sat-nav option and the trip computer. Other items of kit include touch-screen sat-nav and a keyless entry/start system for Ghia and Titanium models.
Fitted with the full compliment of safety kit, including airbags, ABS and retractable foot pedals as standard. Curtain airbags inflating from the roof and knee airbags are now also standard Mondeo features. The latest Mondeo hasn't been crash tested yet, but the fitment of all the extra kit should guarantee a top safety result.
We drove the 130bhp TDCi Ghia diesel and the 217 bhp, turbocharged, 2.5 litre five-cylinder petrol. The 2.2 litre diesel unit is very refined, torquey and suits the hushed feel to the new Mondeo. The high-performance choice has to be the 2.5 litre, which feels more capable and alert compared with its diesel counterpart. Top speed is 152mph, with the sprint to 60mph covered in just 7.5 seconds.
What strikes you initially about the Mondeo is how much bigger the new car feels, but on the move the fluid handling and positive steering make it very easy to place on the road and fun to drive. Perhaps the most impressive part of the new car is the smooth quiet ride, even over some of the toughest tarmac that Sardinia could throw at us!
It's not all good news though, despite the increase in interior space the glovebox is small and finished in lower grade plastics to the rest of the dash. The faux-wooden finish to the centre console and steering wheel on the Ghia models lacks style and seems at odds with the modern feel of the rest of the cabin. Finally, we found the multi-function steering wheel was not very intuitive on first acquaintance.
Is it as good as the best German rivals? Well, it drives as well or better; has enough technology, is elegantly styled and at a starting price under £20,000, is very good value. The Mondeo has certainly made a move up market, but have the buyers?
Tiscali verdict: 8/10: Another great family Ford that has style as well as substance
Fancy a closer look? Check out our Ford Mondeo gallery