Ford's latest offering in this class is the Mondeo Zetec S - a sporty model developed specifically for the UK and with a keen eye on the fleet market. Available in saloon, hatchback and estate variants, the Zetec S uses a revised version of the 168bhp 2.5-litre V6, with sports-tuned suspension and is capable of covering the 0-60mph dash in a little over eight seconds.
The car also looks the part, fitted with extra styling kit including sports bumpers, side skirts, front foglamps, and imposing 18-inch alloy wheels with a choice of a five or 10-spoke design. Equipment includes fronts, side and side curtain airbags, electric windows, air conditioning, a heated windscreen, sports seats and a CD player.
The car goes head-to-head against its arch-rival the Vauxhall Vectra, which recently launched a 2.6 litre V6 GSi. In terms of outright performance, the more powerful Vectra has the edge over the Mondeo, but the Mondeo, despite being more expensive, has the appeal of being an all-new model. This is reflected in the residual value stakes, with CAP Network predicting the car will retain 30% of its original value, compared with 27% for the Vectra GSi after three years/60,000 miles. However, the Vectra costs slightly less at the front end, and so would lose less money overall during its fleet life.
The Zetec S really does feel a livelier car than the standard Mondeo and the latest development of the 2.5-litre V6 engine makes it smoother than ever. I drove the car at a steady 120mph around Millbrook's banked high-speed bowl and the prevalent noise was wind rushing around the door mirrors. Of course, this was much faster than these cars will be driven on public roads, but it illustrates the level of refinement Ford has achieved.