When you consider how much money Ford is haemorrhaging across its global operations, there must have been a temptation to cut some corners and make the new Mondeo just good enough.
After all, the upper-medium market sector in the UK is shrinking thanks to the combined threat of downsizing and an invasion from the premium brands, and its share of the total car market has fallen from 25% in 1997 to 17% in 2005 (the latest figures available).
But to its credit, Ford has aimed high, building a range of models that not only improve the car’s already impressive dynamic abilities but make the Mondeo more appealing to those image-conscious premium car buyers.
For a start, new Mondeo has enormous presence, with lots of detailing that catches the eye. The goal was to make the car appeal not just to traditional fleet buyers but also to user-choosers who previously might not have thought of the M-word when selecting their next car.
To do this, upmarket features were also needed such as colour screen satellite navigation, cruise control which maintains distance to the vehicle in front, optional sports suspension and even adjustable suspension which you can change for long motorway hauls or to enjoy a twisty road.
On a more practical note Ford, has solved the problem of mis-fuelling with the EasyFuel system.
This detects the wider diesel nozzle and allows fuelling, but won’t allow the thinner petrol nozzle into the fuel neck.
Ford decided early on to stay with the Mondeo name because it was proud of nearly four million sales over the past 13 years.
‘The Mondeo will be a rational, reliable business purchase’, said Roelant de Waard, chairman and managing director of Ford of Britain. He expects 70% of sales to be of the five-door hatchback model, 70% to be diesel and 70% to be to fleets . ‘But we also want this car to tempt user-choosers and private buyers,’ he added.
Ford is confident that the new Mondeo’s residual values will outperform Saab, Toyota and Vauxhall competitors over three years/60,000 miles. Old Mondeo ranged from 22 to 27% retained value after this period, while CAP estimates 28 to 33% for the new version.
Mr de Waard added: ‘We have worked with CAP to achieve a 10% improvement in residual values compared with the outgoing car. We are not suddenly going to sell to lots of BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 drivers, but I am confident we are going to sell to an increasing number of those customers. We have already seen evidence of this with the S-MAX.’
Ford has set a realistic sales target of 48,000 Mondeos per year in the UK, with less cars going to daily rental companies to help improve residuals. There will also be less discounts, the company pledges.
To put this figure into context, fleet sales alone for the previous Mondeo reached around 41,000 units in 2006.
This reduction reflects not only a shrinking market but also a more flexible approach, with the Galaxy and S-MAX people carriers expected to steal sales away from Mondeo. All three are built on the same production line in Belgium and Ford can switch production to meet demand.
Mr de Waard reckons the new Mondeo will be the key rival for the Volkswagen Passat but adds: ‘Keen pricing means Mondeo will still compete with our traditional rivals, too.’
The range starts with Edge models from £15,010 for the 1.6-litre petrol five-door as base LX versions have been discontinued because Ford wants the Mondeo to be considered more upmarket. Even this entry-level model has air-conditioning and cruise control. Diesel versions will cost from £16,500 for the 1.8 TDCi.
The predicted sales mix is 29% Edge, 33% Zetec (from £16,710), 20% Ghia (from £18,460) and 18% Titanium X (from £20,460).
Behind the wheel
The moment you settle in behind the wheel of the new Mondeo it feels just right.
A multi-adjustable steering wheel and eight-way electrically-adjustable driver’s seat in my top-spec Titanium X car guarantees as comfortable a driving position as sitting on the sofa watching the football.
The clutch action in the 2.0-litre TDCi is smooth, but is as often the case with diesels, first and second gear actions are a little notchy despite new, improved synchromesh on those gears. In fairness I had been spoilt by the super-slick action of the gearbox in the 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol model – the only other engine option available to test at the launch.
The cabin is much wider than the old version, the switchgear better laid out and materials used of higher quality.
Under acceleration the diesel engine remains refined and never sounds harsh, while at motorway speeds it drops into the background. Noise and vibration is very low and wind noise only a whisper at these speeds.
There’s a real go-where-you-point-it feel to the steering, too. The way the Mondeo will attack a bend, but keep you safe providing you don’t massively overcook things, makes it hard to believe you are driving a regular family car.
On the basis of the limited models and engines tried so far, the new Mondeo is a very impressive package, being both rational and desirable. Ford has put in the hours and produced the goods.
Like the S-MAX, the new Mondeo will boost the Ford brand image.
|Max power (bhp/rpm)||140/4000||220/5,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm)||236/1750||236/1,500|
|Fuel consumption (mpg)||47.9||30.4|