By: Ken Gratton.
Coupled to a six-speed automatic, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel from the Focus is horsepower of a different colour in the medium segment Mondeo
Price as tested: $40,340 (includes Tango metallic paint $350 and Napoli leather $2000)
Crash rating: five-star EuroNCAP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 7.3
CO2 emissions (g/km): 193
Overall rating: 3.0/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 4.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.5/5.0
There’s a magic number that appears to be ideal for peak torque in midsize diesel cars — 320. Ford’s Mondeo TDCi develops that output (in Nm) between 1750-2240rpm, according to Ford’s own stats.
And every other diesel that even comes close to competing with the Ford in the VFACTS medium car segment also develops 320Nm. Just to add fuel to this twisted conspiracy theory, all the diesel Mondeo’s competitors hail from Europe (at least until the latest Mazda6 gets a diesel under the hood) and they’re all five-star NCAP rated for safety. Suspicious, non?
But there the parallels end. Compared with its competitors, the Mondeo is up to almost $10,000 cheaper (and about $4500 cheaper than the competitor closest in price). It’s larger in every dimension than its competitors and tends to be better equipped, across the board. Where a competitor has a feature the Mondeo lacks, the Ford can be specified with that feature as an option and still undercut the competitor on price.
So right about now you’re thinking the Mondeo represents good value and offers known-quantity chassis dynamics. Must be a lay-down misère, qui?
Well, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried. One of our fraternity regards the Mondeo TDCi as the best variant in the Mondeo range. With all due respect to our comrade, we don’t necessarily subscribe to that view. The XR5 tested a few months ago is still the pick of the bunch for its sporting orientation, in the opinion of this reviewer.
To give one example of the differences that lie between the turbo petrol model and the turbodiesel Mondeo, the TDCi variant with its 17-inch wheels feels just a little less sharp in respect of cornering and straight-line stability than the XR5 does, with its 18-inch alloys. It must be said, however, the steering of the Mondeo TDCi is still better than a hell of a lot of other cars on the road — quite a few of those in the same medium car segment.
The ride is noticeably softer than that of the XR5 — and yet the Mondeo TDCi is still a tidy handling car. Its ride/handling balance is impressive for a vehicle that’s not overtly sporting. Ford has done some impressive work with the car’s front end — and presumably with the electronic active safety aids also. In wet weather conditions, the front tyres will spin once the turbo is on boost, but there is no discernible axle tramp.
The key words there are “once the turbo is on boost”. Fitted with the same 2.0-litre engine from the Focus TDCi (and a joint development with Peugeot — hence the 407’s same dimensions), the Mondeo TDCi suffers from more turbo lag than we recall from the Focus — which was at least blessed with a manual transmission. Hard to believe that after arguing for months that diesels do their best stuff with auto transmissions, the Mondeo has forced us to reappraise this view.
It’s surprising that the Mondeo with diesel and automatic isn’t all that sparkling in a straight line. Don’t get us wrong, the Mondeo TDCi goes well enough once the turbo’s wound up, but it’s a bit of a wait — and in the meantime, you’ll be flogged witless by middle-aged drivers in Toyota Corollas.
One can’t help thinking that if Ford is going to charge over $40,000 for the XR5, the company might as well charge a bit more for a Mondeo with the same D5 engine in Volvo’s C30/S40/V50 models — and offer the choice of manual or auto.
Still, one cannot complain about the fuel economy of the Mondeo TDCi. Average fuel consumption for the week — with a combination of heavy peak-hour traffic and some open-road driving — hovered around 9.0L/100km. The significantly smaller — and lighter — Peugeot 308 we tested during the same week returned a figure of 8.3L/100km in a much gentler driving scenario.
Most owners of the Mondeo TDCi will do significantly better than 9.0L/100km and somewhere much closer to the combined cycle figure of 7.3 will be more common. That’s pretty good whichever way you cut it, in what amounts to a medium car on the cusp of large car stardom.
While the six-speed auto doesn’t offer the enjoyment of the quick-shifting manual in the XR5, it’s always smooth and responsive, even with full throttle and manual shifting. It also offers proper adaptive shifting, holding on to a lower gear with a light or closed throttle on hills.
One of the bugbears of diesel passenger cars has been the issue of NVH. In the Mondeo, there’s virtually no driveline noise at open-road speeds — just wind. Although it seems a slightly noisier engine at idle than the Peugeot 308’s, the Mondeo is still fairly quiet and has a pleasant engine note, by diesel standards. It’s a sign of how far diesel technology has come over the last five years.
It’s case of comparing apples with oranges but the smaller Peugeot provides an interesting packaging comparison. Being a significantly larger car than the 308, the Mondeo’s rear-seat leg and knee room are fantastic but the Peugeot provides dramatically better rear-seat headroom (it also scored points for its ski-port from the boot and cup-holders in the rear-seat centre armrest — both features lacking in the Mondeo). In fact, the Ford’s rear headroom is only good enough for average-sized adults and just adequate for those taller than 180cm.
Our other gripe was the driving position. The Mondeo’s driver’s seat just doesn’t feel like it’s aligned correctly with the instruments and steering wheel. It seems like it’s pointing slightly left (towards the centre console) and you don’t feel like you’re sitting straight in the seat.
Some might learn to live with that and forgive it, since the steering wheel adjustment allows for an easy reading of the instruments — which are more conservatively styled than those in the XR5. And despite the above remarks, it’s still quite comfortable — it just plain points in the wrong direction! In mitigation of that, Ford has placed the handbrake and sequential-shift gates for the automatic transmission correctly, to suit our RHD market.
On the whole, we found the interior to be attractively styled and modern. Oh, and the boot is huge.
The upshot of all this is that the Mondeo TDCi shares many of the virtues with other variants in the range, but the car is somewhat compromised by the need to appeal to a broader cross-section of consumers than the XR5 variant.
Still, it remains a well-priced, well-specified car with many other qualities to its name, besides. Ford tells us that the diesel variants are the most popular choice for Mondeo buyers and ultimately, we can see why.