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Click to view picture galleryMore Mondeo for
  your money. Yes, not
  only does it have a
  bigger body, a quality
  technology-rich cabin
  and first-rate driving
  dynamics but it costs
  less than the previous
  generation of Mondeo
  it replaces...”

THE THIRD AND LATEST GENERATION OF THE FORD MONDEO is appearing in UK showrooms this month in its usual saloon, five-door hatch and estate car body styles.

The all-new Mondeo is longer — adopting, as it does, the platform of the Ford S-Max and Galaxy MPVs. It is also wider and marginally taller. It benefits from 700 of extra equipment over outgoing models, including an Electronic Stability Program, yet on average it is priced 300 below the previous equivalent models.

A conservative re-styling with better equipment levels and an obvious move up market with a premium brand marketing message might have been the perfect time for Ford to change the name of its long serving D-segment product.

Not so, thinks chairman and managing director for Ford of Britain Roelant de Waard. At the UK media launch of the new range he said: "Changing any model name is a big deal; it's the product that makes the difference, not the name. The new Mondeo is aspirational and we are not trying to compete with high-priced badges but we are offering a premium experience. D-segment customers appreciate quality products and the new Mondeo will give them that."

He added: "When Ford changed from using the Escort name to Focus it wasn't an evolution of their C-segment product, it was a revolution — the Focus was so different. In the past for a car of this size we have used the Consul, Corsair, Cortina and Sierra names but Mondeo is still on a journey using the same path. We are now giving it a higher quality and the customer a premium experience.

"'Mondeo Man' doesn't really exist except in the minds of the media. Customers think the Mondeo is a really good car and we have sold nearly 1.2 million of them in the UK since the model was introduced in 1993. The Mondeo has always been in the top ten selling cars list since its launch, and the UK is the largest single market in the world for Mondeo. We sold over 48,000 of them last year and so far this year, even under the run-out programme, we have sold over 22,000 units. Our customers do not have a badge fetish.

"In a full year I still expect to sell 48,000 Mondeos in the UK even though the segment is getting smaller as customers transfer to MPVs or down size to C-segment cars. The segment is struggling overall but it still accounts for 450,000 annual sales. Customers who want this size of car are now demanding a higher build quality and the new Mondeo is the answer.

"The first three months of production of right-hand drive Mondeo models is already sold and these early orders show me there is a high increase in demand for the higher specification versions. This also tells me people want to be seen in a Mondeo."

Other facts and figures released by Ford show the Mondeo was the best selling diesel car in the UK from 2003 to 2005. The UK takes 32 per cent of European Mondeo production volume and around 70 per cent of UK Mondeo sales are diesel models. Seventy per cent of sales are to fleet and business users. The body style split in the UK shows that, traditionally, five-door Mondeo models take 72 per cent of its sales, estates 24 per cent and four-door saloons just 4 per cent. However, Ford says there is a change in the buying patterns in this sector with estate cars and saloons increasing their share of sale and this is even more evident with premium models.

The new Mondeo's most likely competitors will be the Vauxhall Vectra, the Peugeot 407, the new Renault Laguna, Honda Accord and the highly-rated VW Passat. However with the move upmarket BMW, Mercedes and Audi models will also come into play.

The new Mondeo has a simplified specification line-up. Edge level with manual features should account for 29 per cent of sales, Zetec — the most popular specification level with power features — will take 33 per cent of sales, Ghia 20 per cent and the top-spec Titanium around 18 per cent.

There is a comprehensive range of engines with four Duratorq TDCi diesel and five Duratec petrol units, ranging in power from 108 to 207bhp. A new Durashift six-speed automatic transmission will be added to the options this year to complement the current five- and six-speed manual gearboxes.

Prices range from 14,995 for the Edge 1.6i five-door up to 24,195 for the Titanium X 2.5i estate. The likely best selling model will be the Mondeo Zetec 2.0 TDCi 138bhp five-door model with a six-speed manual transmission priced at 18,395 on-the-road.

