FORD STREETKA (2003 – TO DATE)

December 7, 2007

Find yourself in the market for a used supermini convertible and you tend to be faced with a run of depressing choices. You can either opt for the sort of hatchback conversion that looks like a pram or you can opt for the sort of ‘sporting’ coupe-convertible car with folding metal roofs that tend to malfunction, leaving you drenched in the throes of the British ‘summer’. Most give up on this sector and buy a proper roadster such as an MG TF or a Mazda MX-5 but salvation arrived in 2003 in the pert shape of Ford’s Streetka. It was small, it looked the part and it was fun to drive. Was that really so difficult? Tracking down a used example may be a little more difficult than working up the enthusiasm in the first instance. Although the Streetka sold in decent numbers, owners seem strangely unwilling to divest themselves of the baby Ford. Your best bet may well be a low mileage demonstrator from a Ford franchised dealer. Don’t expect too many outrageous bargains even if you do choose to buy in the traditional convertible ‘dead period’ in late autumn.

Quite why it took fully seven years for Ford to realise that a convertible Ka might make hot cakes look a sticky line is anyone’s guess. Designs for the Streetka had been circulating within the Ford empire for years before a prototype ever saw the light of day, the Turin Show of 2000 being the first public airing for the design. Fortunately for us, Ford timed the production launch of the Streetka to coincide with the introduction into the Ka range of a decently powerful engine in the form of the 95bhp 1.6-litre Duratec. For years enthusiasts had raved over the Ka’s handling prowess and begged Ford to give it more power. The Streetka retains a superb chassis balance and many feel that if a bigger engine would fit beneath that tiny bonnet, the Ka would be more than capable of doing it justice. Winter 2003 saw the launch of the Streetka Winter Edition, a limited run series that included a detachable hard top to keep out the worst ravages of the British elements. The standard Streetka is fitted with anti-lock brakes, a cloth roof, remote central locking, twin airbags, a height adjustable driver’s seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, an alarm, power heated door mirrors, front fog lamps, a CD based stereo and electric windows. Should you want an even better equipped version, the Luxury Streetka adds leather trim, heated seats, height adjustment for the passenger seats, air conditioning and a heated windscreen. Options include metallic paint, a CD autochanger and a climate pack (air con and the heated screen). With seating strictly for two, the Streetka has an intimate feel to the cabin. Many of the interior parts are standard Ford fare, but the addition of a Puma-style metallic gearknob and some metallic detailing on the dashboard and the steering wheel jollies things up a little. Unlike most of today’s state of the art roadsters, the Streetka does without an electric folding hardtop, relying instead on a manually folding soft top that can be stowed in less than 30 seconds. Beneath the roof mechanism is a storage space that can accommodate a golf bag. Another lockable box sits between the front seats giving a total stowage space of 188 litres.

Prices start at £10,000 for an 03 registered Streetka with the Luxury model tacking another £300 onto these prices. Both cars are rated at Group 7 insurance so they needn’t break the bank. The Streetka is often bought as a second car and mileages are often correspondingly low. Mainly cosmetic damage (the headlamps in particular aren’t cheap). Inspect the hood carefully for any rips or discolouration. The front tyres will also warrant inspection as an enthusiastically driven Streetka can have a surprising appetite for rubber. The engine and gearbox are both very tough units and little has been reported to go wrong. The seat runners have been known to rattle somewhat but this is an easy fix. When mediocrity would have sufficed, Ford went the extra mile and created a genuinely fun supermini convertible. If you can prise the keys to one from its owners grasp, consider yourself very privileged indeed.

(approx) A clutch assembly is around £75. Front brakepads are around £45, a full exhaust about £90, a catalyst about £200 and an alternator (exchange) around £115. A headlamp is about £95. Making for a cheap used sports car.

Powered by that 1.6-litre Duratec petrol engine that’s good for 95bhp, the Streetka is much more than a Ka with its head scissored off. With only the bonnet and front light assembly shared with the standard Ka, this city funster is a vastly different proposition. The track is wider at both front and rear and the suspension is a good deal stiffer, giving the Streetka a more solid platform than the Ka. Couple this with the punchy South African-built engine and you have a car that’ll be guaranteed to put a grin on the most jaded driver’s face. Given that the standard Ka with it’s somewhat wheezy 1.3-litre engine is still great fun to steer, the Streetka is quite a blast. A sprint to 60mph in 12.1 seconds may not sound rapid enough to incinerate the trousers of your average bar room petrolhead, but the engine has been engineered for low end torque and boasts a sporty exhaust note. The fuel consumption figure of 36mpg will satisfy all but the most tight-fisted, but the C02 emissions figure of 189g/km isn’t the most impressive around. The steering has also been tuned for a sportier feel and now requires just 2.6 turns from lock to lock. As a used car they are a great sporty number!

