Fleet News

Ford Mondeo Zetec 2.0 Duratorq Di 5dr -- 1,635 miles



##ZetecS.jpg--right##DRIVERS looking to avoid paying a hefty sum under the new carbon dioxide-based company car tax are turning to low emission diesel vehicles.

While some company car drivers see diesel as a dirty fuel offering poor performance, others realise that diesel technology has come a long way and that more often than not diesels offer tax-beating emissions without compromising performance.

But our new long-term Ford Mondeo Zetec 2.0-litre Duratorq DI five-door has not quite bridged the gap between 'old-school' diesel units and the excellent new range of common rail technology.

Compared to the dCi unit in in our long-term Renault Laguna, for example, it lacks refinement and is much more thirsty.

However, there is no lack of goodies inside - standard equipment includes manual air conditioning, front-loading CD player, electric windows, power operated and heated door mirrors, front and side curtain airbags, Quickclear windscreens and rear and centre arm/head rests.

The car's cabin is stylish and well put together with brushed-alloy effect steering wheel spokes. The car is roomy and Ford's designers have avoided cluttering up the dash with an abundance of cup holders and toys, opting instead for a 'minimalist' feel.

But there is a real niggle with our long-term Mondeo that Ford assures us won't be the case with all models. Mondeo drivers have a choice - it's either CD player or satnav. There is no 'third way'. Eventually, Ford says, the Mondeo will be fitted with the same satnav/CD player system fitted in the Ford Galaxy.

While the Mondeo is a fine-looking piece of metal, it sounds dreadful from the outside, clattering and chugging away. But from the inside, engine noise is kept at bay and reduced to a gentle growl as the revs creep up.

The Mondeo's 2.0-litre Duratorq engine dishes out 116bhp which, combined with its capacity for low-end torque and responsive acceleration, is plenty for everyday use.

Cruising along the motorway, the powerplant is lazy, with the feeling that it is hardly being tested. The handling is excellent with steering that gives drivers all the information they need from the road. The car has a high ceiling and plenty of legroom that makes it comfortable to drive.

But the gearbox is a touch on the obstructive side and it doesn't really like third gear. This is the same problem that my colleague Tracy Cooke reported with our long-term 1.8-litre TDdi Ford Focus Ghia.

But what really matters to fleets is how the Mondeo will fare under the new 2002 CO2-based company car tax. It emits 156g/km of carbon dioxide, which means for the first two years the car will be in the lowest tax band. Taking into account the 3% penalty for diesels, drivers can expect to pay 18% tax before slipping into the 20% tax band in 2004/5.

In real-money terms, a 22% taxpayer will pay £668.80 a year on the Mondeo's £16,890 list price. That's a saving of £631.20 for drivers covering fewer than 2,499 miles a year and a saving of £260.15 for drivers covering between 2,500 and 17,999 miles annually under the old system.

However, high-mileage drivers will notice an increase in their yearly tax bills by £111.43. Fleets could do a lot worse than taking on the Mondeo. But I can't help thinking that Ford's new common rail diesel engines, expected to hit showrooms later in the year, hold the key to the car's success.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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