It could be said that the Ford Mondeo has been hiding in the shadows for far too long. Certainly, it deserves recognition for being a solid performer that is head and shoulders above most of the competition in the medium-to-large family car bracket.
The Mondeo has been on Australian roads since 1995, but never managed to oust its larger and more heavily marketed older brother, the Ford Falcon, from its spot as the trusty family favourite. Following poor sales it was dropped firstly in its estate format in 1999 and then completely in 2001.
The lack of a serious marketing push was not helped by the Mondeo’s rather average styling. Early models in particular are bland to look at, cramped to sit in at the rear and come with a range of niggles on the drive. A facelift for the second-generation model improved things somewhat and drivers of 1996-1998 models still find them relatively attractive in comparison to their predecessors.
In 2002 the Mondeo was dropped from the Australian market, to be revived once again in 2007 with the more popular and aesthetically pleasing Zetec version, with distinctive European styling touches and smart design features. Since then the Mondeo has gone from strength to strength.
To summarise the Mondeo’s specs and performance is difficult, given its disappearance from the market and its reappearance in an altogether different and, some would say, more compelling guise. Early Mondeos offer a decent safety spec and 1998 models onwards also sport a more refined engine. The post-2007 Zetec models are refreshingly able on the road and the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder TDCI in particular has proved to be a hit – more so than its noticeably thirstier petrol-based counterpart, making it a popular choice for drivers who are likely to put a lot of kilometres on the clock.
The TDCI comes with a 6-speed automatic gearbox and a choice of estate or sedan formats. The engine gives 103kW and 320Nm of torque, which is power aplenty to make this a decent choice around town or out on the open road. Acceleration is excellent at speed and off the lights, and the steering is intuitive and responsive despite the Mondeo’s front-wheel drive format.
The Mondeo was assessed in the Used Car Safety Ratings as providing “significantly better than average” collision protection for driver and passengers in 2006. Safety is enhanced still further on the post-2007 models, with electronic stability control, front and side driver and passenger airbags, side curtain airbags, driver’s knee airbag, immobiliser, ABS brakes and traction control featuring on the higher-spec models as standard.
The Mondeo promised much, but largely failed to deliver in its early guise. To counteract the huge investment that Ford had made in its design and development, the general spec was lowered on the base model, so if you are looking at an early Mondeo don’t assume that features such as air conditioning and alloy wheels will necessarily be included.
Post-2007 Mondeos fare much better on the trim. The popular TDCI model comes with a plethora of extra comforts, including heated leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear stick, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and a premium Sony sound system complete with six-disc integrated dash CD player and eight speakers. Other features are 17-inch alloys, fog lights, automatic headlights, front and rear parking sensors and automatic rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
Rear passengers are treated to plenty of legroom and headroom, making it a comfortable ride for three adults in the back. The boot styling cleverly disguises the hatchback version as a sedan, creating a smoother and more flowing line than is offered by the usual hatch format. And yet despite this, the Mondeo offers plenty of boot space, with 528 litres of cargo volume in a decent squared-off space format.
The Mondeo’s competition comes in part from Ford’s very own Falcon, with which it shares more than a fraction of its overall looks and styling. The later Mondeos offer their European and Asian counterparts some stiff competition, while the earlier models go head to head with some of the Japanese brands such as the Subaru Liberty and the Honda Accord as well as the Vectra from Ford’s long-standing rival, Holden. All in all, the Mondeo, especially in its post-2007 guise, performs well on the road, is a pleasure behind the wheel, and offers a level of safety and comfort that is hard to match in its class.