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FORD SIERRA (1987-1993)

December 6, 2007

It seems hard to believe now that the humble Sierra was a revolutionary of its time. It succeeded the Cortina and represented a giant risk for market-leader Ford, as it tried to leapfrog the competition with a radical ‘aero’ shape. The gamble paid off, after some initial buyer resistance, and the Sierra was a huge success with private and fleet buyers alike. Ironically, the car’s successor, the Mondeo, has battled to live up to the Sierra’s successes, worthy though it is. Strong competition from the Vauxhall Vectra has kept the Mondeo from any chance of repeating its predecessors’ long-lived reputation as a benchmark car and the most familiar sight on UK roads.

The early cars are getting on a bit now, so you’re probably best to concern yourself with 1990 or younger examples. The car was in production from late 1982, so any bugs were well and truly ironed out by then. The range of cars on offer is obviously enormous and quality will vary by just as much. There are three bodyshells to choose from; five-door hatchback, four-door saloon and five-door estate, each with a multitude of trim options. The saloons were officially called ‘Sapphire’ but the name never really caught on, so don’t be surprised to see a four-door car claiming to be an ordinary Sierra. The last cars are generally easy to spot – the front indicator lenses are white, not orange, and remained so until the end of production in 1993 when the range was replaced by the all-new (and much better) Mondeo. Anything from a humble bread and butter family saloon to a tearaway sports-racer. The majority of decent cars still on sale will be the 1.8 and 2.0-litre hatchbacks and they make sensible buying. The trade always preferred the rear-wheel drive Sierra to its Cavalier competitor, mostly because of the long, 10-year production run and the relative simplicity of the mechanicals. Even if you do get problems with any of these cars, chances are, there’ll be someone who can fix them quickly and cheaply, close by. There are certainly advantages to driving what everyone else seemed to be driving only yesterday.

As you can probably imagine, Sierra prices depend greatly on the individual car’s condition and it’s best to restrict your search to later examples if you can. A 1993 K-plate 2.0i with Ghia trim might reach £500 but the 1.8-litre turbo diesels have maintained a stronger grip on their value with a GLX on K-plates going for around £1,000. Sapphire saloon and 5-door hatchbacks are priced at roughly equivalent levels. The sporty Sierras are lead by the all-conquering RS Cosworth priced between £3,000 and £4,500 in standard form or between £5,000 and £7,000 if you want the 4×4. XR4x4s with 2.9-litre V6 power are also around and even the late plate examples are now available for under £800. Unsurprisingly, little. Be wary of very-high mileage cars for obvious reasons, though, with service records, you should be safe. Turbo cars can be a little fragile and temperamental, like most of their ilk, so buy with extra care and check for oil leaks, worn transmission (especially with 4×4 models) and an overly-smoky exhaust. Electrical gadgets are great convenience features but a real pain to repair. Check the sunroof, all windows, mirrors and central locking, to be sure. Be careful with recorded mileage too: the Sierra has only a five-digit readout so a car with more than 99,999 miles may not show it on the dashboard. The car that changed the face of Ford and the look of British traffic jams everywhere. Honest, uncomplicated, reliable and cheap second-hand. Supply is plentiful so happy hunting for a cheap used car!

(approx based on a 1988 Sierra 2.0 GLX) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £85 and an alternator should be close to £65. Brake pads are around £15 a set, a replacement headlamp is close to £60 and a door mirror should be in the region of £40. A full exhaust system is about £75 and a starter motor around £100. A front wing is around £60, a windscreen about £75, a tail lamp about £45 and a catalyst about £295 (with a £10 surcharge for the old unit). Front dampers are around £30 each and rears around £15 each.

Virtually the last of the rear-wheel-drive rep-mobiles, the Sierra was always a good-handler, compared to many of its contemporary front-drive competitors. Trouble is, what was a good chassis at the original 1982 launch, had well and truly reached its sell-by date even by the late 1980s. If your priority is comfort and your staple journey a daily motorway or A-road crawl, then a Sierra could be just the job. Get yourself a bargain-priced well equipped late model and you could have the last laugh at those jelly-mould jokes you’ll cop down the pub.


