Car reviews - Ford - Mondeo - Trend EcoBoost hatch
Ride, steering, refinement, comfort, performance, space, safety, practicality
Room for improvement
Design may not appeal to all, no digital speedo, cheap parcel shelf, not much else
6 Oct 2015
Price and equipment
IT ISN’T just the Falcon’s falling popularity that has given Ford grief lately.
Over in Europe its family car equivalent, the Mondeo, has also been squeezed hard from smaller cars below, SUVs above, and – more recently – compact crossovers. And many have been wearing far more premium badges than the very mainstream old Blue Oval, worryingly.
Unfortunately for Australian manufacturing, Ford’s Detroit HQ has chosen the Mondeo to be the company’s global family car torch-bearer. But beyond the subsequent death of Falcon and closure of local factories, the latest, all-new MD series is the result of the company’s all-out effort to take on the best that the world has to offer.
At its April launch – two years later than anticipated due to production issues – its maker described the Mondeo as “the most technologically advanced Ford vehicle ever introduced in Europe”. To that end, and among a host of other items, it gains inflatable rear seatbelts and crash avoidance systems with pedestrian detection capabilities.
We’re testing the mid-range Trend five-door hatch, replacing the old Zetec, and the entry point into the more powerful 177kW/345Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo EcoBoost petrol engine. A 149kW opener with the same torque output is reserved for the $32,790 Ambiente hatch and $36,640 wagon.
From $37,290 plus on-road costs, the Trend is some $450 cheaper than the preceding MC equivalent, yet comes with considerably more features, such as a reversing camera, auto-folding exterior mirrors, keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise, lane-keep assist, auto high beam, and heated front seats, as well as push-button start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, 10-way powered and part-leather front seats, rain-sensing wipers, partial leather seats, auto headlights, idle-stop, and 17-inch alloys.
These are on top of the base Ambiente’s generous kit count, which includes cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a leather wheel, Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, SYNC2 voice command, DAB+ digital radio, fog-lights, front and rear parking sensors, LED tail-lights, follow-me-home lighting, load-levelling suspension (in wagons), and 16-inch alloys.
The Trend only really misses out on the flagship Titanium’s auto tailgate, sunroof, adaptive dampers, and 18-inch alloys.
Note, though, that the adaptive cruise control isn’t the full-stop variety.
Longer, narrower and lower than before, but sitting on the same-size 2850mm wheelbase, the MD Mondeo five-door hatch is large and spacious in that big German car sort of way, though the sloping coupe-like roofline and high windows do reduce side and rear vision.
Compared to the outgoing version, the dashboard layout and material quality are a massive step forward, with a solidity, logic, and simplicity that makes the car inviting right from the word go. This Ford ought to have plenty of showroom pull.
As with the latest FG X Falcon, the centre console is dominated by a touchscreen-operated display offering standard navigation, entertainment, climate, and phone operations. Colour coded and presented without too much distracting detail, each works well, with special mention going to the ease and clarity in which the Bluetooth phone/audio stream operates. The SYNC2 voice command system can be annoying at times, however, until you learn to speak ‘her’ specific language, anyway.
Why Ford doesn’t offer an auxiliary digital speedometer to go with the cheap-looking (but adequately decipherable) analogue dials is a mystery, especially when the central cluster screen does carry a very comprehensive array of trip and vehicle operation info. On the other hand, the driving position is first class, aided by superbly effective ventilation, and a plethora of storage choices.
Ford seems to have adopted Volvo-style ergonomic seats, mixing firmness and softness with excellent headrests and side-support, for pain-free and relaxing long-distance comfort.
Pleasantly trimmed, the rear bench is also a good place to spend time, though the segment-first airbag-carrying seatbelts’ chunkiness do take a bit of getting used-to. Newly centralised rear airvents, one reading light, a 12V outlet for charging devices, and sufficient storage are also present, while the rear windows wind (electrically naturally) all the way down. Great for panting dogs and bored children. Speaking of which, a pair of Isofix latches live at the base of the cushion, supported by tether hooks behind the rear of the backrest.
