Car reviews - Ford - Mondeo - LX sedan
Driver involvement, comfortable refined cabins, high equipment levels, lusty 2.0-litre engine, wide range of body styles on offer
Room for improvement
Auto can be troublesome if neglected, parts might become scarce
7 May 2003
FORD's mid-sized sedans have always lived in the shadow of the Falcon but the overlooked Mondeo deserves the spotlight.
In the 1970s the English-sourced Cortina seemed to get worse the more Ford updated it. By 1977 the TE series lacked the quality, economy and reliability of its Japanese rivals.
No wonder Ford abandoned the Cortina for a rebadged Mazda 626 in 1983. Called Telstar, it was a much improved Corona/Camry rival.
By 1995 fluctuating currencies forced Ford to adopt the acclaimed Mondeo. Built in Belgium, the European Car Of The Year award winner is consistently one of Britain's best sellers.
Not in Australia, though. Despite stable pricing and glowing press reports, the Mondeo is unfairly ignored.
Even a major facelift in 1997 - which turned the rather bland HB model into the distinctive HC - failed to ignite much buyer interest. Sales gradually fell.
Yet the revised Mondeo is a leading, medium-sized family car contender.
Every panel bar the doors and roof on the sedan and hatch were redesigned for the HC in 1997 - which was actually launched in December, 1996.
Huge headlights, a gaping grille and large tear-drop tail-lights give the Mondeo a real presence on the road.
Three models are available, though not in all three body styles. There is the base LX sedan and wagon, and the pricier GLX in sedan and five-door hatch.
While the LX features air-conditioning, driver airbag, central locking, power mirrors and cloth trim, the GLX adds cruise control and power windows.
Two seat-mounted side airbags - triggered by a dedicated sensor system - are options.
The dash has a modern, classy appearance. Big, clear instruments, practical rotary heater controls, well co-ordinated trim and a solid feel lend an air of quality.
True to its role as a company car in Europe, there are storage spaces aplenty, cup and pen holders, and a glovebox that will easily swallow a street directory.
Ford managed to increase rear legroom by a useful 40mm over the HB Mondeo by scooping out the backs of the front seats. The result is space to rival the much larger Magna.
The Mondeo's seats are inviting. The rear bench is shapely and supportive while the multi-adjustable buckets at the front hold occupants in place securely.
This is necessary because of the Mondeo's sporty nature.
It may be a family car with a comfortable, well controlled ride, but the Mondeo also dishes up inspired handling and good roadholding.
The power steering is well weighted and communicative not many front-wheel drive cars feel better at the helm. Its arrow-like stance at cruising speeds is also worthy of mention.
Compared to the earlier Mondeo, the HC model's free-revving 2.0- litre, twin cam, 16-valve, Zetec four-cylinder engine is more refined and less rowdy. But more torque would be nice.
When mated to the five-speed manual gearbox, the performance is sparkling. But the lack of bottom-end punch is pronounced with the auto. The accelerator needs a good prod before it will kick- down a gear.
The Mondeo's 480-litre boot is bigger than it appears, so plenty of gear will fit inside. A spacious station wagon is also available.
Check for signs of mechanical abuse - a worn-out clutch or a loose gearbox - and accident damage.
The Mondeo is an economical Ford family sedan designed with low running costs in mind. Why it is not more popular is one of motoring's mysteries.
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