WE LIKE THE MONDEO, always have. Can’t work out why such a decent drive and decent-looking medium contender has not done better in the Australian market.
Like, take a look at last month’s VFACTS sales figures for the Mondeo and compare them with the Mazda6 and the Accord Euro. Mazda sold 672 of its seemly 6, Honda sold 385 Euros, while Ford sold 259 Mondeos.
The Mondeo is better than that. So what’s the story? Is it too close to the Falcon, can that be it? Or is it just that Ford hasn’t yet worked out how to get the Mondeo onto the radar for Australian buyers?
Maybe buyers just forget to check it out.
But perhaps the new MB Mondeo will change things. With a new Wagon, plus a hatch with both the LX specification and a ‘Titanium’ premium badge added to the mix, Ford may now have the right model spread for the Mondeo to finally make its presence felt in the segment.
We got behind the wheel of each of the new models, and, over a range of varying roads and surfaces, had a chance to see where Ford has tweaked the new MB range.
While a longer test will tell the tale, on this first drive, the news – pretty much – is all good.
Both the Wagon and the LX hatch model are all-new entries to the range (the LX was previously only available as a sedan).
The LX hatch - now up-specced with the addition of Bluetooth hands-free with Voice Control system, cruise control and leather steering wheel, at no increase to the $31,990 list price - will be a welcome addition for many buyers.
The Wagon, which is perhaps of most interest, comes at the expense of the slow-selling sedan, which Ford Australia has dropped from showrooms.
Right now, the LX and Wagon are available with the 2.3 litre petrol engine only. The stylish and well-balanced MB Wagon would certainly benefit from the diesel option.
There is nothing wrong though with the smooth and surprisingly tractable 2.3 litre Duratec 16-valve petrol engine. With 118kW @ 6500rpm and 208 Nm @ 4200rpm, and a willingness to spin effortlessly, it’s no gasping slouch and moves the Mondeo in hatch or wagon form along quite nicely.
The diesel option for the Zetec and Titanium hatch is the potent and familiar TDCi Duratorq diesel with 103kW @ 4000rpm and 320Nm available from 1750rpm.
Each powerplant is mated to Ford’s excellent six-speed automatic auto. Those six nicely-spaced ratios provide strong performance for both models.
The diesel – which is a cracker – has the edge once things are rolling. It is very strong in the mid-speeds, from 80-100km/h, and effortlessly holds momentum on the road.
The diesel is the choice, especially if you’re regularly loaded up. This latter point would make it a ‘monty’ for the Wagon.
That said, the peakier petrol, thanks to its willingness to keep spinning, is faster in a bolt off the line. But, with fewer Newton-metres to call on, you find yourself making more use of the six-speed box to maintain momentum through corners and hills.
There are two things that surprise with the Wagon. The first is its size.
This is a big wagon; it’s got more load space than Holden’s Sportwagon, but it doesn’t look bulbous nor does it feel it at the wheel. In the metal, it looks sharp with a nice front to rear balance, clean lines, a rising hipline and a deep stylish crease running nose to tail.
On road, it feels little different to any other well-sorted medium-hatch. But with the split-fold (60:40) seats tipped forward, you could get a forty-four gallon drum into the cargo space.
Importantly, it doesn’t turn all ‘arsy’ and top heavy when giving it a push through the bends. Sure, you’re aware there’s some weight back there, but the Mondeo Wagon’s handling is first-class.
The second surprise is the refinement. Though we traversed a variety of roads including some coarse blue-metal bitumen, the Wagon is all-but free of typical wagon resonance and ‘boom’.
Wind-noise, as with the Fiesta and Focus, is commendably banished. There is a little tyre shearing, but only on the coarsest surfaces. The rear suspension is nicely isolated, despite the large hollow space above it, and NVH is particularly low.
In fact, the MB Mondeo Wagon performs better for NVH in our view than the greatly improved (over the former model) Mazda6 wagon for instance: a tick there to Ford’s acoustic engineers.
There is nothing particularly sophisticated with the underpinnings, with MacPherson strut front and independent control-blade multi-link rear. But the Mondeo is nicely damped – although the Wagon wallows a little more than the hatch – and with good suspension travel.