FORD SCORPIO (1994 – 1998)

December 5, 2007

To put it mildly, Ford’s Scorpio was one of the more unusual executive offerings of recent years. Its styling couldn’t have been more different from the conservative looks of the car it replaced, the dear old Granada. Certainly, it took both buyers and competitors in the boardroom sector by surprise. Whether this ‘blend for the Nineties’ was successful depends on who you speak to. Ford executives always maintained that production was sold out for months ahead, but were always unwilling to specify what the production level actually was. Below what Ford of Europe would have liked it to be, certainly. But that market uncertainty is good news for today’s second-hand buyer. Regardless of what you think of the looks, the Scorpio drives brilliantly and prices are tempting.

The Scorpio was introduced in October 1994, replacing the much-loved Granada as Ford’s executive flagship. Its unusual looks caused an instant furore not helped by the fact that no one at Ford admitted overall responsibility for creating them. Don’t be confused, by the way, by the new look Scorpio and the Scorpio level of specification available for top-line versions of the previous Granada. Early models were offered with a choice of four main petrol powerplants – a 2.0-litre ‘four’ – offered in either 8v or 16v forms – and both 12v and 24v versions of the 2.9-litre V6. There was also a 2.5-litre turbo diesel. Executive, Ghia and Ultima trim levels were all offered. In August 1996, the handling was improved and the range rationalised. Trim levels were now known as Ghia, Ghia X and Ultima but more significantly, a new 2.3-litre 16v engine (developed, like the 24v V6, by Cosworth) added to the range. Ford fiercely defended those unusual looks all through the car’s life but bowed to public pressure in early 1998 by reducing the amount of chrome around the bodywork. You’ll notice these rare cars by their body-coloured front grille surrounds, darkened headlights and the saloon’s restyled tail lights. The Scorpio was gradually phased out during the second half of 1998. A rather dowdy image, but a lot of car. Basically, it drives better than it looks. Scorpios always cruised well on the motorway and with the chassis improvements introduced in 1996, they also handled the twisty stuff pretty well too. The estate version is huge – but doesn’t have the option of a third row of seats. Equipment levels are high and maintenance is cheap for this used car.

Those controversial looks haven’t helped the car’s values on the used market and you may find good examples of the final ’94 and ’95 Granadas priced higher than the equivalent Scorpios. Though some dealers persist with hopeful Scorpio sticker prices, the majority of cars you’ll find – if you shop around – are fine value for money. By and large, the advice has to be to steer clear of the underpowered entry-level 2.0-litre 8v models in Executive spec. The better 16v models start at about £1,800 in Executive form on a 94M-plate and run up to just over £2,700 for 96P-reg examples. Better, if you can afford it to go for the Cosworth-engineered 2.3-litre model introduced in 1996. Prices start at around £3,000 for an entry-level Ghia and go all the way up to about £5,000 for a 98S Ultima automatic estate. Or you could have a 2.9-litre V6. The 12v models are undistinguished; try for the road-burning Cosworth-engineered 24v (from around £2,000 on a 94M-plate in Executive form). Finally, there was a turbo diesel which now costs around £2,000 on a 95M plate. Though all the figures here quoted are for Executive spec, it’s better to pay the £200-£300 or so extra it will cost to graduate to Ghia spec if you can. Ghia X and Ultima spec lie above this. And estates? Add a premium of around £200-£400 in each case. Avoid lack-lustre 2.0-litre and 12v V6 models and spurn the Executive trim level (look around and you’ll always find a plusher Ghia for not much more). Be careful if you’re buying a turbo diesel to make sure that it isn’t a high mileage ex-taxi. Check for signs of ‘clocking’. Avoid manual four-cylinder models – they’ll be difficult to sell on. Look out for clattery 2.0-litres and smoky V6s. The estate models are so large that many tradesmen use them instead of vans. Steer clear of high mileage examples; the odometer might lie but sagging driver’s seats and shiny steering wheel rims won’t. Watch out for sticking throttle assemblies due to the Scorpio’s wide front grille collecting too much road muck. Finally, ensure that all the electrical gadgets work – they’ll be pricey to put right. In the final analysis, Ford’s flagship is certainly good enough to win over buyers on its own merits. If you doubt that, try a Scorpio against, say a Rover 800, and you’ll realise that the men of the blue oval produce the better product. Even against more illustrious competition, the car still has a significant amount to offer, especially if all you really need is comfort, refinement and pace. And that styling? Well, it’s a matter of personal opinion of course. For what it’s worth, you have to admire Ford for having the courage to produce such a radical design. If nothing else, it should enable you to discover whether conservatism still reigns in suburbia’s driveways.

