Added to that is the fact that the Mondeo is comfortable with plenty of loadspace.
Eventually, I won the keys and set off on a trip to France – the perfect opportunity to give the car one final test before it returns to Ford at the end of its 12 months with us. The Mondeo, which has clocked up more than 21,000 miles during its stay (testament in itself to its popularity), took the 1,300-mile trip in its stride. In fact, performance was faultless over the entire journey and fuel consumption remained steady at around 40mpg.
Despite its high mileage, the Mondeo has fared well throughout its time at Fleet News, with only £320 expenditure during the year on two new front tyres, and £109 for the first service at 12,500 miles. The optional 18in alloys have helped it stand out from the crowd, adding a sporting touch, and the tyres lasted better than we all feared – only needing changing at just over 19,000 miles.
Its next service is not due until 25,000 miles, which will surely go a long way towards making the Mondeo a popular choice with cost-conscious fleet managers. In fact, the only complaint has centred on the sensitivity of the clutch, which has seen most members of the Fleet News team come to an embarrassing halt after stalling the car.
Other than that, everyone on the team has been impressed and most have remarked on the vast improvement the superb 128bhp TDCi common rail engine has made over the TDdi unit it replaced. Colleague Trevor Gelken thought it was one of the best upper-medium cars on the road, particularly in diesel guise.
Most testers took the Mondeo keys with trepidation but all were surprised and enjoyed the car even after the shortest spell at the wheel. It still looks good inside and out, and scores highly on driver appeal with its strong balance of performance, ride and handling.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer): £64 per month