On this first drive, it appeared to have none of the nervousness at the wheel nor the harsh rebound on broken surfaces that we’ve come to expect from some of the Mondeo’s Euro-designed competitors.
The Titanium and XR5 Turbo are a little more focused down below, both offering sports suspension with a 10mm lower ride height.
All across the range come with disc brakes front and rear, ventilated up front, solid rear. Each also features anti-lock braking, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assistance, and stability and traction control.
Inside and at the wheel the MB Mondeo scores another tick for Ford. The interior is nicely styled and restrained, with appealing tactile surfaces, good fit and finish and ergonomically ‘right’.
The front and rear seats are comfortable and well-shaped, and the fabrics, even in the LX, appear durable and of good quality. (Time will tell with fabrics of course – nothing like the addition of a few gummy six-year-olds, the family dog and a bit of projectile vomiting to really test out an interior.)
In the Titanium model and XR5 Turbo, the alcantara/leather seats front and back are very appealing to the touch, offer good lumbar and lateral support (when cornering) and are lounge-chair comfortable.
Instruments and controls are nicely laid out, although, being a bit of a dunce, I struggled a little sorting out the controls of the multi-function steering wheel which is perhaps not as intuitive as some.
Particularly appealing is the clear instrument cluster in the binnacle in front of the driver. It is a little reminiscent, as my colleague on the drive observed, of the simple layout of the old Cortina 440. (A good thing incidentally.)
Equipment and features
For equipment and features, even the entry-spec LX comes well configured.
Bluetooth hands-free with voice control is standard across the range, as is Ford’s capless refuelling system with ‘mis-fuel inhibitor, heated power mirrors and ‘follow me home’ lighting.
On Zetec, Titanium and XR5 Turbo models, the voice control system extends to include audio and climate control functionality – giving you the chance to talk to the radio or CD player for a change (or, if you’re really bored, to the air-conditioner).
The LX gets an eight-speaker audio system with CD and aux-in jack for MP3 players. The higher-spec models get a Sony premium system with six-disc player, MP3 and USB input, and full iPod compatibility.
Leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel is standard across the range as is cruise control. Titanium and XR5 Turbo models come with a very classy adaptive cruise control (with radar distance-control). The LX gets power front windows; up-spec models get power windows front and rear.
Zetec, Titanium and XR5 Turbo also get rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, driver’s seat power height adjust, heated leather seats, proximity sensing ‘smart key’, ‘power start’ button, 18-inch sports alloy wheels, dynamic headlights with cornering lamps and power tilt and slide sunroof.
All across the range come with driver and front passenger airbags, side front airbags, side curtain airbags and drivers’ knee airbag.
Yes, the Mondeo is still one of the best drives, and best value, in its segment.
With a Wagon and a Titanium model now extending the model range, and each exceptionally well configured, there are more reasons to commend the Mondeo.
The LX hatch begins the pricing at $31,990 plus on-roads, the LX Wagon at $32,990 plus on-roads. Zetec petrol variants are priced at $36,990 and $37,990 (plus on-roads) respectively, the Zetec TDCi rattling the till at $39,990 (plus on-roads).
The luxurious Titanium 2.3 litre petrol is $42,990, the TDCi $45,990 (plus on-roads). The XR5 Turbo (with 2.5 litre) sits just under the TDCi Titanium at $44,990 (plus on-roads).
We loved the XR5 Turbo when we looked at it last year, we still do; ditto with the TDCi.
A lot of families will like the Wagon in particular. We’d prefer to also have the diesel option with the Wagon, but, in the meantime, the 2.3 litre petrol variant, while not a tear-away, is up to the task.
We will get the diesel Wagon here, but Australian buyers need to be a little patient. Ford Australia's Justin Lacy told TMR that the "turbo-diesel wagon should join the range later this year or early next year".
"Our priority was simply to get the wagon here as soon as possible, which due to production constraints out of Europe, meant petrol variants arrive first, in line with the rest of the MB Mondeo range, " Mr Lacy said.
This first test drive of the MB Mondeo Wagon and Titanium models confirms our view that the Mondeo has the measure of the segment and should be leading in sales.
Time will tell if Ford can succeed in busting the MB Mondeo into the consciousness of buyers. It has the right car in the right place.
RATING: 4 stars