Much has already been written on this site about the second generation Mondeo, so, when in a spectacular show of what Hertz at Heathrow airport thinks it can get away with for its Presidents Circle members, I found my name on an 07 plated Mondeo Estate 2.0 TDCi Zetec, I was unsure whether to write up the experience or not. Several factors persuaded me that I should: for a start, this remains a cracking good car (there, that’s the conclusion for those who don’t want to read any further), and there are a lot of them around on the used market; secondly, although tests of other models in the range do feature, there is not yet one with this engine; and third, with tongue only slightly in cheek, if this were a BMW 3 series, the fact that it was yet another variant would be absolutely no impediment to the lucky driver feeling the need to remind everyone yet again what a good car it is.
Actually, a fourth reason came to mind. The test car had done 44,700 miles when I collected it, so this is also an ideal opportunity to report on how the Mondeo stands up to nearly 2 years of abuse at the hands of rental car customers, and Hertz’ delivery drivers. Superficially, the bodywork did not look bad, but closer inspection suggested that most of the panels had been washed with a wire brush. I have never found so many scratches on a car that even the Hertz agent gave up the unequal struggle with the damage report. The only serious damage was right along the lip of the rear bumper, where I suspect countless heavy suitcases had been thoughtlessly dragged over the edge, rubbing off all the paintwork. From a distance, though, the dark grey metallic paintwork still looks smart, and sets off what I still think off as a good looking car. Surprisingly, given the state of the exterior, the inside was in far better shape, with little to indicate all the abuse that the car had doubtless suffered. With what looked like 4 recently renewed tyres on it, and ample lashings of lubricant around all the door and boot hinges, I suspect that the car had recently received some form of service. Certainly it did not drive like the abused vehicle it could have done, so I have to conclude that the Mondeo is quite tough.
Although I have driven diesel-engined Mondeos before, this was the first time I had experienced the 136bhp 2.0 TDCi engine coupled with a six speed gearbox. At start up, there is still absolutely no doubt that this is an oil-burner, with a less than refined clatter emanating from under the bonnet. It is nothing like the noise that used to come as standard fitting on Mondeos that drink from the black pump, but it is nothing like as good as some of the PSA or Fiat-GM diesels. Once underway, though, the noise largely disappears and you are left with an engine with decent power and ample torque to make a good job of moving the car at the pace you desire. Turbo lag was next to non-existent – not something I remember from Ford diesels of not all that long ago, and which also used to suffer a very narrow power band indeed. Helping you to make the most of the engine is a 6 speed gearbox. The change quality on this is good, with the lever slotting easily from gear to gear, with none of the reluctance that bedevilled the first generation Mondeo cars. However, this version is so high geared that 6th gear is unusable until you reach 70mph or so, so when negotiating the numerous Specs-camera infested parts of the M4 with their 50mph and even 40mph limits, it was necessary to come down to 5th. The pay-off is that economy is excellent. The fuel gauge had barely nudged off full when I was due to return the car, and for a few seconds I was even tempted not to refuel it, but as that would penalise the next renter and not Hertz, I decided I had better be more honest. Even allowing for the fact that the car was probably returned with slightly more fuel in it, I only squeezed in 14 litres for the 130 miles that I drove. That equates to 42 mpg, and I suspect is probably somewhat under the figure that I actually achieved. All the other Mondeo attributes remain: this car is endowed with excellent steering and superb handling, good brakes and it rides well.
Although the Mondeo has always rated highly for the driver, it must be remembered that these cars are designed for the family, too, for “Mondeo man”, even so practicality is also important. No issues to report here: the car is comfortable, there is ample space in the rear seats and there is a cavernous load area, which can be covered with a tonneau, and the space extended by flipping down the rear seats. The rear seat cushion lifts up to provide a protective barrier, which is good, and there are 4 tie down slots in the 4 corners of the load area. The interior of the Mondeo is nicely finished. The Zetec model has slightly different seat trim from the LX, and with a silver effect to the console and the centre of the dash, it proves far less offensive on the eye than that dreadful fake wood polished plastic that Ford still think Ghia drivers expect to see. There’s a deep cubby between the seats, a good glove box and generous door pockets for all those odds and ends that accumulate in a family car. The standard Ford stereo is very easy to use, and is augmented with wheel mounted controls. Air con is fitted, and is also totally intuitive and appeared effective not that it had much of a test on one of those non-descript days when the weather was neither hot, nor cold nor damp. Zetec trim also replaces the plastic wheel covers with alloys and brings front fog lights to the equipment list. All of which are worthwhile additions over and above the LX version.
So, yes I was upset at getting such a high mileage car, and had it been something less inherently competent, I would have protested far harder and insisted on something else, but there is something about the second generation Mondeo that is so right that taking it for the drive home after a long spell on a 747-400 really was not a hardship, but a pleasure. Of course, this is an obsolete car, so the remaining question is whether this model is a viable alternative to the current third generation Mondeo. I’ve driven that one, too, in (Swiss) 2.0 TDCi Estate spec, and while it was also very competent, it did not quite impress in the same way. It is quite a bit larger outside, for not a lot of gain inside, and will still cost more to buy. If I was after a two year old Mondeo, I really do think I’d take the older car, it’s that good, even now.2009-10-14 06:56:10