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Whenever a product’s name becomes synonymous with its market, even if it’s an unfair label, it is proof positive of how important that brand is.
Think Hoover instead of vacuum cleaner, Biro instead of disposable ballpoint pen and Mondeo Man instead of any company car driver.
Such is the Ford Mondeo’s omnipresence that it has become the byword for a ‘repmobile’ ever since its launch back in 1993.
Now, 14 years and 1.2 million UK sales later, we have a new version and one with which Ford is hoping to lose that repmobile tag forever.
Because if Ford’s marketing is to be believed, the new model will appeal far more to user-choosers than the previous version, thanks to an increased focus on style, quality and hi-tech features.
And with Ford losing market share in the upper-medium sector thanks to the surging popularity of premium models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it certainly needs to take some action to defend its traditional territory.
Kevin Griffin, Ford’s director of fleet operations, said: “This is our flagship car and our presence in the sector is critical.
“We will maintain our cost-of-ownership strengths, but now we will excite people and get them to say ‘I want to be seen in the Mondeo’.”
While Mondeo has consistently been among the top 10 best-selling cars in fleet since its launch, the past few years have seen it outsold by the likes of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series as drivers take advantage of widening choice lists and fleet managers appreciate the lower wholelife costs offered by such models with their incredibly strong residual values.
This premum growth has seen the Mondeo’s market share fall – in 1997, the upper-medium sector accounted for a quarter of all new cars sold in Britain, but by 2005 this had fallen to 17%.
Roelant de Waard, chairman and managing director of Ford of Britain, added: “We are not suddenly going to sell to lots of A4 and 3 Series drivers, but I am confident of an increasing number of sales to those customers. We have already seen evidence of this with the S-MAX people carrier.”
Among new Mondeo’s armoury are improved residuals over the old version. CAP estimates the new model will retain between 28% and 33% of cost new after three years and 60,000 miles, compared with 22% to 27%. While still not at Audi and BMW levels, this is still a useful uplift.
Also new to the sector are features such as adjustable suspension, adaptive cruise control and the Human Machine Interface system which gives the driver control of most car functions from two toggle switches on the steering wheel.
Around 70% of sales will be to fleets, with the hatchback likely to be the biggest seller and Zetec the most poular trim level.
As with the old model, the 2.0 TDCi 140 turbodiesel engine will take the majority of sales.
Behind the wheel
For our first drive of the Mondeo in the UK we concentrated on the likely most popular model – the 2.0 TDCi 140 diesel.
This engine carries over from before and is still fairly noisy on start-up. But once it’s warmed up it settles down to a muted level, and on the move it is fairly unintrusive in the cabin.
The main differences are in terms of ride, quality and space.
The new Mondeo is a big car with a huge boot and plenty of legroom for rear passengers – think of a Ford Scorpio from a few years back and you won’t be far off the mark.
Quality is also improved, with less of the hard-looking abrasive plastic used in the old model. Depending on trim, there’s either wood-effect or brushed metal inserts to brighten things up.
But the really impressive bit of new Mondeo is the ride and handling, although our test car came with the firmer suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels offered in the sports pack.
Despite this sporting set-up, the Mondeo rides very comfortably with little crashing over poor road surfaces.
And as it’s a Mondeo it handles brilliantly, tucking its nose into corners and having a high level of front-end grip.
Great to drive, more spacious inside and now with a sharper set of clothes, the new Mondeo looks and drives the part.
And with much-improved residual values, Ford should see more sales from user-choosers – although Audi and BMW won’t be too worried.
|Model:||1.6 110||1.6 125||2.0 145||2.5 turbo||1.8 TDCi 100||1.8 TDCi 125||2.0 TDCi 140|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||110/6,300||125/6,300||145/6,000||220/5,000||100/3,850||125/3,700||140/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||118/4,100||118/4,100||136/4,500||236/1,500||206/1,800*||236,1,800*||236/1,750*|
|Max speed (mph):||118||121||130||152||115||124||130|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||39.2||38.2||35.8||30.4||49.6||48.7||47.9|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||172||177||189||222||151||154||156|
* Overboost: 1.8 TDCi 100 – 217lb-ft, 1.8 TDCi 125 & 2.0 TDCi 140– 250lb-ft