Ford Mondeo Ghia x 2.0 petrol. Yes, while these three legends among the auto trade are divided on most things, as shown in the popular segment "The cool wall" on old Top Gear, they are united on the opinion of the Ford Mondeo. And it's kinda hard to not agree with them. Voted joint "car of the year" with the Subaru Outback Legacy, by the trio, the Mondeo has been about since 1993 now, which means that MK 1 is now a classic. But it's not the MK 1 we're on about, it's not even the MK 2, but it is the MK 3. The best of the bunch, despite its triangle spectacles that were fitted to both ends, giving the appearance of a car more backward than a Lada Riva. But sitting behind the wheel of one of these is no different than sitting behind the wheel of a 53 reg Beemer, in that you have the leather, you have the gadgets and you have the wood dash. Does this mean that the Mondeo has in-inadvertently wondered into the firing line of the higher class saloons? Well, even though it was designed as an affordable work horse, I think it has. And the newest model (on 16 plate) more than ever, making you feel like Merc man, not Mondeo man. If it wasn't for the cold starting trouble you had with it this morning, you would have forgotten it's a Ford altogether. But it all started in 2001 with the release of the MK 3. Until then, Mondeo's had been limited to fabric seats and that standard black plastic stereo that cursed the dash boards of many good Jags. Its steering wheel felt cheap and the surround came away from the metal within as soon as you got it back from the dealer, and for the equipment available, it's a wonder the rep that was inevitably stuck with it, was not suicidal by the time he got to work. However, we still loved it. We still allow it onto the classic car show grounds, and even though we fell out with it a bit when it formed the basis of the X-type Jag, it was still our best friend, and that cheap and cheery persona has not gone away with the MK 3. Well, the cheap bit has. Prices, for the Ghia range, started at around £23,000, and so being so inter-connected to the Jag, it decided to take their price tag as well. Forgetting this minor set back, we look at the cheery, happy, make do and mend attitude that this Mondeo retained. It had the 'Mondeo Magic' that has gone missing on some of the newer models, which appear to only keep the professional side of their lives, and not cut loose like the previous models. What I'm trying to say is, it's like having a butler that is very quite and professional when you have guests around, but likes to neck a pint with you down the local boozer as much as the next chap. And that's a good car to have. That's a good friend to have. The MK 2 was an easy car to get along with, to drive, to use every day. So much so that I learnt how to drive in one. A lower ride height and low dash means that you very much have the last say and are in command of this friend. The steering was light and the clutch was easy to handle, making it fit for purpose for the reps who travel all day and want a stress free car to do it with. In the newer one, you just don't get that feeling. For starters, the seating position is closer to that of a Audi, which means you loose the confidence you felt in the old one. The dash is higher on this one as well, and so you see less of the road and less of the sloping bonnet, making you feel just a bit inadequate. Just a bit small. I mean, if you Richard Hammond, that's ok, just use a booster seat, but if your an average height, there's not much else you can do. But the biggest thing that bugs you, by a Mondeo mile, is the clutch. This thing is taken straight from a crocs mouth. It's so snappy! It bites while it's still down in Brighton, whereas the old one bit up in Inverness, and that just adds to the discomfort and energy that is required to shift the hefty thing. Hefty being the correct word, for it's bigger than the old one as well, sitting at the same length as a MK 2 Granada, which is a beast of a car. So has the rep-mobile been given a promotion? Does it drive in higher circles now? The interior would join me in saying that, yes it does. Although not created from the finest bulls leather, like Bentley, Rolls Royce or Jaguar, some good cows have been given for this, and the leather, if sometimes hard, is still a nice look to have. This again moves with the theme of how it has moved from something a rep would want (comfort) to something that a BM driver or a Merc driver would require (quality leather). The one I have on test, the Ghia x, has a Sony stereo and speakers, which makes even Justin Beibers voice sound manly out of those bad boys, and the buttons below the steering wheel that indirectly control the volume are a nice gimmick too. You can clearly see that Mr Ford has tried to jump on the expensive saloon wagon with the clock as well. What was wrong with the old digital one that actually told the time, instead of the little, warped analogue one that only tells you what it wants you to know. The wood though. The wood is sublime. Perfect. Not splinter full at all, which of course means it beats British Leyland standards immediately. The interiors great, how about whats on the outside, the part that everyone else see's. Ignoring the triangle style spectacles, I actually think it looks quite cool, quite low lying, and even, with the addition of those alloys and that ST badge, it can be made to look quite sporty. So it has one up on the old model, that was wind swept to the extent at which its toupee flew straight off! And the engine bay? Well, fitted in the Ghia x, you receive a 2.0L petrol, which despite being bigger than the old 1.6 in the base model MK 2, it doesn't feel big. It has the grunt, but some how the smaller engine achieved quicker acceleration and a more pokey feel. This one feels as though it could pull "granny off the piss pot", excusing my American. This, I feel, is another direct attempt at creating a car that reps wont want to buy, especially if this one is so un-attentive and slow that it wont keep in the fast lane for hours on end. Overall then, we find a black sheep. A problem child that doesn't want to do what its dad done, or what his dad before him done. No. We find a Mondeo that's a bit more naughty, and a bit less shy. Is it still the work horse? Do we still love it? Is it still the poor mans Jag, and the best Ford made? Yeah, of course it is, and the fact that it no longer caters to reps makes it all the more attractive!