The Ford Mondeo - A Near 30 Year History, Gone.
A look into this iconic family saloon's history and just how it really was Britain's favorite family/rep car.
So, it's 1993 and Brian May is telling the nation it's "Driven By You", the well loved Sierra has just been replaced by a new family saloon. However, there's speculation again as to whether it can be anywhere near as good. For a start it has front wheel drive just like the Cavalier, really..? With the Cosworth being such the hooligan's dream car, this seemed like a big step back. However, let's take a look into the MK1 and how it changed the minds of those who loved the Sierra.
The Mondeo MK1
In the late 80s there needed to be a replacement for the Sierra and Ford got to work designing just that, however there was a new brief, it needed to be a 'World Car'. What this meant is that no matter what market they sold it in, it had to work! This really was something never seen before, was it really possible?
Throughout the development stages there was a lot of changes compared to the Sierra, the main one being the driven wheels. It is much easier to package a front wheel drive layout, it also gives more space in the rear of the cabin as well as the boot (perfect for a family car). With a lot of the Sierra/Mondeo's rivals taking this route it made sense for Ford to as well, but will this just mean it'll be your typical front driven dull fest? Another big thing for the Mondeo's selling point was to have a driver's airbag as standard, this really would have stood out back in 1993!
A fun fact of the Mondeo's development was that Jackie Stewart, yes THAT Jackie Stewart, was called in to give feedback on the Mondeo and contribute to how it drove. Maybe an indication into what actually made the Mondeo a decent drive!
The finished product then, any good? Well becoming the UK's best selling car probably would indicate it was doing something right! There was quite a few to choose from as well; various base models, LX, then Si, Ghia and later you had the Ghia X which was fairly well spec'd. Engines were also quite generous with a 1.6, 1.8 or 2.0 Zetec 16v engine (OOOO! a 16v!), then there was also the smooth 2.5 Duratec V6 and a 1.8 Turbo Diesel if you didn't like the look of the fuel station and finally 4x4 versions of the Si, Ghia and Ghia X (try finding one of them now!). The only issue looking back at the MK1 now there wasn't really a 'fast' or 'hot' model, there were ones with the 'RS' kit or a rarer Citrine Hendy which had an uprated 150hp 2.0 Zetec but nothing like a Cosworth, but there may have been a reason for that.
Andy Rouse, doing what he does well
The philosophy of 'win on Sunday, sell on Monday', may have actually worked here! The British Touring Car Championship back in the '90s really was some of the best racing that has ever been seen and the Mondeo was in the middle of it. It entered towards the latter stages of 1993 with Andy Rouse and Paul Radisich and 8 of the 10 races it actually entered it either won or was on the podium! If it had done a full season it would have likely took the championship battle to the BMW 318i.
The Mondeo MK2
Coming out in 1996 the MK2 was just a revised MK1 with just a few cosmetic changes and engine tweaks, but from my opinion at least I think the Mondeo now had the looks to go with it's already great reputation for a great family/rep car. This time however, it had a bit more and maybe just what buyers were looking for.
So, you know the problem with not having anything 'like' a Cosworth? Well, that issue was well and truly sorted. There was a few lesser models like the Zetec S and ST24 which had either 16" alloys with the 2.0 Zetec or 2.5 V6 which helped the image but later on, the ST200 came along and that was just a tad different.
Taking the regular 2.5 V6 from 170hp to 200hp, Ford had created something brilliant! The bright blue paint, the 17" multispoke alloys and Recaro leather interior, it finally had the image and performance to match it's 2000 BTCC championship victory with Alain Menu. I'd have bloody wanted one at the time, never mind now! But, there was a little more, or so there was an idea for more. The ST250 was a concept Ford really tried to push, it had a 3.0 version of the V6 mated to a supercharger which made for 245hp, this really would have been the Cosworth of it's day.
The Mondeo MK3
It's 2000, the scare of the millennium bug had dissipated and Ford had a crisp new family saloon around the corner, Mondeo Man certainly is excited! But again, can it really keep itself as the nation's favourite and be even better than the previous generation?
For me, the MK3 Mondeo had the best blend of any generation; drivability, ease of maintenance, quality and just a great car to look at in the right specification! Unlike the previous generations it now had the interior to match that of VW's Passat with a nice layout and soft touch materials around the cabin. A new line of engines too; 1.8 and 2.0 Duratec Petrols, a 2.5 and a new 3.0 V6 which were still as smooth as the previous generations and finally the new common rail diesel engines in 2.0 and 2.2 forms, a lot nicer than the previous 1.8TD.
