Is it smart enough?
Perhaps Ford should have remembered context when it launched its new Mondeo with a James Bond theme. For though Daniel Craig did drive a Mondeo in the movie, it was only briefly – and it very much played second fiddle to a vast array of other Ford-owned product.
Forget the Astons. Background car parks were chock-full of Land Rovers, Jaguars and Volvos against which even this handsome Mondeo struggled to hold its own.
Mind you, it is undeniably smart, something we’ve come to expect from Mondeo. But is it smart enough? Is it a rakishly James Bond sort of a car, or the reliable good-looker Moneypenny would take home to mother?
Those headlights suggest the former. Sleek, modern, a little bit flashy, I took some time to warm to them. But after an extensive Auckland, Waihi, Coromandel circuit and return trip I’d been won over to the front view, while the rear is so Peugeot-flavoured you half expect to hear the Marseillaise whenever it cruises past.
That’s an extensive launch drive, and its thoroughness reflects how important this car is to Ford. Its predecessor took 11th spot in the overall sales charts in September despite its age; it’s sold around 2000 a year for a good five years in a segment likely to stay strong as people graduate from their bigger cars. Ford thinks this third generation Mondeo could sell equal numbers to the Falcon that currently retails at around 4000 per annum.
It helps that this Mondeo is bigger, and you’ll notice that in the cabin where front leg room is up 24mm, front shoulder room by 52, with similar gains in the rear.
It’s also well specified – not just with items like the seven airbags, decoupling pedals, dynamic stability control and ABS brakes, but with intangibles – it’s certified as allergy-friendly, for example, as confirmed by the British Allergy Foundation.
None of which will persuade performance fans. Like its predecessors this Mondeo uses a transverse, front-drive powertrain. Under the bonnet there’s the 2.0-litre Duratec which continues as the base engine in sedan and wagon, with 107kW and 185Nm on tap – 90% of that torque on offer from 2000 to 6000rpm. It’s mated to a five-speed manual, with claimed overall thirst at a reasonable 7.9l/100km.
Or there’s the new 2.3, with a six speed auto and an output of 118kW and 208Nm, for a claimed thirst at 9.3.
Nice engines though they are – and they’re certainly smooth and quiet – even the 2.3 seemed a little overwhelmed by this car’s over 1500kg weight. It got along okay but wouldn’t boogie, despite using the auto as a manual. Still, keeping momentum up’s a fun game to play, especially when the base chassis is so confident.
This car is also considerably stiffer than before – torsional stiffness is up by 116% in the hatch, and a staggering 159% in the wagon. Forget how they do it – the result pays dividends when driving. The old car was good dynamically, and though this one’s certainly comfort-biased and therefore a tad soft for my own tastes, damping is well controlled and the car feels assured.
It should do – track is up 67mm up front and 68 out the back. The front suspension is a reworking of the already good MacPherson strut set-up, revisions including better camber stiffness, new bearings, stiffer structural components and tuning to improve bump absorption. Meanwhile the rear’s multi-link arrangement uses a new rubber isolated sub-frame to reduce road noise, among a raft of changes.
And it really is quiet: bar a touch of wind flutter and the inevitable roar on our coarse chip, impressively so. Take the cross-bars off your wagon when you’re not using them, though. They’ll cause hum at high speeds and reduce your car’s fuel efficiency.
Efficiency is becoming an automotive watchword, with Ford citing 264 parts made with recycled non-metallics – not as good as it sounds once you start counting bits.
Start price very good, particularly considering the standard specification, which as well as that stability control and the seven airbags – both part of this car’s five-star Euro NCAP occupant crash test rating – includes follow-me-home lighting, a leather-covered steering wheel, an iPod input port, and steering wheel-mounted audio and trip computer controls. There’s also an extensive options list that includes 20-inch wheels as well as the more practical items.
The cabin works well and it’s appealing, with some nice touches, though my jury’s out on the metal-look plastic on the centre console.
Given this car’s clearly a goodie, can Ford maintain Mondeo’s sales? That won’t depend on you and me. It’ll depend on fleets, with lease alone accounting for close to half Ford’s Mondeo tally until last year, with a further 20 or 30% non-lease fleet sales. Only 20% of Mondeos went to private or small business buyers.
Ford is hoping to change the balance toward private buyers with careful pricing of the Zetec hatch – a liftback so close to the sedan in profile you wondered why they bothered. Diesel? Ford NZ cites global constraints.
Now Ford has sold Aston Martin, will Mondeo be Bond’s next car, and not just his rental fall-back as it was last time around?
I think not. It’s not especially innovative, not over-the-top or sporting enough for Bond. We might admire dangerous girls (or guys) and lust after their cars and lifestyles – but we don’t have the bank balance, or the energy, to live up to it. What we’ll buy is a well-kitted, nicely built and designed and well-priced bit of kit – unexciting, maybe, but it’ll always be there in the morning.
Which I guess answers the question. This is not a James Bond sort of a car. But Moneypenny would love it, and we know who’d be most likely to get us to work on time and unruffled when Monday rolls around.
Ford Mondeo Specifications
Engine: 1999cc four-cylinder petrol, 107kW at 6000rpm, 185Nm at 4500rpm (sedan, wagon); 2261cc four-cylinder petrol, 118kW at 6500rpm, 208Nm at 4200rpm (sedan, wagon, Zetec hatch)
Performance 0-100kph: Not supplied, but take it from us, it’s not quic,
Fuel consumption (claimed, overall): 7.9l/100km (2.0), 9.3l/100km (2.3)
Transmission: Five speed manual (2.0); six speed auto (2.3); front wheel drive
Suspension: MacPherson strut (front), independent control blade multi-link rear
Brakes: Ventilated disc front, solid rear, with ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Dynamic Stability Control and Brake Assist