It is timely that a new model Ford Mondeo has arrived on the motoring scene just as the UK is on the run-up to a general election. Those with long memories may well recall ‘Mondeo man’ of the 1990s, regarded as the key voter whose choice could swing the result, and eagerly courted by politicians in the months before the 1997 general election.
Back then, the first generation Mondeo was seen as the definitive mainstream family car, and it was also Britain’s most popular company car. Times change, downsizing has been the common trend across the car market, and today’s parliamentary hopefuls may well be pursuing Focus or Astra man – and woman.
Much of the demand for bigger family cars has shifted elsewhere, into rugged 4x4s and MPV ‘people carriers’ with up to seven seats. Many who still favour a more conventional large five-seater have gone the prestige route, wooed away from mainstream models and into an Audi or BMW instead. But the Ford Mondeo remains one of only two popular models its size – the Vauxhall Insignia is the other one – that have a hatchback body rather than the arguably smarter but less practical saloon design.
The new Mondeo has arrived a bit later than originally intended. First revealed at the tail end of 2012, it has already been on sale in the US for some time, badged there as the Fusion. Its launch in Europe, including the UK, was delayed when Ford responded to the recession by closing its factory in Belgium. So instead the car is made in Spain. It maintains the familiar theme of the previous Mondeo, but with extensive changes to refresh its appeal and keep it in the frame as a company car contender.
It has undergone detail changes to its body design, including a more pronounced Aston Martin-like mouthy front. It has also been given an improved interior, and had a quality upgrade that is evident throughout the car. One of its prime rivals, the Volkswagen Passat, sets a high bar for build quality, and the Mondeo has upped its game to match, but still undercuts the VW on pricing.
Importantly for running costs, efficiency has been improved. The best version for optimum economy and lowest CO2 is the 1.6 litre TCDI diesel, with a combined fuel economy figure of 78.5 mpg, and CO2 output of 94 g/km for a cost-free annual road tax. Even the livelier two-litre diesel has economy in the upper-60s to a gallon, and a CO2 figure of 107 g/km.
The choices in petrol engines are 1.5 or two-litres, both turbocharged, and there is also a petrol-electric hybrid model. Unlike the rest of the range, which are all five-door hatchbacks, the hybrid is a four-door saloon. The trim levels are Style, Zetec and Titanium. Boot space is generous, and bigger than most of its rivals, at 550 litres as a five-seater, and stretching to 1,446 with the rear seats folded.
The driving behaviour of the new Mondeo is one of its strongest assets. It has agile handling, feels pleasingly clingy on the bends for a big car, but it also has well-sorted suspension that cushions the bumps and isn’t too fazed by potholes. The steering is pert and informative. Both diesel engines are quite nicely refined, and the 1.5 litre petrol Mondeo that is likely to be one of the most popular with private buyers is a decent performer.
Don’t write off the one-litre EcoBoost petrol version. Yes, it’s a tiny engine in a big car, but it is also a perky performer with a decent 124 bhp power output, and it is the surprise of the pack as a really likeable version.
So what’s the down-side? Not much really, unless you’re a badge snob, in which case the blue oval on the bonnet probably won’t woo you away from something else made in Germany. Mondeo prices start at £20,795 and go up to nearly £26,000, with estate versions at around £1,000 more.