(approx based on 1995 2.0 8V excl VAT) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Front brakepads are around £30, a full exhaust about £620 (inc Catalyst). A headlamp ranges from about £145-240 and a windscreen is around £319.

On the road, the big Ford handles pretty well for a car of its size – though potholes can be a little unsettling for it. The steering, though a little light at first, builds in ‘feel’ as your speed rises enabling the car to be hustled along with surprising pace if the need arises. The 24v V6 is really quick but the pick of the range is the 2.3-litre ‘four’, introduced in 1996. This was the most refined Ford four-cylinder engine ever made, silent when cruising but with a rather exciting growl under heavy acceleration. Pulling power and ultimate speed are excellent, with rest to sixty occupying 9.2s on the way to 130mph. You may be pleasantly surprised at the excellence of the interior, supremely comfortable and ergonomically satisfactory. In places, the quality of plastics isn’t of the best, but there’s lots of wood to compensate which, allied with the leather upholstery, gives the cabin a wonderfully opulent atmosphere. Under its distinctive suit of clothes, the Scorpio is still a Granada at heart, which means that there’s still acres of space for rear seat passengers. The seat cushions don’t adjust like the plushest rivals, but then, they’re so well angled, hugging around you like your favourite armchair, that you don’t really need them too.


FORD PUMA (1997 – 2002)

December 4, 2007

This was the car that proved Ford to be back on track as a company that really could design affordable sports cars that were versatile, yet exciting to drive. Based entirely on the excellent Fiesta running gear, the Puma got its own 1.7-litre engine before adding the Fiesta’s 1.4-litre unit as demand increased. Jackie Stewart and the design team really produced a winner here, so residuals have stayed high. Don’t worry: pay the extra and own one. It’s the finest small coupe ever made.

The Puma was launched in 1.7-litre form in June 1997 and demand was instant. So much so that a Fiesta-engined 1.4-litre model was added in February 1998. Both handled superbly with their tuned Fiesta running gear. Only one 1.7-litre version was offered initially and there was never an automatic option. However, there was a stunning limited-edition 1.7-litre model called the Racing, introduced early in 2000 and likely to be sought-after once they trickle through to the used market. Only 350 were built and they all had an extra 25bhp and a lowered, sleeker-looking body with flared wheelarches finished (only) in Ford Racing Blue. Suspension modifications included a wider track while grippy Recaro seats, a CD player and air conditioning were all standard. In late 2000 the 1.4-litre Puma was replaced by a punchier 1.6-litre model using the same 100bhp engine found in the Focus and Fiesta. In late 2001 a special edition Ford Puma Thunder was announced to mark the final passing of this cracker of a coupe. Going out at the top of its game, the Puma looks set for future classic status. Certainly, this car turns heads, with its fared-in headlamps, kicked-up tail and distinctive side slashes. The hunched profile is also surprisingly practical. This is one of the very few small coupes you can buy that can actually seat two adults in the back. It’s more likely however, that owners will want to flip the rear seats forward and make use of the generous 240-litre load capacity. The detail touches are pleasing too. Both the fascia and the doors are trimmed with aluminium, while the gear-knob is a single cast lump of the same stuff and the Racing has it on the pedals, too. The instrument dials strike a different chord too – white-faced a la Fiesta Si. There are also thoughtful touches, like the full-sized bottle holders on either side of the two rear passengers’ legs and the mobile ‘phone receptacle in the centre console. As for equipment, you’ll find all the convenience features a quick coupe really needs fitted as standard; electric windows, remote central locking with security alarm, a driver’s airbag and a classy hi-fi. There’s no provision for a sunroof, but in compensation, the optional air conditioning was, at only £360, one of the most affordable on the market, so many owners specified it. ‘Air’ was standard on the Racing.

