Car reviews - Ford - Mondeo - LX sedan
Euro-centric design and dynamics
Room for improvement
Not as refined as its Mazda 626-based Telstar predecessor, iffy build quality, automatic transmission durability, slightly anonymous looks
7 May 2003
AFTER many years of relying on Mazda to supply its mid-sized car - the 626 rebadged as the Telstar - Ford brought things back into the family with the Ford-built Mondeo in 1995.
As the name suggests, the Mondeo was designed as a world car by a design team from Britain and Germany and aimed at the medium- sized front-wheel drive category in most markets around the globe.
In the US, Ford builds two slightly different versions called the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique but the Mondeo imported into Australia was built in Belgium.
The Mondeo competes with medium and upper-medium sized four- cylinder competition from Japan and Europe and also Holden's Australian-built but German-designed Vectra.
It is a tough class to be in and the Mondeo has not been particularly successful since its introduction.
Stodgy styling, poor ride and a noisy engine have been common criticisms.
The car has the usual specifications for the class - a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve engine mounted east-west, front- wheel drive, the choice of a four-speed automatic transmission or five-speed manual gearbox and all-independent suspension with struts and coil springs. It is not sensational but on the right side of adequate.
Body styles are four-door sedan, five-door hatchback and five- door wagon.
The Zetec twin cam, 1989cc engine power curve is rather peaky, the engine having to be worked fairly hard to extract reasonable performance.
The twin overhead camshafts are belt driven and the belt change interval is specified at 90,000km.
The four-speed auto has an overdrive top gear and lock-up torque converter for improved fuel economy.
Suspension is by MacPherson struts and lower A arms at the front, and an independent quadralink system with coil spring/damper units with two transverse and one trailing arm on each side.
Steering is power-assisted variable rate rack and pinion. Ventilated disc brakes are fitted all round, servo assisted. An anti-lock system is optional.
Accommodation is comfortable for four adults, an extra person in the rear seat being a squeeze. Rear headroom is also marginal for tall passengers.
The interior layout is good with comfortable front bucket seats, high centre console and easy to read instrumentation. But the wiper and turn signal levers are laid out in European format with the indicator lever on the left of the steering column.
On the road the Mondeo is disappointing. Performance is adequate rather than sparkling and interior noise level is high. Clutch effort is on the heavy side and the gearshift is vague.
The ride shows some harshness with plenty of road noise transmitted to the cabin and the steering is a little vague. On the plus side, the four-wheel disc brakes are very effective.
Standard equipment includes driver airbag, adjustable steering column, central locking, power mirrors and power steering.
The first Mondeo may have been disappointing on the Australian market but many of the faults in the first model were addressed in a restyled HC version released, significantly, only 18 months later. But that really didn't help it win sales.
The Mondeo is a soundly designed car and the faults evident in the initial model, none of which are major, were addressed by Ford in Australia and a comprehensive dealer network ensures good service and supply of spares in years to come.
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