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Car reviews - Ford - Mondeo - hatch/wagon range

Our Opinion

We like
Great to drive, spacious, five-star safety, practical, good looking, well made, refined, characterful
Room for improvement
No satellite navigation or Xenon headlights on top-line Titanium, some road noise intrusion in the wagon, delay in the diesel wagon’s release

14 Aug 2009

THE 1996 Cameron Crowe romantic/comedy/drama Jerry Maguire has plenty to answer for, not least because it inflicted the line “show me the money” on an unexpecting (and consequently irritated) world.

But we must turn to another quote from this flaccid weepy when describing the just-superseded MA Mondeo, since the mid-sized European Ford’s unrivalled versatility, dynamicism, value and space basically “had us at hello”.

Back in late 2007, after a few weeks behind the wheel of a Zetec sedan, it became this particular tester’s car of that year pretty much hands-down.

But 20 months is a long time in this business, and so we approached the revised and re-specified MB Mondeo range with the expectation that our opinion of it would wither against the newer Mazda6 and Honda Accord Euro competition.

You know what, though? Ford is still at the top of the medium-sized car game. Straight up and no question, the Mondeo still shines. And the wagon (and for this we truly apologise) “just completes it.”

Mind you, the deletion of the wildly underrated Mondeo sedan (leaving only the hatch in its place) is sad, because this iteration was probably the tautest and quietest of the lot.

But the new wagon – arguably the best looking of the range, if not the most original in design thanks to a very Mazda6-esque rear end treatment – is much the same, brilliant Mondeo experience at heart.

Speaking of which, under the bonnet beats the smooth and sweet-spinning 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (ex Mazda6 apparently) for now, as the TDCi turbo-diesel wagon has been delayed for a few months.

Mated to a slick and responsive six-speed automatic gearbox, the wagon accelerates with sufficient enthusiasm, operates unobtrusively and feels relaxed at cruising speed.

With only two people on board, we cannot really comment on how a heavy load will affect this 1570kg wagon’s performance, but against its four-cylinder wagon rivals (namely the outgoing Subaru Liberty), we think the Mondeo is not at all at a disadvantage.

The upcoming diesel wagon should dispel any fears you might have here.

Plus, show it a corner or a rough road, and the Ford is in a class of its own, since the (hydraulically powered) rack and pinion steering directs the car with precision and flair, while the multi-link rear suspension and four-wheel disc brakes help ensure high degrees of comfort, stability and control.

We cannot recall any wagon this side of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz with such dynamic aptitude.

Furthermore, the Mondeo wagon’s interior presentation remains a solid and unpretentious affair, with ample space for four people (five at a bit of a pinch) and packages. The load area is wide, flat, and easy to access via the large rear aperture.

However, of course, the wagon is not perfect.

The base LX hubcaps are downright hideous and the wheels they are attached to seem far too small for the arches there is a fair amount of road noise intrusion on some surfaces emanating from the rear when the cargo blind is not in place the dash is now looking a tad chintzy and the Zetec instrumentation presentation is both fussy to look at and fiddly to use.

But what a fabulous family car the Mondeo wagon makes anyway.

Why anybody with even just a hint of petrol in his or her veins would choose any small to medium-sized SUV in the sub-$45,000 sector is beyond us. In areas that matter, the Mondeo is tops.

We also sampled the lavishly equipped TDCi Titanium hatch, just as a refresh to how punchy yet civilised this diesel application really is. We cannot wait to try it in the wagon.

As a test of some of the new technologies – namely the radar cruise control – it is a competent and compelling mid-$40,000 proposition, especially as the Titanium brings features that still seem to belong only in the realm of large luxury sedans.

Ford does need to offer satellite navigation and Bi-Xenon headlights (standard on the XR5 Turbo version we also drove – and what an unexpected blast that was) if the most salubrious Mondeo is going to outshine the Accord Euro Luxury on the showroom floor.

After an all-too brief experience in the latest midsized Ford, we left wondering why there are not more Mondeos on Australian roads. Even rival car company executives admit that this is one of the best buys in the new-car market.

We believe that more buyers in the wagon, small SUV and even sedan segments should do themselves a favour by cruising on down to their local Ford dealer demanding:

“Show me the Mondeo!”

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