It came as no surprise to me, and probably to the rest of the 1,400 guests at the Fleet News Awards ceremony, that the Ford Mondeo took the headline title Company Car of the Year 2008.
It was also voted Best Large Family Car.
These are two of the most hotly contested sectors within the awards and, after driving the Mondeo for the past six months, the announcement confirms what I have believed since I first drove it.
The Mondeo is the best car in its class.
It offers an all-round package that ticks all the wish-list boxes for user chooser and fleet managers alike – driver enjoyment, safety, good looks, practicality, affordability and reliability.
Indeed, the only problem to present itself since the last time of writing is an end section of wiring, which falls from behind the rear bumper and drags along the road.
The clip that should hold it in place is not up to the job, so every so often it’s down on my hands and knees to re-clip it.
Annoying, but should be easily resolved when I next pass a Ford dealership.
Driver enjoyment, especially for those who spend more time than most behind the wheel, can be the deal clincher.
The Ford is not perfect – the 140bhp 2.0-litre diesel block feels sluggish – the Vectra 1.9 diesel is actually quicker to 60mph – but the Mondeo is more composed on back roads and more refined on the motorways than many of its competitors.
The car’s steering is responsive and the chassis is set up with a bias for driver enjoyment rather than passenger comfort, unlike some of the French offerings in this sector.
That said, passengers will not complain, even when travelling in a Mondeo with sports suspension, such as the one we have on test.
The ride is noticeably hard over poor surfaces, but never to the point of discomfort and, of course, the stiffer suspension adds to the grin on the driver’s face.
I am clearly not the only one to feel this is a superb car: “If you had to have a car in this sector, then the Mondeo is the one to go for,” said one of the Fleet News judges.
“The new model is not only far roomier than before, but also features new technology and a high level of attention to detail.”
“The way it drives is also worthy of praise, retaining Ford’s commitment to making all of its products entertaining behind the wheel.”
While the Mondeo is such a good driver’s car, it is also an attractive proposition for the fleet manager.
It has respectable residuals and impressive standard passive and active safety equipment but it is those additional touches – such as the standard mis-fuelling system, which prevents costly mistakes at the pumps – that makes the Ford stand out from the crowd.