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.


FORD MONDEO MK3 (2000 – TO DATE)

December 3, 2007

You. Yes, you lot out there. Collectively you are distinctly puzzling. The Ford Mondeo sold nearly 130,000 units during its first year on sale, back when the press wrote it off as the Mundano. Fast forward to 2001, the first full sales year for the Mark Three Mondeo, a car the press hailed as the greatest invention since the opposable thumb and how many do you buy between the lot of you? 150,000? 200,000? Not a bit of it. You rewarded the labour’s of Uncle Henry’s finest with a piffling 80,000 sales. Like I said, puzzling. There had never been a car in the medium family saloon sector that rewrote the rules quite so comprehensively as the Mark Three Mondeo. Comparison tests became academic. They were about as predictable as the outcome of the 2002 Grand Prix season. The Mondeo would win whilst the others scratched around for the minor placings. Before too long almost every new car in this sector had shamelessly cribbed from the Ford which, if one is to be brutally truthful, took a fair bit of interior design inspiration from Volkswagen to begin with. As a used car purchase it’s difficult to recommend the Mondeo highly enough.

The third generation Mondeo was launched at a time of radical shake up in the medium range family saloon market. Industry doomsayers were predicting the whole sector to go belly up as buyers were seduced by premium offerings like the Audi A3 and BMW 3-Series Compact or by mini-MPVs like the Vauxhall Zafira or the Citroen Xsara Picasso. Ford had no contender in either of these markets and Mondeo sales were taking a battering. Time to move the goalposts. Few were ready for what Ford unveiled. With the exception of the unexceptional 2.0-litre TDdi turbo diesel engine, the Mondeo barely put a foot wrong. Keen to rectify this oversight, Ford launched the state of the art common rail 2.0-litre TDCi engine in 2001 and made a series of detail changes aimed to keep the Mondeo at the top of the tree. Electronic Brake Assist, once a £250 option, was fitted as standard across the range. This reduces stopping distances by augmenting the driver’s braking effort with additional hydraulic support thus ensuring that maximum braking efficiency is reached. Tests have shown that EBD will result in a Mondeo in the hands of an average driver will stop between one and three car lengths quicker than a standard car. That’s certainly the difference between a close call and giving the dog a phone. Security was also boosted by the introduction of auto relock. If a locked Mondeo is unlocked using the remote key fob and no doors are opened within 45 seconds, the system will automatically relock itself. In addition to this, convenience features such as automatic reverse wash wipe were phased in. This automatically activates the rear screen wiper if reverse is selected whilst the windscreen wipers are on. Sounds simple, but then the most elegant technical solutions usually are. The range was added to in 2002 with the launch of the 3.0-litre 151mph ST220 sports model. Those who’d felt short changed by the Mk2 ST200 emerged metaphorically beaten over the head with a sockful of quarters after a spell behind the wheel of the ST220, an estate version of which appeared in Spring 2003. A powerful yet economical 1.8-litre SCi engine was added to the Mondeo line up in autumn 2003, alongside Euro IV compliant TDCi 130 diesel engines. Two more new engines arrived in time for summer 2004. A 204bhp 3.0-litre V6 and a 155bhp TDCi engine which was offered in the ST TDCi. Elegant is certainly a word that applies to the Mondeo’s interior. Flick the switches, then check the quality of fit and finish. Take away the Blue Oval badge and you’d probably guess at compact executive class leaders like Audi’s A4 – maybe even BMW’s 3 Series. Except, that this car isn’t compact. You don’t need a tape measure to know that. In fact, there’s as much space inside as Ford offered in its old flagship Scorpio, a car from the next class up. And all of the same gadgets, niceties and safety standards. Not that the new Mondeo looks big from the outside or feels it behind the wheel. Despite the extra 150mm in length (and a huge 500-litre boot), the latest model shrinks around you, much like an A4 or a 3 Series. Not that Audi, BMW or Lexus need worry too much. That angular new shape is pleasing enough, but it won’t get you a reserved space in the golf club carpark. Ford has given that job to its Jaguar X-TYPE and doesn’t want the Mondeo getting ideas too far above its station. Still, against obvious rivals such as the Vauxhall Vectra and Peugeot 406 the shape looks pleasantly clean and crisp. These cars represent the real battleground of course, so let’s get down to basics. There are three bodystyles – saloon, five-door and estate – spread over five familiar trim levels (LX, Zetec, Zetec-S, Ghia and Ghia X). Equipment levels include most of what you would expect – air conditioning, front electric windows, a decent quality stereo and so on. There’s plenty of stowage space around the cabin too, with perfectly-shaped homes for items like window squeeges, atlases, drinks cans, tapes, CDs, owners manuals and mobile ‘phones. Notable options include a facia-mounted CD autochanger and a DVD video system with screens mounted in the back of the front head rests: with films or linked to a PlayStation, that should keep the kids quiet on long journeys.

