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Writing a car review can present its own unique challenges, outside of the technical and real-world assessment of the car. This write-up on the 2016 Ford Mondeo Trend, for instance, has taken far longer to construct than normal, predominantly due to the difficulty in finding language to accurately depict the car.
Usually, when we describe something, it is always easier to gravitate to the extreme ends of the scale. To celebrate the ‘top of the tree’ or deride the ‘bottom of the barrel’ is a much more straightforward use of language.
For the most part, automotive writing is a world of superlatives: the biggest this, the smallest that, the fastest here, the most expensive there. Easy.
But when something, like the Mondeo, lies pretty squarely in the middle, it is very hard to make it sound good, without making it sound bad. As while the Mondeo might be an average car, it’s a superbly average car – the sound of which just doesn’t do the mid-size Ford justice.
It would seem then, that the fourth-generation Mondeo is something of an oxymoron. To characterize it as ‘impressively mediocre’, ‘brilliantly moderate’ or just ‘perfectly ordinary’ might well be grammatically correct, but it is hardly Madison Avenue’s most creative pitch.
So let us be clear early on. The $37,290 (plus on-road costs) Mondeo Trend is a good car. In fact it is a really good car, it just doesn’t have a standout trait that sees it move above or below its tip-of-the bell curve normal-ness.
Even our ratings for this review, which may come off as uninspired, are really a fair assessment of how the Mondeo does its job – very well but without excitement.
Take the exterior design as a starting point. The five-door fastback shape is modern and quite handsome, but in the Trend’s mid-spec trim and our test-car’s Moondust Silver paint ($450 option), it comes across as rather bland.
The shape is trying for Audi A5 classiness, but the 15-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome accented ‘Aston Martin’ grille and large expanse of ‘hip’ at the rear start to lean towards the pedestrian, with just a hint of 6000SUX thrown in for good measure. It is clean but not exciting. Practical but not inspirational.
Strangely, if you move up a spec-level to the $44,290 Mondeo Titanium – with its lower profile tyres on 18-inch rims, blacked-out grille, panoramic glass roof and LED running lights – the shape works so much better. Perhaps not $7000 better, but better all the same.
Step inside, and the ho-hum niceness of the Mondeo continues. It is very comfortable, the cloth and leather seats providing good support and adjustment, as well as a warm, almost snug environment.
The driving position is also good, with solid vision out the front, but the rearward view is hampered by the hatch and large C-pillar – and wasn’t helped by our car’s dark tint.
Looking ahead though, the instrument cluster has a very sharp 4.2-inch digital screen in the centre with a huge range of detailed functions. Multiple trip computers, configuration and personalisation settings plus a range of driver assistance features, there is a stack of information here, and it is crisp to view and easy to use.
Our favourite feature though is the ‘Spy Hunter’ car that shows a top-down graphic of the Mondeo and indicates what safety systems are operating – all while reminding us of the 1980s computer game.
There are big door pockets, that on the driver’s side even include an envelope holder next to the speaker – handy! There is a clip under the visor for holding car park entry tickets and a big glovebox too.
The lighting is also good, giving clear visibility around the cabin at night.
Material selection is again nice, but not standout. The quality isn’t perfect but it is impressive for a Ford – a little reminder that this is a European car in every way, and a hint toward the upward shift for the once mass-market brand.
Despite this being the mid-level car, you really don’t want for features. Simple air-conditioning controls, heated seats, and SD and USB inputs in the spacious centre console are all present. The keyless entry and start worked faultlessly for us too.
That console, by the way, has a storage cavity behind it with plenty of room, but the behavioural traits of the Bermuda Triangle. It’s best used for larger items such as a purse or sunglasses case, as smaller things tend to disappear somehow. I managed to loose a bunch of hair-ties (not mine) and an iPhone charge lead in the course of a week.
In the back seats too, it’s again very comfortable and spacious enough for adults, and certainly suitable for long distance runs.
From every angle, the Mondeo is an exercise in clean and simple design that doesn’t ‘wow’ you, but just works. Yes it errs to the bland and safe end of form, but the Mondeo is all about function.
That said, a bit of flair wouldn’t go astray. Remember the Telstar – the car the Mondeo effectively replaced back in 1995 (yes, it has been that long – except for the whole second-generation gap in the 2000’s thing)?
The Telstar offered powered reticulating air vents on the dash, that would smoothly oscillate from left to right at the touch of a button. Not a lot of things were cool in the early 90s – but that was. Now, the mid-sized Ford doesn’t even offer the ‘Oreo biscuit’ roller to adjust the vents, you just fold them closed like a set of plantation shutters.
Also worth calling out are the ridiculous wipers that operate from axis points at either side of the windscreen. Their asynchronous and uncoordinated movement is inline with what my parents must have seen during school sports days – and part of the reason I spend my days typing rather than playing A-Grade ball-sports. I don’t care if they are mildly more efficient in this format, they look stupid.
On the road, the Mondeo’s ordinariness continues to impress. The 177kW/345Nm 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engine is punchy enough for cross town traffic duties and capable enough for effortless touring.
The torque band from 2300-4900rpm ensures you have response when you need it the most and we found the car settled around 10L/100km consumption for mostly urban running (Ford claims 11.9L/100km urban and 8.2L/100km mixed cycle consumption.) The Mondeo is not light either, at 1622kg – compared to 1475kg in a Mazda6, though it is still lighter than the 1645kg Hyundai Sonata.
It is very comfortable and easy to motor about in, soaking up urban imperfections well, while still offering a decent connection through the steering wheel. At only 2.5-turns lock-to-lock, it offers a reasonably direct feeling but at low speeds there is a decent amount of weight through the wheel.
When cornering though, even on flowing urban roads, the wheel feels as if it wants to spring back to center like a Daytona arcade machine. You find you need to constantly make minor adjustments mid-corner, the Mondeo’s electrically assisted rack no doubt tuned for efficiency over driver involvement, meaning it does take a bit of getting used to.
On the highway however, the ride is really excellent and you could see how easy it would be to eat up the miles in this thing. There is a reason the Mondeo is known as a ‘repmobile’ in the UK, it is just so well suited for touring.
The boot is 557L with the seats up and a whopping 1356L with them folded. The liftback isn’t powered and is heavy, plus the parcel shelf rattles around a bit, but the usable space is great.
The 2016 Ford Mondeo Trend is a really solid car. If it was your fleet-supplied company car or perhaps a regional rental, you’d likely come away relaxed and happy, but hardly shouting from the rooftops.
Everything it does, it does well (and it does everything) but what is done is done clinically and devoid of character. These are great traits of an appliance and on paper, excellent traits of a car – but is it what you want from the set of wheels that lives in your driveway?
There is nothing it doesn’t have, except charisma.
It is middle of the road, it is very much average – but it pulls regular off so well, that in the case of the Mondeo Trend being extra-ordinary is much better than being extraordinary.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Tom Fraser.