The earliest R-reg 1.4s start at around £5,300, with more typical 99V-platers at around 6,400 and 2000Ws for another £600 or so. For the 1.7, the figures are about £5,700 to £7,200 with £600 more for a 2000W. The 1.6-litre engine arrived in 2000 to replace the 1.5, these models start from £8,000. ‘Nearly-new ‘02’ and even ‘52’ examples are around in some quantity, too. The sporty Racing model is hard to come by but, as a guide, it was £22,820 new. Not much goes wrong but watch out for thrashed examples and botched bodywork repairs from high-speed shunts. New headlights are expensive so check carefully for damage. As we’ve said, this is one of the greatest used cars – the finest small coupe ever made bar none.

(approx based on a 1997 1.4 ex Vat) A clutch assembly is around £70 and a complete exhaust system (inc Catalyst) is about £415. Front and rear brake pads will be in the vicinity of £30-50 each. A radiator is about £95 with aircon, an alternator about £140, a starter motor £110, and a replacement headlamp can be up to £260.

While the Puma shares many of the attributes of Fiesta, Escort and Mondeo, there’s little doubt that it takes the road going experience on offer to a different level. The more powerful of the two standard versions sports a 123bhp 1.7-litre Zetec-SE engine, capable of rest to sixty in just 8.8 seconds on the way to nearly 130mph. The smaller-engined 1.4-litre Puma is visually indistinguishable from the more powerful car. It reaches 60mph is a still respectable 10.8 seconds, incidentally, while average fuel consumption of 38mpg makes it a car you buy with both your heart and your head. If you can find a Racing, you’ll enjoy 0-60 sprints in about 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 126mph while averaging around 34mpg. Whichever model you choose, it comes with an impeccable pedigree. The handling was refined by a team that included no less an expert than former World Champion Jackie Stewart; if you can imagine what that might mean out on the road, you won’t even bother to test drive anything else.


FORD PROBE (1994-1998)

December 4, 2007

It’s impossible to talk about the Ford Probe without mentioning two facts. Firstly, it was an American Ford based on Mazda underpinnings and secondly, it was a latter-day replacement for the good old Capri. As such, it did well to recapture all the good things about the original Capri and draw cleverly on that 1990s-style US image – the kind you associate with MTV, Coke and Levi’s. Cool, in a word. Buyers eventually took to the Probe, though not as enthusiastically as Ford would have liked. Often, more than a little help was needed from dealers eager to discount the cars. Both four and six-cylinder versions were generously equipped and drove well. Yet in this part of the market, it’s image that counts: smart and stylish as it was, the Probe never had it.

We didn’t see the first generation Probe, unlike our continental neighbours, due to it being for left-hand drive markets only. The new version, released in March 1994, was designed with big right-hand drive markets like the UK, Japan and Australia in mind. It didn’t feel overly-American and glitzy, unlike its predecessor. Indeed chunky steering wheel aside, the interior styling was very restrained and quite stylish. Two versions exist. One, a 2.0-litre 16-valve four-cylinder car,was the base model and a 24-valve 2.5-litre V6, called ’24V’, was the other choice. Both were introduced at the same time and were modified only slightly since. A sunroof became standard on 2.0-litre cars in June 1995, matching the V6 spec, and there was another minor update for the 1997 model year; the 24V’s wheels were a new design, stereos were uprated and the 2.0-litre gained leather upholstery as standard. The Probe was finally laid to rest in the UK in 1998 when it was replaced by the all new Cougar. Great looks, good performance and loads of equipment. Both cars have central-locking, electric windows and a powered aerial, as well as driver and passenger airbags. The 24v boasts a leather-covered steering wheel to match its seats and a standard electric sunroof. Many cars have the optional air conditioning and it’s definitely worth having as there’s a lot of steeply-angled glass in these cars. Though the cars have four seats, you wouldn’t want to travel in the rear of a Probe for a long distance – there’s simply not enough head and legroom. So good luck if you’re trying to convince the family you’re buying it for them.

There’s a fair selection of used Probes out there and most are 16-valve cars. The earliest examples date from March 1994 and start at under £2,100. The 24Vs of the same vintage can be found as cheap as £2,200. The better-equipped 95N to 98S 16-valvers go for around £2,400 to £3,400 and the 24Vs with the same plates can be had for roughly £2,500-£3,600. These cars haven’t really been on the market long enough for any major problems to have surfaced. Build quality, fit and finish are generally excellent, though. Both engines are Mazda designs also found in the Mazda 626 and MX-6 (the Probe shared its chassis and production line with the US-built MX-6) and have proved reliable. As with any car that has a lot of electrical gadgetry, check that everything works as it should. Don’t forget to test the air-conditioning too, if fitted, and remember that a well-stamped service book always helps when it’s time for you to sell on. If you’re single and not wanting to stay that way, a Probe could be just what you need to attract those admiring glances. It does a good job as a used sports car, even if most Probes spend their lives as runabouts for the upwardly mobile set.