Something is missing again though, isn't it? Yes, you had the sporty Zetec S, but where was the ST? Well, it was a concept until 2002 and then Ford finally gave the world the super saloon Mondeo people were begging for in this new brilliant chassis.
Didn't change at all from concept, lovely!
Producing 220hp (hence the name ST220), it had 20hp over the previous generation's ST200, uprated suspension components and more grip than the standard cars, coupling that with a lovely new set of Recaros and this really was a car to be proud of. Even today it is considered one of the best buys on the second hand market for an outright fun family car! That being said though, if a 3.0L V6 would eat too much into your wallet there was a new type of performance car that was released at the same time.
The Mondeo ST-TDCI was a performance car for the type of person who also didn't want to stop at a fuel station every 20 yards to feed that hungry V6. The TDCI was the 2.2L with 152hp and 256ft-lbs of torque, giving a 0-60 of 8.4 seconds it was slightly slower than the ST220 but around 20MPG more. It really did catch on, these sold in great numbers and even today you can buy the very latest Focus ST in a diesel variant, good thinking from the blue oval!
Why oh why didn't you race this?
There was something missing though.. Nearly every generation of Ford saloon since the '60s had gone into Motorsport and the Mondeo MK3 nearly did! It was proposed to enter the German DTM series in the early '00s but sadly nothing ever came of it and it's a bloody shame because as a racer it looked brilliant.
The Mondeo MK4
The names Mondeo, Ford Mondeo. Hear me out! It really was a Bond car, even if it was only for a few seconds. Casino Royale came out in 2006 and the next generation of Mondeo was set to be released in 2007, but how do you give a car some credit before people even set eyes on it? Put it in one of the best names in film, obviously.
Bondeo Man! ...I'm sorry.
Now this generation of Mondeo really was directed to a more luxurious feel, the materials in the cabin were better again, but the handling also was compared to that of the BMW 3 Series but this was a front wheel drive layout, how..? This really was the best modern all rounder and buying any other cars in the same segment seemed rather silly, apart from them being cheaper, it really was that good!
Spec ranged from good to really good, there wasn't really a bad one apart from maybe 'Edge' spec, Titanium X was just loaded with stuff such as; heated and cooled seats, radar guided cruise control, lane keeping assist, navigation and climate control. Really was a nice place for Bon.. I mean Mondeo Man to sit and enjoy going from one meeting to the next. Engines again were quite varied, ranging from; 1.8 and 2.0 petrols from the previous gen, 1.6Ti-VCT, 1.6T and 2.0T EcoBoost petrols, 2.3L petrol, 2.5T 5 cylinder petrol (lovely) and 1.6, 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2 TDCI diesels. That's a lot of bloody engines!
Now with the Mondeo MK4 there was something always missing from it and that was the ST variant as well as a racing variant. There was the Titanium X Sport which had either the 2.0 EcoBoost Auto, 2.5T 5 Cylinder petrol or 2.0/2.2L diesels with lowered suspension and a few little changes to give it that sporty look but it never had the full wow factor of previous ST models. Performance wise too there was little between the Tit X Sport and ST models of old.
This honestly was a shame as the Mondeo MK4 really was that good of a car, even if you buy one today 7 years after production ended, the only thing you'd be missing is Apple Car Play.
The Mondeo MK5
It's a Sedan! It's a Station Wagon! And it's got a motor under the hood! Wait, what? In 2012 this car was already on sale but not in Europe, in America under the Fusion name. We had to wait until the very end of 2014 to even get your hands on one of these and I really don't want to say it but it really was the slow demise of the Mondeo.
I really wanted to like this generation, I thought it was a brilliant looking thing and looked very purposeful. However, like the Mondeo MK1 flopped in America where it was deemed the Contour, the American developed car flopped here in Europe. Ford's European engineers took it away and made it handle for the European market as well as a few interior changes so that it could easily be sold here, but that wasn't really the case.
The Mondeo's rivals, such as the Passat, were just much better rounded cars. The Mondeo's strongest point throughout it's history was that it was always top of the class in handling, but most described the electronic steering as having not much feedback and the chassis not dynamic enough. The interior was more than adequate but for a market this competitive it really needs to be the best and sadly the Mondeo had lost it. There were some changes with a facelift and even a hybrid version, but not even these could save the Mondeo. Where the Mondeo used to sell, was fleets. But with the SUV craze going mad, they could just buy other cheaper PHEVs and SUVs.
And that, sadly, was that. On the 25th March 2021 Ford announced that they were pulling the plug on their family saloon, the Mondeo will still be in production until March 2022 not making it to it's 30th Birthday.
The Mondeo might not have been the most exciting car in the world, it didn't change the world but it still was one of the most well known names in the business and in terms of being what a car should be, it was one of the best.