[caption id="attachment_674839" align="alignnone" width="3968"] Confirmed cardie-wearer. That’s what one of my mates called me after I told him I’d just bought a used Mondeo. Ha. Ha.[/caption]
Truth is, the MC Mondeo is an overlooked gem of a car, at least in its Titanium guise. Power comes from a 2.0-litre four-banger turbo diesel delivering 120kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm at just 1850rpm, and you can feel it off the line. It’s no pocket rocket, but the easy nature of its torque delivery means a fuss-free start and linear acceleration up to 80km/h. Rolling acceleration from 80–120km/h is a little slower than I’d like, but that’s easily mitigated by leaving a larger gap for overtaking.
Where it shines is the handling. Most bum-draggers are about as exciting to drive as it is to get a hand-knitted jumper from your Nan at Christmas – and they leave you feeling about the same, i.e. kind of empty. Thanks, Nan. But the Mondeo is different. Its 18x8-inch wheels shod with 235/45 rubber means plenty of road-surface contact area, and the feedback through the hydraulic power-assisted steering is excellent while on the move. I always know where the car is on the road, what it’s doing, and what’s underneath it. Such a breath of fresh air, especially in such a low sticker price vehicle.
Speaking of which, these things make great buying second-hand. Thanks to their reputation as a mixture of beigeness and tapioca pudding they’ve depreciated like crazy, which means you can pick up a 60,000km 2013 Titanium for $14–$17K. (Pay no attention to the “Tell ‘im he’s dreamin’” prices on Carsales. Supply is higher than demand for these cars, which means you have the upper hand come haggling time.)
Diesel and petrol seem to go for roughly the same amount, but do be aware that the petrol model will have significantly higher fuel costs than the diesel. I’m averaging 6.7L per 100km, which is around an 80/20 highway/urban split. The petrol model will run you 11L per 100km around town, depending on your driving style. (My 6.7L figure is also inclusive of a very heavy right foot… Within the limits of the law, of course.)
You also get leather/Alcantara heated seats, voice control for most in-cabin functions, blind-spot monitoring, auto cruise control, forward collision alert and a sunroof. No sunglasses holder, though. (Pro tip – they fit in between the gear selector and the centre console quite nicely.) You can also replace the original stereo with an aftermarket double-DIN unit if you’re not fussed about losing voice control.
Cabin storage is only okay. There’s no lining in the door pockets, so items placed in there will rattle, and the cupholders are bare plastic, so not all containers will be secured properly, which can be an issue given the heated seat controls are located right next to them. The glovebox has a narrow opening and goes straight back rather than down, so getting things in and out of it is a challenge when seated.
The centre console pocket is a decent size, with a two-stage lid/tray mechanism to maximise use of the space. This is, by the way, the only place a modern-sized smartphone will fit. That alluring little cubby beneath the air-con controls is only good for coins and trolley tokens.
Aside from that, one commonly reported cabin-related bugbear is an intermittent squeak from the B-pillar, which seems to be caused by loose or rubbing plastic parts in the seatbelt assembly. Others have reported being able to get rid of it by replacing these parts, but I’m too lazy to bother.
Body styles – I opted for the wagon in delicious Candy Red, and it looks mint with the chrome accents around the windows, plus the extra bits of body kit. It’s only marginally longer than a normal sedan, but thanks to that extra height in the back, plus the fold-flat rear seats, there’s over two metres of length available for carrying stuff.
Flat packs from Ikea, bags and bags of grass clippings, lopped tree limbs, luggage for four people… There’s space aplenty in this thing. It’s a great alternative to a dual-cab ute because you have as much, if not more, cargo space, and you get the driving dynamics and comfort of a sedan instead of the agricultural ambience of a work vehicle.
Servicing – tyres for this car are expensive. I have Michelin Pilot Sport 4s on mine, and the last two I had replaced cost $620 fitted, aligned and balanced. I’ve also refreshed the brake pads and rotors with DBA parts for around $540 (not including fitting). Ford will charge you around $950 for OEM parts.
The other considerable cost is transmission servicing. These cars have a dual-clutch ’box, and Ford will charge you $40 per litre of oil. The oil and filter must be changed every 60,000km, and the procedure requires eight litres, so if you’re going through a dealer it gets very expensive, very quickly. Fortunately, there are several brands that make compatible oil, and you can pick up 8L for around $150 plus the relevant filter kit for $35-ish.
If you’re buying one of these cars, make sure the transmission was serviced on time. Check for the stamp in the logbook at 60,000km and call the mechanic who did the work and ask them to confirm it as well. These boxes will die, and die quickly, if they are not serviced on time, and having to pay $9000 for a new transmission is no fun. General services have cost me around $350 through my own mechanic, with 15,000km intervals.
Cons – specifically, the air conditioning. If you’ve read other reviews of the MC, you’ll likely have come across people complaining that they don’t get particularly cold. Well, I can tell you they are correct. The Mondeo’s climate-control system produces something more akin to a cool breeze than an arctic blast, which means that in 36C-plus temperatures, you’ll be 'not dying of heatstroke' rather than 'relaxing in Aspen'. If you envisage driving long distances in high temperatures on a regular basis, I’d suggest looking at a different car.
The MC also has a propensity for chewing tyres to death if it isn’t kept in proper balance/alignment. Make sure to ask your mechanic to check for any signs of uneven wear on the inner edges of the tyres before you buy. If it’s present, you’ll need to get an alignment done.
You will also experience more road noise than you should if you don’t buy decent tyres for this vehicle. Their large contact area means that the noise they produce is amplified to a greater degree than on other cars, so do your ears and your driving enjoyment a favour, and don’t skimp. I went from Bridgestone RE050As to Pilot Sport 4s, and the difference in noise levels (and ride compliance) is stark.
Lastly, that dual-clutch transmission might bother you. It took me about a week to get used to it, and about a month to adapt my driving style to its quirks. It’s extremely snappy on the gear changes, which imparts a sporty feel, but from a standing start the accelerator requires a moment’s feathering before you can tramp down on it. Otherwise, you’ll be rewarded with a bang and a lurch, and no more speed than you would have otherwise gotten.
To me, this is part and parcel of its appeal as a driver’s car. Even though it’s an auto, it’s still asking something of you beyond the normal point and shoot approach. It even has a Sports mode, should you want to do the gear changes yourself…
In summary, the MC Mondeo is an enjoyable and rewarding drive, but make sure to have any example you look at checked by your mechanic before you purchase, paying special attention to tyre wear, and whether the transmission has been properly serviced at 60,000 and 120,000km. (Cardigan ownership optional.)