June Neary discovers just how comfortable a car can be, as she tries out the much improved fourth generation Ford Mondeo
Will It Suit Me?
I've always thought the Mondeo rather staid. I need a practical car, but I like something with a bit of class. I've tended to prefer a hatchback model, too. With this MK4 version, I wondered whether such pre-conceptions much be in for a change after a spell behind the wheel of the Mondeo in popular 2.0 TDCI 150 form. Even before I turned on the engine I felt cosseted. The adjustable lumbar supports on the front seats are, in my view, a masterpiece of design. They hug you in - and if you've been sitting at a PC all day, as I often do, you'll soon feel the tension in your back ease away. Yes, it would suit me very well indeed - and not just because it's comfortable to sit in.
Despite my ill-founded prejudice against the range, I have to admit that this modernday Mondeo, even in standard form, offers a good all-round family package. Classy too. Put this fourth generation design one up alongside its predecessor and this looks a much costlier, more sophisticated thing, with its more prominent Aston Martin-style trapezoidal front grille and sweeping power dome bonnet. It's a handsome thing It's roomy inside too, with a sensible boot. It's also easy to get childseats in and out of the back seat too thanks to the wide rear doors. When I first took a seat in the car, I immediately noticed the high quality surfaces, materials and finishes. As with the outside, dynamic lines and styling curves are again evident, plus the low profile instrument panel provides very generous cabin space for front seat occupants. The dashboard is clear and the major controls for the electronics systems largely intuitive. The dashboard is laid out well enough and looks good. Flicking the switches and checking the quality of fit and finish, I was surprised to find how close the cabin now is to that you'd find in a BMW or an Audi. And it has all of the same gadgets, niceties and safety standards. Not that the MK4 Mondeo looks big from the outside or feels it behind the wheel. Despite the spacious interior, this model shrinks around you, much like an Audi A4 or a BMW 3 Series. I particularly liked the feature that dominates the centre of the dash, the 8-inch SYNC2 colour touchscreen, which plays its part in reducing button clutter and giving the cabin a cleaner, smarter feel. This set-up's divided into four colour-coded sectors that allow you to control audio, sat nav, 'phone and climate control functions via touchscreen buttons. Heating and ventilation is also covered off by switchgear below the screen, which is just as well since the display buttons can be a little slow and fiddly to use. Instead of stabbing away at these, it's better to try and master the system's impressive voice-activated functionality that allows you to issue simple 'one shot' commands, like 'play song' to play a track from a CD, 'where am I?' to find out where you are or even 'I'm hungry' to bring up a list of local restaurants from the system's built-in Michelin Guide. Directions can then be activated from the split-screen navigation display. Rear seat headroom and legroom have also come in for scrutiny by the Mondeo development team and these have been maximized for occupant comfort and safety. Our Road Test Editor is 6'4" and he was easily able to fit comfortably in the back seat behind a front seat virtually all the way back on its runner.
Behind the Wheel
Even though the version I tried was a 150PS 2.0-litre TDCi rather than the top flight 180PS version, it seemed well up to the job. The car itself will, I believe, appeal to a lot of women who like a challenging drive as well as a something looks good. Use the traction control, though. I'd no idea what it would do, but it stopped the car scrubbing all its power away in disconcertingly wheelspin when trying to get out of T-junctions in the rain. On to safety. You get ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, a collapsible pedal structure that stops you injuring your legs in a front-end impact, anti-whiplash head restraints, and ISOFix child seat points in every model. The twin front airbags analyse the severity of a crash and deploy accordingly and can detect if there's a passenger in the front seat (in which case, that airbag won't go off). Side airbags are also standard of course as are side curtain airbags, which offer protection from side impacts along the whole length of the passenger compartment.
Value For Money
List pricing suggests that you'll be paying between £21,000 and £28,000 for your Mondeo, depending on the model you opt for and the specification you need. There's a £1,200 premium if you want the estate version, rather than the 5-door hatch. The only way you can opt for the saloon bodystyle these days is to choose the rare petrol/electric Hybrid version, which requires a £25,000 budget. The mainstream line-up is inevitably geared towards diesel power, though it's well worth doing your sums before opting for the black pump, as Ford's EcoBoost petrol engine technology is surprisingly efficient. Indeed, the brand's 125PS 1.0T and 160PS 1.5T EcoBoost petrol powerplants actually make quite good alternatives to the entry-level 1.5 TDCi 120PS diesel engine that replaced the 1.6-litre TDCi unit this car was originally launched with. This base 1.5-litre diesel variant is the one most buyers will probably choose.
Could I Live With One?
If I were choosing from the usual company car options list, I'd find it hard to look beyond the MK4 Mondeo. It does everything I need a car to do, and a lot more besides. Then there's that welcoming hug every time you climb in.