IF Ford’s accomplished new EcoBoost turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder petrol engine doesn’t elevate the Mondeo to class domination then nothing will.
The Blue Oval’s much-vaunted 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four – mated to a slick Getrag six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission dubbed Powershift – sounds like the sort of tech overkill hitherto reserved for bahn-storming sports coupes and sedans with ‘M’, ‘R’ or ‘AMG’ prefixes.
Volkswagen obviously changed all that five years ago with its revolutionary TSI/DSG powertrain package, but the fact your local Ford dealer offers EcoBoost technology as an option on the criminally underrated Mondeo right now (and will soon do the same for the equally unfairly ignored Falcon) really says something about how seriously Ford is about becoming a world leader. Again.
In fact, Ford’s Mondeo nameplate is derived from the Latin word ‘mondo’, for ‘world’, and in the broader context of a global family car, the brand’s current front-drive offering has been a top-three contender globally since the current third-generation series surfaced in 2007.
We’re not talking only about Toyota Camrys and Hyundai i45s here either. Premium mid-size rivals like the Volkswagen Passat and Honda Accord Euro have an extremely lethal foe in the Belgian-built Ford.
We sampled the $37,740 Zetec EcoBoost hatch, which for the time represents Ford Australia’s opening EcoBoost salvo and lies neatly between the Mazda6 and the Passat in terms of price – if not specification, for this Mondeo pretty much comes standard with everything a family needs (as opposed to wants – that’s what the top-shelf $44,990 Titanium is for).
First impressions are positive – even after four years the Mondeo is still arguably the best looking mid-sizer around following last year’s MC titivation, which served to tone down some of the nose’s garish chrome treatment.
Inside, the rubbery soft-touch dashboard and painted plastic console presentation is beginning to look a little dated, and the revised analogue/LED-mix instrumentation is a tad messy to behold, but the cabin experience is likely to win friends for its deceptively spacious and practical ways.
No auxiliary digital speedo is an oversight, however, and we noticed the odd rattle coming from one of the rear pillars. And, thankfully, parking sensors are standard because rear vision is woeful.
But we’re here to assess this car’s forward thrust.
On start-up the EcoBoost idles with a smoothness you would expect from any Euro four-pot engine. That is, it’s barely detectable. But what happens next depends on your expectations.
The 149kW 2.0-litre GTDI EcoBoost four is meant to be a luxury/performance proposition positioned halfway between the regular non-turbo and the late (and much lamented) XR5 Turbo five-pot screamer.
If you’re after a kick-in-the-back blast from takeoff then the Zetec will disappoint, because it is simply not that sort of powerplant. Ford’s hot-shoe 2.0 EcoBoost engine is the 176kW number fitted to the Volvo S60, V60 and XC60 - and should power Ford Australia’s facelifted Falcon by next February - so there is no point expecting the same from the Mondeo we have here.
However, seen in this context of a 2.0-litre engine with 3.0-litre V6-type power and – say – 1.8-litre economy, the EcoBoost shines.
After a moment’s hesitation as the turbo spools up, the Mondeo whooshes forward with determined force every time, racing seamlessly through the lower gear ratios with a muscular exhaust-fuelled thrust that’s accompanied by a meaty exhaust note.
On dry roads there is virtually no torque steer to speak of, but on damp or wet surfaces the front wheels can scrabble for traction if you are determined with the accelerator. That said, the Mondeo’s traction aids intervene gently to smooth out the rough edges without jarring power cut-offs, maintaining speed and momentum.
Compared to VW’s DSG auto, the Powershift gearbox is largely free of delay and jerkiness at low speed as long as you’re not expecting lightning-fast take-offs, however, a regular torque-converter auto still offers more initial response.
On the move the EcoBoost really flies, settling into a power delivery sweet spot that offers instantaneous acceleration when the need arises. Whether there is only the driver on board or four-up, here this Mondeo performs like a gutsy sports sedan, revving effortlessly past the 6500rpm redline while building up speed with impressive ease. It’s then that that missing digital speedo comes in handy.
So the EcoBoost accelerates fairly speedily before it really begins to take flight, making it the sort of European car that makes a mockery of our low freeway speeds.
On our favourite set of test bends the Mondeo retains its reputation as the driver’s car of the mid-size pack, with communicative steering, agile handling and incredibly good roadholding.
If you are not a sporty driver you may find the helm a smidge too direct, but there is a level of controllability and interaction here that no rival – short of more expensive mediums like BMW’s 3 Series or the Mercedes-Benz C-class - can match.
During an extended period with many hundreds of kilometres of EcoBoost motoring under our belt, we recorded an impressive 9.8L/100km on pricey 98 RON premium unleaded petrol, including plenty of performance testing over some twisty and mountainous roads. Considering the breadth of fun and flexibility this drivetrain provides, we were pleasantly surprised with its consumption.
Indeed, the Mondeo EcoBoost is all about exceeding expectations. You want an affordable family runabout with a massive boot at one end and a bootful of performance with reasonable frugality at the other? The racy yet refined EcoBoost delivers that in spades.
With cutting-edge turbo-petrol power under its bonnet, the Mondeo remains one of our favourite mid-size cars at any price – including the 3 Series, C-class and Audi’s A4. In the real world it delivers unmatched value, style and aplomb.
Despite all of this, however, some quite inferior models will continue to outsell the Ford. Once again, if EcoBoost doesn’t bridge that gap then we fear nothing can.