(approx based on a 1996 Probe 2.0 16v) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £245 and an alternator should be close to £185. Brake pads are around £35 a set; a replacement headlamp is close to £75 and a door mirror should be in the region of £100. A full exhaust is about £450 and a starter motor around £240. A front wing is around £105, a windscreen about £240, a tail lamp about £105 and a catalyst about £400. Front dampers are around £60 each.

The 16-valve has always lived in the shadow of its more powerful 24V stablemate. The V6 version is quite heavy on fuel but a great cruiser and delivers great performance. For an American design, handling is surprisingly precise and ride quality is as smooth as you’d expect from a car made mostly for US consumers who place comfort as a priority. Four-cylinder cars are not exactly slow, but if the budget can be stretched and you can manage the extra fuel bills as well, go for the 24V – it’s far more a sports car.


FORD MONDEO MK2 (1996-2000)

December 4, 2007

Never was a new Ford launched to such popular acclaim as the Mondeo. In 1993, its first year on sale in Britain, nearly 130,000 examples hit the road, making it the country’s best selling car. Other Ford models have had sales success, of course, but none has achieved such critical applause at the same time. The press loved it and major award followed major award, including the European Car of the Year title for 1994. Now, the family-sized Ford Mondeo has become one of the country’s most popular used cars.

The second generation Mondeo was launched to counter increasing competition in October 1996 and was received as enthusiastically as its predecessor. There were new brighter headlights growing outwards from a larger, more prominent oval grille, while around the saloon’s boot, big red rear lamps wrapped around the corners of the car, making it look smaller. Hatchbacks also received larger tail lamps. All versions got chrome around the back number plate and there were new body-coloured bumpers to harmonise the whole effect into a car, which, though discernibly different, was still recognisably Mondeo. There was a revised interior, with more comfortable front seats and extra legroom for passengers at the rear. The same range of body styles and engines were offered as before (though Ford claimed that minor revisions to all the power plants had made them more refined and frugal). Safety received greater emphasis, with optional side airbags and a standard three-point centre seatbelt for back seat occupants. Trim levels were as before, with the exception of the temporary deletion of the V6 Si in favour of a sportier ST-24 saloon-only variant. Later in 1997, satellite navigation became an expensive option and in early 1998 offering it in lieu of the sunroof on LX, GLX and the re-launched Si versions reduced the cost of air conditioning. The Zetec 1.8 and 2.0-litre entry-level hatchbacks and estates arrived early in 1999, better equipped than the basic Aspens but costing less, despite being fitted with the latest zetec engines (hence the name), a body kit and smart alloy wheels. In June 1999, a flagship sporting model, the ST200, was launched, fitted with a 200bhp version of the V6 2.5-litre engine already used in the ST24 (which continued). Early 2000 saw the arrival of a two-litre Zetec-S hatchback with and ST200-lookalike body kit plus a new 1.8-litre entry-level Verona with air conditioning and CD player. This range was replaced with an all-new Mondeo generation the end of 2000. The Mondeo has had its share of hype – but in this case, it’s been well deserved. If all that PR is enough to get you behind the wheel, you won’t be disappointed. Apart from the standard airbag, there is enough technology built into this car to make it a real driver’s machine. Even the most basic Mondeo is pretty well equipped. On most later LX models (by far the best sellers), you’ll find central double locking and Ford’s clever ‘Quickclear’ windscreen. That’s in addition to driver’s airbag, power steering, anti-theft alarm with immobiliser, tinted glass, adjustable steering wheel, ‘lights-on’ warning buzzer, electric front windows, a tilting/sliding sunroof and a good quality stereo radio cassette. You’re unlikely to be excited by the computer-aided styling of the first generation version, but you won’t be offended by it either. In fact, the complete car is a fine piece of design, particularly inside where the elegantly curved dash and door casings are well constructed from sound materials.

