The Ford Modeo remains a valid proposition in the medium size segment despite a host of well- regarded rivals.
The current Ford Mondeo was released in late 2010 as a facelift of the MC-generation that launched in 2007. So the Mondeo is in its twilight years now, however although the new model was previewed at the Sydney motor show in October, it won’t arrive for another year.
So the Mondeo will need this facelift to work through new generations of Mazda 6 and Toyota Camry, as well as next year’s Holden Malibu. The MC update furnished the generation with state-of-the-art safety technology including driver alert, lane departure warning and a blind spot information system, in addition to offering a new turbo engine, all signified by ‘refreshed’ styling.
To its existing virtues as a spacious, comfortable and fine-riding family car, the Mondeo could add ‘tech savvy’ and ‘efficient’ to that list.
Ford’s new 2.0-litre Ecoboost engines combines turbocharging with high-pressure direct fuel injection, to compensate for a 300cc reduction in displacement compared with the old 2.3-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder. For the update, the 2.3 would continue in the base LX, but the Ford Mondeo Zetec we tested, in addition to the tech-packed Titanium, would score the Ecoboost engine.
Available on only the Ford Mondeo Zetec and Titanium petrol models in five-door hatch guise only, ecoboost offers significant improvements over the previous 2.3-litre Duratec petrol engine, now found only on the entry-level LX models.
In the Mondeo, the 2.0-litre – which is also shared between Falcon, Focus ST and the forthcoming Kuga – sends 149kW and 300Nm to the front wheels, representing a 26 per cent improvement in power and a 44 per cent improvement in torque. Ford also claims a 16 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and a 17 per cent fall in CO2 emissions to 187g/km.
With peak torque available across a broad 1750-4500rpm range, the Mondeo is an effortless drive. Previously, Zetec buyers needed to wait until the mid-range for just 230Nm to arrive. There’s some noticeable low-down turbo lag if you’re overly keen with the throttle, but once in the torque band the Mondeo offers more punch than expected.
It’s no performance turbo, mind, but off the line starts to 100km/h takes just 7.9 seconds. Depending on driving style and conditions, this Mondeo will consume as little as 8L/100km, as claimed by Ford. However, our average consumption over a week of mixed driving was 10.8L/100km.
Nonetheless, it’s a smooth-revving engine, with excellent noise suppression. While the quick-shifting efforts of the six-speed dual-clutch transmission are cause for applause, there’s some low-speed nervousness during car park manoeuvres and the like.
Despite its image as merely family-car transport, the Mondeo is a fine driver’s car - almost sporty - with direct, meaty steering and superb feedback for the driver. It feels well balanced through corners, with good grip from the 17inch Goodyears and only minimal bodyroll.
Yet the real masterstroke of Ford’s suspension set-up is that it feels soft and compliant the way it soaks up large undulations and patchwork-ridden road surfaces, while still providing that planted feeling in the corners.
At $37,740 (before on-road costs) the Ford Mondeo Zetec Ecoboost is surrounded by well-regarded rivals. The main contenders being the Mazda6 Touring ($41,115), Toyota Camry Atara SL ($39,990), Kia Optima Platinum ($36,990), Opel Insignia ($38,490), Skoda Octavia RS ($37,990), Volkswagen Jetta 147TSI Highline ($37,990) and the Volkswagen Passat 118TSI ($38,990).
While the Mondeo Zetec misses out on key features of some rivals, such as leather trim, electric seats (the driver’s seat gets electric height adjustment), sat-nav and colour LCD multimedia screens, it’s still competitively equipped.
Creature comforts include Bluetooth phone and music streaming with voice control, quality Sony audio system with nine speakers, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps, multi-function steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
While the cloth trim is bland and the centre-stack looks dated, the Mondeo interior gets just enough bling to at least make it interesting, with a blend of piano black, soft touch, and metal-look accents throughout the cabin.
Both rows of seats are comfortable enough, although the front buckets could do with a tad more side bolstering to back the Mondeo’s handling ability.
Like so many offerings in the mid-sized segment, the Ford Mondeo feels more like a large car. The boot is enormous, holding a claimed 816-litres of load space with the rear seats upright and a massive 1919 litres with the rear seat- backs folded (not entirely flat).
While there are no rear cup holders, the Mondeo boasts individual rear seat air vents and LED map lights for rear passengers.
Seven airbag passive-safety protection helps the Mondeo earn a five-star ANCAP safety rating. Electronic stability control (ESC) with traction control (and emergency brake assist, and anti-locking brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution aims to lessen the likelihood of requiring the front-line protection…
Despite some heavy competition, the Ford Mondeo Ecoboost remains competitive in the medium car segment, at least until we steer the new Mazda6 and Holden Malibu on local turf. Whether it can remain a valid proposition until the new-generation Mondeo arrives in Australia in the first quarter 2014 remains to be seen.