But until now there’s never been a performance Ford powered by a diesel engine. The Mondeo ST TDCi could well become the first diesel to enter that pantheon of fast Fords loved by the masses.
Exclusive to the UK, the ST TDCi comes with a 2.2-litre Duratorq common rail engine that produces 152bhp and a bicep-rippling 295lb-ft of torque. These are some decent figures, but there are plenty of Vauxhalls and Volkswagens claiming numbers for their diesel engines around the same levels.
What makes the Mondeo stand out is not just its brawn, but its balance. Everything about this car feels honed, trimmed, machined and chiselled.
Despite falling sales in the sector, there are still plenty of Mondeos about, and their ubiquity has bred anonymity, but the ST, with its additional body skirting, small rear spoiler and gorgeous 18-inch alloys looks the part. It’s understated, but mean.
But it’s when the car is moving that it really impresses. It’s not the quietest diesel out there, but that’s not really the point. It is designed to deliver a punch, while keeping fuel consumption and emissions to a minimum, and it does that.
The first noticeable improvement over the 130bhp TDCi is how much easier this is to pull away in. The 130bhp versions are notoriously easy to stall and so it seems counter-intuitive that the more powerful version, with more torque wrestling with the clutch should be easier, but apparently some electronic re-mapping of the engine has solved that niggle.
The gearshift is precise and it bolts from one to the next, as each surging wave of torque comes storming in. Such are the levels of torque that six gears might seem a bit pointless, as it will pull from anywhere at most revs.
The sixth gear isn’t pointless though – 70mph at 1,800rpm means that this is an excellent motorway cruiser as well as a sporting saloon.
With big 18-inch wheels and sports suspension, it would have been easy to turn the ST into an unforgiving, crashy ride, but it’s so well damped that although the ride is firm, it doesn’t clatter when the road is bumpy, but thumps solidly instead. The only concession a driver will have to make is that there is a lot of road noise from the wide, low profile tyres.
But they do grip. And grip, and grip, and even with all that torque trying to fight its way on to the road, there is hardly any need for the traction control to help out, unless you’re asking the tyres to turn hard and accelerate at the same time.
This car also comes as standard with part leather heated sports seats, Sony six CD player, cruise control, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, foglights and the excellent Quickclear windscreen.
What it doesn’t come with is a premium badge and for the money there are a number of low-end BMW 3-series, Jaguar X-type and Audi A4s, and the success they have been having at this price have been well-documented.
But the Mondeo matches them for build quality and is better equipped, faster and better to drive. Any company car driver who likes driving more than posing has to try this fantastic car out.
Ford Mondeo ST TDCi 2.2 155
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £21,657
CO2 emissions (g/km): 161
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 13
Combined mpg: 46.3
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,800/27%
Depreciation 25.34 pence per mile x 60,000: £15,210
Maintenance 2.62 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,572
Fuel 8.88 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,328
Wholelife cost 36.84 pence per mile x 60,000: £22,104
Typical contract hire rate: £438.80 per month
Three rivals to consider
THE Mondeo is the most sporty here. But with 150bhp, the Vectra is a decent match and well-equipped, although a GSi, if there was one, would be closer in attitude. The Accord is the smoothest while the 407 may lack power, but competes as it’s a great driver’s car. Both are Executive trim, with electric leather heated seats and the Accord with 17-in wheels.
HONDA’S reputation for building cars that almost never break down has been consolidated by the Accord’s first-place in our 2003 FN50 reliability survey. On top of that, it also has the cheapest day-to-day servicing costs here, which work out at £1,422 for three years/60,000 miles. All are fairly similar on servicing, but replacing those big 18-inch tyres on the Mondeo counts against it in the final calculation.
Accord 2.37 ppm
Vectra 2.50 ppm
Mondeo 2.62 ppm
IT’S not really surprising that the most powerful engine is the most thirsty here. The Mondeo manages 46.3mpg on the combined cycle and after 800 miles in a very new, tight-engined car we were already getting an impressive 41mpg. About 45mpg should be easily achievable. The Accord underlines its excellence with a ppm figure of 7.86, which after 60,000 miles means a fuel bill of £4,700 – £450 less than the next-best 407.
Accord 7.86 ppm
407 8.58 ppm
Vectra 8.58 ppm
Mondeo 8.88 ppm
THE Accord is the best of these four cars for holding its value by a distance. With predictions for three years/60,000 miles of about 37%, it loses about 20ppm, which works out at just under £12,000. The 407 does well in second pace, losing £13,350, but the Ford and Vauxhall are a long way back, depreciating by about £15,200. With such a difference, even larger front end discounts from the higher volume brands will be negated.
Accord 19.96 ppm
407 22.25 ppm
Vectra 25.29 ppm
Mondeo 25.34 ppm
THERE can only be one winner when all of the cars’ wholelife costs are totted up. The Accord is top in every section. It’s marginally the best for SMR, a clear cheapest for fuel and in a different league for residuals. Over the next best, the 407, it would cost a fleet £2,000 less per car, while the gap over the Ford and Vauxhall stretches to £3,600 at least. Residual value predictions are the reason those two cars are so far behind. The 407 competes well in most categories.
Accord 30.19 ppm
407 33.45 ppm
Vectra 36.37 ppm
Mondeo 36.84 ppm
Emissions and BIK tax rates
DIFFERENT category, same story. The Honda Accord comes first thanks to low emissions and the fact it is Euro IV compliant. It would cost a 40% taxpayer £1,250 this year. The Vectra and the 407 are also Euro IV-compliant, giving them decent tax bills, while the Mondeo is Euro III and has the highest P11D, so despite its low CO2 rating is the highest for tax, costing £1,646. It’s highly unusual to launch a diesel engine that’s not Euro IV compliant when the deadline is next year.
Accord 143/15% g/km
407 155/17% g/km
Vectra 159/17% g/km
Mondeo 151/19% g/km
THE ST TDCi is a fantastic car to drive and the best of the bunch here by some distance in that area, but like many top-end volume brand cars, it suffers from high depreciation, which affects running costs. So it’s no real surprise that the winner is the Honda Accord. It’s so far ahead on wholelife costs that from a fleet point of view it would be impossible not to give it first place. As a drive it is fine, but it’s not in the same league as the Mondeo. WINNER: Honda Accord 2.2 CTDi Executive
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