Second generation cars from 96P onwards start at about £2,000 for a 1.6LX. A 98R 1.8GLX with air conditioning is about £3,000 and a fully loaded two-litre Ghia X is about £4,900 on 99V plates. Hatchbacks cost about £200 more than saloons and estates are another £500 or so. V6 models cost from £2,400 and diesels start at under £2,200. Special edition 1.8-litre Verona hatchbacks based on the LX are worth up to £300 more; later versions had quite a high specification and are worth a look. The fuel injection systems can get jammed up – you’ll notice poor idling and pick-up. Cylinder head corrosion indicates that the anti-freeze hasn’t been changed on the two-year cycle Ford suggests. The cam belt needs changing at 70,000 miles – check it’s been done. Rust shouldn’t be a problem, though the front sub frame on older cars can be corroded. Rattles from the rear suspension suggest worn dampers. The steering should feel precise. If it doesn’t, check the power-steering drive-belts and beware of leaks around the hose joints. If first gear is difficult to find, a worn selector is the problem. An imprecise, rubbery feel meanwhile, could indicate worn selector rods. Steer clear of high mileage examples, betrayed by sagging driver’s seats and shiny gear knobs. It’s only quite recently that Mondeo prices have started to become sensible on the used market, but now that they have, the car is established as the family second-hand buyer’s Number One choice. And deservedly so. The build quality from the Belgian factory is good, the engines excellent and the handling outstanding. Go for a 1.8 petrol model as a good all-rounder; it’s as fast as the 2.0-litre, but more economical as well as being cheaper to buy and insure. When you add everything up, it’s hard not to recommend Ford’s finest ever all-rounder as great choice of used car!

(approx prices for a 1.6 excl VAT) A front wing costs around £72, a headlamp around £75, a front indicator lens just under £15 and a windscreen just under £105. A clutch kit costs around £90, tyres are just under £90 and a complete exhaust system (including catalytic converter) would set you back about £300. A replacement engine needs a budget of about £1,030. Budget £60, £85 and £120 respectively for lubrication (10,000 miles), intermediate (20,000 miles) and major (30,000 miles) services.

Take a seat behind the wheel and you instantly feel comfortable. The instruments are clear, the stalks logical and sweet in action and the other controls generally well placed. Whichever model you’ve chosen, the seat is supportive, adding to an overall driving position which is excellent thanks to a steering wheel which is adjustable both for rake and for reach. The cabin is spacious, too, unless you’re well over six-foot and seated in the rear. So far, few surprises perhaps – Fords have always been well packaged. The real strengths of the new design emerge once you venture out on the road. Cosworth variants apart, this is the most enjoyable driver’s car the company has ever made. The new engines rev with a sweet purpose that only extra valves can bring. Personally, I’d recommend the 1.8 featured here. It isn’t much slower than the flagship 2.0-litre and feels just as peppy (rest to sixty takes 10.2s on the way to 122mph). These are cars, which feel willing, a quality never possessed by the old Sierra. Overall grip from the front wheel drive layout is really excellent.


FORD MONDEO MK1 (1993-1996)

December 4, 2007

It’s hard to believe the Mondeo has been with us since 1993. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it never had the difficult gestation of cars like the Sierra, Cougar, Scorpio and Ka, models that took time to gain popular acceptance. There was never any rocky probationary period in the public’s view of the Mondeo. The press loved it and major award followed major award, including the European Car of the Year title for 1994. Yes, it may have initially been dubbed the Mundano by some wags, but that’s only because it didn’t represent a quantum leap in styling in much the same way that the Sierra was a generation on from the Cortina. Despite the evolutionary lines, the Mondeo was streets ahead under the skin and represented a constantly moving target that Vauxhall’s Vectra never managed to come to terms with. Oversupply ensured that there were plenty of used bargains about, and it pays to shop around to find one that’s right for your needs, so take your time, look at a few and bargain hard.