Prices start at around £7,100 for a 2000X registered Mondeo 1.8i LX saloon. The hatches command another £150 with the desirable estates tacking on another £750. A 2.0-litre Zetec model of similar vintage will be £7,800 in saloon guise, £7,900 in hatchback form and £8,400 if you need an estate. The 2.5-litre cars offer a beautiful V6 warble and the Ghia X starts at just under £9,100 in saloon form on the 2000X plate, £9,500 for a hatch and £9,700 for an estate. Should you fancy a diesel, the 2.0 TDdi model opens at £7,800 for an LX trim, but we’d recommend stretching that bit further and going for an ex-demonstrator or low mileage TDCi. You’ll thank us for it afterwards. The Series Three Mondeo has proved commendably reliable to date, although owners have commented on cold starting issues with the TDdi diesel engine and the occasional duff driveshaft. There was a recall on petrol engined Mondeos in August 2001 when 5,500 cars were brought in to have their cruise control systems adjusted as there had been an instance when the system had failed to disengage. On the whole, the Mondeo is a quality product at mainstream prices. Timing has a lot to answer for. Tony Jarrett would have been a national hero had Colin Jackson not been around at the same time. Likewise, nobody will remember 2001’s Academy award winning movie because of the clamour for Harry Potter. The Mark Three Mondeo is perpetually overshadowed by its illustrious junior sibling, the Focus. Had the Focus never turned a wheel, the Mondeo would make hot cakes look like a sticky product line. A used example may not be the most individual automotive choice you could ever make, but it might just be the best. When Jaguar salesmen surreptitiously inform you that the X-TYPE shares the same basic architecture as a Mondeo you know the Ford is all good.

(approx prices for a 1.8 excl VAT) A front wing costs around £95 and a windscreen just under £135. Tyres are just under £90 and a complete exhaust system (including catalytic converter) would set you back about £450.

Were it not for that Blue Oval staring back from the steering wheel boss, you might well mistake the interior if the Mondeo for a VW Passat whose owner had a penchant for showy clocks. It’s all scarily logical, although not quite perfect, especially if your hands are anything less than dainty. If this is the case, whenever you select third or fifth gear the back of your hand will change the radio station. The handbrake is badly positioned with not enough roiom for your knuckles or your thumb. You’ll forgive the Mondeo its minor ergonomic pratfalls when you hit the road. Most of the engines on offer were all-new at launch, the exception being the 170bhp 2.5-litre V6: fair enough – there wasn’t much wrong with that. Since then, a second 217bhp V6 has been developed for the flagship ST220, this being 3.0-litres in size. The all-alloy Duratec HE 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol units used in more humble Mondeos are superb, developing 123 and 143bhp respectively and feeling faster thanks to strong low-down torque. They’re a sack of potatoes (20 kgs) lighter than rival engines, which helps performance (sixty from rest takes 9.8 seconds in the 2.0-litre) and are very rigid, which helps to achieve Passat-levels of refinement. Whilst refinement isn’t the keynote of the 2.0-litre TDdi 113bhp Duratorq turbo diesel engine, it produces extremely decent fuel figures (up to 48mpg on the combined cycle). It’s still not the quietest unit of its kind (the Transit associations show through here) but the performance (rest to sixty in 10.6s on the way to 121mph) is some recompense. Mind you, if you really want to see a step forward in the diesel stakes, then you need to try the TDCi common rail turbo diesel unit: refined and fast, this is a far more impressive proposition and a tribute to Ford’s Centre for Diesel Excellence based in Dagenham. Whilst not as quiet as the 1.8litre TDCi unit fitted to the Focus and easy to stall when emerging from junctions, it’s otherwise a crushingly competent engine, quick, tractable and almost comically economical. As with all Mondeos, the handling is beyond reproach. Whilst other rivals have made ground on the Ford in terms of interior quality, packaging and engine technology nothing in this class approaches the Mondeo’s ability to tackle a corner.