The Knowledge: Why now is the perfect time to buy a Ford Mondeo ST200
Alex has been a road tester and motoring writer for more than 10 years, and has written on new, used and classic cars for What Car?, Autocar, The Daily Telegraph and PistonHeads, among many others.
As a performance car, it’s fair to say that the Ford Mondeo has always lived somewhat in the shadow of its predecessor, the Sierra. Where the latter gave us legendary Cosworth after legendary Cosworth, won Touring Car championships and even went rallying, the former… didn’t.
OK, OK, swots at the back: that’s not entirely true, because the Mondeo actually did win a Touring Car title in 2000, just before Ford pulled out of the series. Indeed, around this time the Mondeo was at its most prolific; Ford had finally realised its big family hauler had a great chassis to capitalise on, and it was about time it introduced a proper performance model – over and above the something-and-nothing ST24 – to capitalise.
Enter the Ford Mondeo ST200. Finished almost exclusively in Imperial Blue – the shade made famous by the Escort Cosworth just a few years prior, though some later examples were painted white – the ST200 features its own, sharper suspension setup, heavily bolstered Recaro seats with blue leather centres, and matching blue inserts throughout the rest of the interior for a gaudy, Mk1 Focus RS-style look.
Under the bonnet sits the same 2.5-litre V6 as the Ghia and ST24 models, but with an additional 35bhp courtesy of a plethora of engine tweaks including polished intake ports, sportier camshafts, a new twin-exit exhaust and a revised air intake, all taking it to a total output of 202bhp.
It’s potent, then, but the ST200 isn’t frantic or adrenaline-inducing to drive. Its power delivery is more relaxed; in character, the ST200 feels more like a grand tourer today, its fabulously warbly V6 engine note making it a delight to burble around in, using the huge swell of low-end torque to propel you.
Mind you, poke the Mondeo and it will rev out happily, singing its heart out as it does so. Handling is terrific, too, its front end glued to the tarmac with plenty of feel finding its way back through the steering, and an obedient tail that’ll allow for a fair bit of mid-corner adjustment.
Why you should buy one now
ST200s are all but forgotten by the cognoscenti, and to be fair, with the slightly dumpy Mondeo hatchback as a base, that doesn’t come as a complete surprise. But if that’s not your cup of tea, estate and saloon versions are also available – and look terrific, to boot.
Happily, all ST200s are well and truly in the bargain bin right now, which means you can pick one up for a fairly desultory sum. A usable example with average mileage and in need of a little tidying can be yours for as little as £900, while a solid runner should cost you £1,500 or so. And even for the very best example, you shouldn’t expect to pay more than £2,500 – they’re just not worth all that much.
You’ll have to look hard to find a good one, too, as the ST200 is getting rare and, of those that have survived, quite a few have been modified and/or neglected.
What to look out for
Like all old Fords, Mondeos do like to rust. Common spots where they go include the lower edges of the doors, the rear wheel arches and the top of the windscreen seal, though it’s worth checking carefully throughout any prospective purchase.
Doors that rattle or click as you open and close them could suggest the pin that holds them into the hinge is on its way out; parts are cheap but it’s a tricky job to get right.
The cooling fan is also used for the air conditioning, so you can check it works by setting the air con to maximum cold, then going to the front of the car and looking under the bonnet to check the fan is spinning. It can fail, but Ford no longer makes the part, so a repair is tricky.
Listen for wheel bearing rumbles on the test drive – another common Mondeo problem and, while fixable, worth haggling a chunk off the price to take care of. And while you’re driving, check there’s a noticeable change in performance half-way up the rev range as the secondary intake manifold runners kick in; the control mechanism can fail, and it’s a fiddly fix.
A good Mondeo ST200 is worth seeking out, though; not only is it a fun and very satisfying way to get around, but it’s one with space for all your mates – or your family – too.