Just as the once controversial Sierra was being subsumed into the mainstream, Ford announced the Mondeo to replace it in February 1993. Initially, there was a choice of three petrol engines – a 1.6, a 1.8 and a 2.0-litre, all 16v units. There was also a 1.8-litre turbo diesel. Two spacious bodystyles – a five-door hatch and a saloon – were offered at launch and estates followed a few months later. Specifications? Well, they followed the established Ford path, ranging from base (latterly Aspen) and LX through GLX to Ghia. All were highly specified, with even entry-level cars featuring a driver’s airbag, tinted glass, power steering and an alarm system. Immobilisers were added in August 1994. In October 1994, a V6 24v variant was added to the range in all three bodystyles, with base, Si, and plush Ghia spec. By this time, you could identify all Ghia models by their bright chrome front grille. In January 1995, the Aspen (previously a special edition) became the entry-level model. In April 1995, 2.0-litre 4×4 models were introduced (but lasted less than a year), while in October 1995, Ghia X flagship spec was added as an option for all but 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol models. This allowed Ford to reduce the price of Ghia variants (they also reduced equipment so air conditioning became optional instead of standard). The Mondeo has had its share of hype – but in this case, it’s been well deserved. If all that PR is enough to get you behind the wheel, you won’t be disappointed. Apart from the standard airbag, there is enough technology built into this car to make it a real driver’s machine. Even the most basic Mondeo is pretty well equipped. On most later LX models (by far the best sellers), you’ll find central double locking and Ford’s clever ‘Quickclear’ windscreen. That’s in addition to driver’s airbag, power steering, anti-theft alarm with immobiliser, tinted glass, adjustable steering wheel, ‘lights-on’ warning buzzer, electric front windows, a tilting/sliding sunroof and a good quality stereo radio cassette. You’re unlikely to be excited by the computer-aided styling of the first generation version, but you won’t be offended by it either. In fact, the complete car is a fine piece of design, particularly inside where the elegantly curved dash and door casings are well constructed from sound materials.

Prices start under £1,000 for the first of the first generation 1.6-litre LX cars (though a base model can be had for £100 less). More typically, you’ll pay around £1,700 for a good 96P-registered example. Five doors command up to £100 extra, and estates another £150 or so. Better-equipped GLX models cost about £200 more than LX cars. The 1.8-litre models represented a good package; here again, it should be possible to find a good N or P-registered four or five-door car within a £1,600 budget; pay no more for 2.0-litre power. The V6 models start at around £1,300 (a more typical 96N-plate Ghia X costs about £2,000). The turbo diesels begin at about £1,100 (a more typical 96P-plate LX costs under £1,900). The rare four-wheel drive 2.0-litre models are worth around £200 more than standard 2.0-litre cars. Don’t worry about those wobbly rear valances you see on speeding Mondeos – we’ve not heard of one becoming detached in anything but a touring car race. Of more concern is the fuel injection systems which can get jammed up – you’ll notice poor idling and pick-up. Cylinder head corrosion indicates that the anti-freeze hasn’t been changed on the two-year cycle Ford suggests. The cam belt needs changing at 70,000 miles – check it’s been done. Rust shouldn’t be a problem, though the front subframe on older cars can be corroded. Rattles from the rear suspension suggest worn dampers. The steering should feel precise. If it doesn’t, check the power-steering drive-belts and beware of leaks around the hose joints. If first gear is difficult to find, a worn selector is the problem. An imprecise, rubbery feel meanwhile, could indicate worn selector rods. Steer clear of high mileage examples, betrayed by sagging driver’s seats and shiny gear knobs. Nowadays, Ford Mondeo represents the byword for family saloon excellence, but it’s taken us a while to get ‘on message’. That makes the earlier cars criminally undervalued assets which the canny used buyer would do well to take advantage of. For around £4,000, a well-looked after 1995 V6 Ghia represents a lot of used car with a good deal of life left on the clock. Recommended.

(approx prices for a 1.6 excl VAT) A front wing costs around £72, a headlamp around £75, a front indicator lens just under £15 and a windscreen just under £105. A clutch kit costs around £90, tyres are just under £90 and a complete exhaust system (including catalytic converter) would set you back about £300. A replacement engine needs a budget of about £1,030. Budget £60, £85 and £120 respectively for lubrication (10,000 miles), intermediate (20,000 miles) and major (30,000 miles) services.

Take a seat behind the wheel and you instantly feel comfortable. The instruments are clear, the stalks logical and sweet in action and the other controls generally well placed. Whichever model you’ve chosen, the seat is supportive, adding to an overall driving position which is excellent thanks to a steering wheel which is adjustable both for rake and for reach. The cabin is spacious, too, unless you’re well over six-foot and seated in the rear. So far, few surprises perhaps – Fords have always been well packaged. The real strengths of the design emerge once you venture out on the road. These are some of the most enjoyable driver’s cars the company has ever made.