If SUVs don't float your boat, wagons have evolved to a level that demands a second look. The Ford Mondeo Titanium could be a viable SUV alternative.
The Ford Mondeo is a car that continues to surprise us. Partly because it's so forgettable – I can't remember the last time I saw it being advertised on television. It surprises us because every time we drive it, we're reminded of how much space there is inside and how practical the features are.
Kicking off from $33,190 (plus on-road costs) for the Mondeo Ambiente hatch, the wagon range commences from $35,040 (plus on-road costs).
If you head north in the line-up to this top-specification Mondeo Titanium TDCi wagon, you'll need to part with $49,840 (plus on-road costs). That kind of money lands you right in the large SUV zone where you'll find cars like the Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, meaning you will really want a wagon to justify the purchase.
Given how emotional car purchases are, emotionally purchasing a wagon over an SUV is never a bad thing – I for one am a massive wagon fan.
Unlike the Mondeo hatch, which is available in both petrol and diesel, the Mondeo wagon can only be had in Ambiente trim as a petrol. Higher grades are all reserved for the diesel drivetrain.
Under the bonnet of the Mondeo Titanium TDCi wagon is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 132kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It's mated to the six-speed dual-clutch automatic Ford calls Powershift. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Ford has had a number of issues with previous generations of the gearbox. The latest iteration is currently problem free.
Given the efficiency gains of a diesel engine over a petrol engine, it's worth noting that Ford claims a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.3 litres of fuel per 100km. We managed to achieve 6.2L/100km during our time with the car, which included a mix of city and highway driving.
The cabin is nicely presented and centres around an 8.0-inch infotainment system that Ford calls Sync3. It's the third iteration of the infotainment system that brings with it a host of new technology such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also features an in-built satellite navigation system and DAB+ digital radio.
The cracking Sony sound system comes with nine speakers and offers plenty of punch with USB connectivity and Bluetooth audio streaming. Sync3 really sets the benchmark for infotainment systems, being super easy to use, very responsive and teamed with a usable voice recognition system.
While the first row of the cabin is nicely presented, it's let down by some pretty average materials around the infotainment system and gear selector surrounds. The Mondeo hasn't moved upmarket as quickly as the Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat or the upcoming Holden Commodore.
Wagons have always been about space, and there's no shortage of it in the second row of the Mondeo. There is stacks of leg, toe and head room, along with rear air vents that help circulate air on those hot summer days. While rear seat passengers get a 12V power outlet, there's no USB connectivity for charging devices. Ford makes up for it with a 230V power plug, so you can plug things like laptops directly into the car as a power source.
There are two ISOFIX anchorage points on the outboard seats, with both seats also featuring state of the art inflatable seatbelts. These seatbelts are a bit thicker and feature an inflatable cushion within them that comes to life during a side impact – some very cool stuff.
Cargo capacity is massive in true wagon fashion. With the second row in place it comes in at 730 litres – drop the second row and it expands to 1605 litres. The load space features storage on either side of the boot floor, plus a movable divider that slides along metal tracks.
Beneath the load floor is a space-saver spare wheel. The second row folds in a 60/40 split folding configuration to an almost flat position.
It's on the road that the Mondeo really shines. Ford increased the wheel size on the Mondeo Titanium from 18 to 19 inches in 2017, and we were keen to see whether this would affect the ride, given how good it already was prior to the update.
Our test loop included a mix of city, highway and country driving. Around the city the increase in wheel size proved to not affect the ride. Even cobblestones and sharp-edged speed humps didn't unsettle or jar the ride.
Steering feel from the electrically assisted steering rack remained on point with enough communication across all surfaces we tested. The wheel sits nicely in hand too, giving you a confident feel behind the wheel.
The ride was predictably smooth on the highway and remained just as good as we departed the highway for some country roads. The only difference we felt was when hitting sharp potholes at highway speeds in the country.
Whereas the 18-inch wheel would have an added layer of impact protection, the 40-profile tyre would feel the hit a little more severely. The difference was negligible, though, and the ride remained excellent across the types of surfaces buyers would be expected to cover.
The Mondeo's other highlight is the cracking diesel engine. It's mated to Ford's six-speed automatic Powershift transmission, and while it can be a bit fussy at low speeds, it delivers a mountain of torque when you lean on the engine in any gear.
Producing 400Nm of torque between 2000–2500rpm, there's always torque available to the driver without having to dive through gears. At almost 1750kg, that torque comes in handy for overtaking and getting in and out of traffic within the city limits.
Fuel efficiency is excellent with a claimed 5.3L/100km on the combined cycle. We came fairly close to that clocking 5.5L/100km across a mix of city, highway and country driving.
Sure, it's not meant to be a sports car, but the Mondeo still handles beautifully and is dynamic enough to retain the driving enjoyment often missing from a larger SUV.
There's a lot of brilliant technology packed into this car too. Things like adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams, radar cruise control, driver attention detection, and low- and high-speed Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection make driving the Mondeo both safe and comfortable.
Passengers will love the brilliant sound system, seat heating for first and second rows, along with the standard inclusion of DAB+ digital radio.
With a starting price of just under $50,000 before on-road costs, the Ford Mondeo Titanium delivers a bucketload of technology and excellent on-road dynamics. It's a package that's hard to fault and doesn't require the extra outlay of some equally sized SUVs.
It's let down by some cheap materials within the cabin and a gearbox that can be fussy at low speeds, but overall it's an underrated package with plenty of appeal.