Luggage capacity is vast – more so than the Mondeo’s dimensions suggest – offering 458 litres in regular mode, extending with the 60/40 folding rear backrests to 1356L – aided by a flat floor (housing a 16-inch space-saver spare), and lots of width. However, what is it with the flimsy and infuriatingly fiddly parcel shelf?
Engine and transmission
The Mondeo has never had a stronger or sportier petrol engine application (that didn’t wear ST24 or XR5 Turbo badges).
Quiet and particularly smooth, it is quick-smart off the line, and accelerates with almost startling eagerness all the way beyond the 6500rpm redline, supported by a slick-shifting and well-calibrated six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. Note that while there is no longer any Tiptronic-style sequential gate, all versions have wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Perhaps the 177kW 2.0-litre EcoBoost’s biggest ace is its strapping overtaking ability, pulling forcefully at highway speeds, reflecting this engine’s autobahn breeding. Relaxed and refined, it’s one of the medium segment’s shooting stars.
With 345Nm barrelling through to the front wheels, we expected a scrabbling handful in wet conditions, but in fact the Mondeo’s stability and traction control systems did an exemplary job evening all that torque out, to the point where wheel spin is only really present if you’re being ham-fisted with the pedal.
We average about 10 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle (the official figure is 8.2L/100km) – a respectable figure considering how much space and performance is on offer, although the TDCI wagon we subsequently tested often returned sub-8s.
Ride and handling
Covering more than 1.5 million kilometres of prototype testing, the MD series is built on an all-new platform featuring a fresh integral-link rear suspension system, which Ford says allows the wheels to move rearwards over bigger bumps for a smoother ride and reduced noise levels. It also gains improved seals and insulation materials, as well as electronic torque vectoring control devices.
Result? Right now, it is highly likely that no new vehicle on sale in Australia for under $60,000 can match the Mondeo Trend EcoBoost for its combination of dynamic prowess, ride suppleness, and overall refinement. Look up ‘sweet spot’ in the dictionary and you may see a picture of one of these.
Compared to the previous model, the MD’s steering is not quite as sharp at its initial turn-in period, or quite as eager – some might have said nervous – on a fast winding stretch of road.
But it is still pretty much at the apex of sporty feel, and yet the leap forward in fluency, composure, control and comfort is astounding. The driver remains connected to the car yet isn’t barraged with the wrong sort of information like rack rattle or steering kickback. The Mondeo literally carves through corners with engaging, satisfying poise and command. And at speed – we saw 200km/h on a private track – the Mondeo cruised along with rock-steady ease. The brakes are brilliantly balanced too.
Meanwhile, the suspension cushions the road – and gravel and tracks we also drove over – like a much, much more expensively priced luxury car, providing suppleness without floatiness, and road connection without noise or droning.
Crucially, while we’ve been less than impressed with Michelin Primacy tyres in the past, the 235/50R17s wrapped around our Trend’s (gaudy) alloys feel perfectly matched and tailored to the car, revealing the depth of engineering smarts that’s gone on underneath.
It’s as if Ford has combined the best attributes of a 3 Series with old-school Mercedes W123 lushness. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the Mondeo competes directly with the premium Germans in Europe. If only BMW, Audi, and Mercedes’ equivalents were as dynamically complete.
Safety and servicing
The latest Mondeo scores a five-star ANCAP crash-safety rating, and in Trend guise includes a high number of driver-assist technologies that provide additional real-world benefits. It is also the cheapest car currently available with rear-seat belt airbags.
The warranty period is for three years and 100,000km. Ford also provides Capped Price Service for life – fixed at $355 annually for the first eight years except for years four and eight, when the price is published at $550. Service intervals are 12 months/15,000km, with 12-month roadside assistance and a free loan vehicle inclusive.
An astounding combination of value, comfort, refinement, performance, and dynamic capability, the latest Mondeo has been more than worth the wait. We’ve also tested both the Ambiente and Titanium TDCI wagons, and the verdict remains the same. These are great cars with very few faults.
Along with the Holden VF Calais, the Trend represents the greatest family car buy on the market today. Why Australians continue to demand inferior medium-sized SUVs instead, with all their unnecessary compromises, is beyond us. We implore you: get smart and get yourself behind the wheels of a Mondeo before buying anything else first. And that includes the premium-badged stuff.
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