When a new Mondeo comes to market, you have to sit up and take notice even — if it is not the right sized car for you. Ford are UK market leaders overall, and market leaders in many sales segments. Where they lead, others have to follow. And for the volume brands at least, the new Mondeo is going to be tough competition.

Although the styling is bolder, the car bigger and it has more road presence, it is more of the same. But I for one think it is so different in quality and refinement it would have been appropriate to change the name at this stage — I am not convinced the Mondeo name is that desirable in real life. If company car drivers had a free choice would they choose a Mondeo over a new Passat?

It is the Mondeo's overall packaging that serves owners and fleet operators well. They, more than most people, appreciate the focus on low servicing costs with a proven front-wheel drive layout and reliable petrol and diesel engines, easy body repairs for low insurance ratings, high levels of safety and security features, economical fuel consumption and advanced technical features such as integrated driving and handling systems.

Typical of Ford's thoroughness and attention to detail is the EasyFuel capless tank orifice that prevents drivers choosing the incorrect fuel — petrol or diesel — for their car. The system prevents the wrong fuel nozzle entering the filler neck. Simple but very effective. Particularly as the total cost of cleaning out the wrong fuel, and all the associated time-wasting, can run in several hundreds of pounds.

The added interior space will be welcomed by owners, especially the overall width and the increased rear legroom. The large load area of the five-door hatch can be further extended by the usual split/folding rear seat layout. The specification, even at the lowest level in the range, with air-conditioning standard on all models, is genuinely impressive.

The list of fixtures, fittings and options seems endless — as it needs to be, because the Mondeo has a wide audience to serve. For example, at the very top of the range, the Titanium X series emphasises modern technology with a contemporary interior, including full Alcantara/leather trim. It also offers a 'Ford Power' start button, adaptive front lighting with cornering lights, blue-tinted glass and the new Ford 'Convers+' premium instrument cluster with a 256-colour display representing Ford's signature HMI (Human Machine Interface) technology.

The extensive options list allows complete personalisation of the car. Key options include full-screen satellite navigation, a tyre pressure monitoring system, sport suspension, integral rear child seats, a sliding load-floor (on the estate) with a maximum load capacity of 200kg, front and rear parking sensors and rear-seat DVD entertainment with integrated head-rest screens.

One further significant option for the all-new Ford Mondeo is Bluetooth with voice control. This allows a driver to stay in complete control of the car while accessing a mobile phone. The system also allows drivers to change the temperature control and audio settings via voice commands, and this option is available for a very reasonable 150.

Other than the S-Max and Galaxy MPVs, the Ford range has no executive-size car. So if you need a car bigger than a Focus, then Mondeo is it. Overall the instruments are well laid-out and logical, but there are some reflections from the facia panel in the windscreen and the thick rear quarter C pillars and high tailgate and boot line restrict rear vision somewhat.

The ride and handling is generally excellent. There is more road noise intrusion than I would have liked and there is also a high amount of wind noise generated by the door mirrors.

The increased torsional rigidity of the Mondeo, however, provides confident handling with the suspension and steering delivering copious amounts of predictable grip. Most Mondeo models come with a 'Comfort' suspension setting but, as mentioned earlier, Ford offers a Sports suspension option for those customers who want it — 150 buys you stiffer springs and so on. Don't bother — the standard ride is better than just good. Likewise, stay away from ordering larger alloy wheels. They might add to the looks of the car but do nothing to improve the already excellent handling.

Overall it's a hard one to mark down. Some may find the new styling a dash too conservative, but there's no denying it looks sharp in the metal. As mentioned earlier, there's a minor grumble about the rear visibility, wind and tyre noise. More than making up for that, the new Mondeo is a class-leading family-sized hatchback that offers plenty of interior space. You also get a satisfyingly high build quality allied to good levels of specification. Additionally, the Mondeo is a good handling car to drive as well as being economical to own and run. With all that going for it, Mondeo Man — or Woman — should be queuing up to drive one out of the showroom. — David Miles

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Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec 5-door | 18,395
Maximum speed: 130mph | 0-60mph: 9.3 seconds
Combined MPG: 44.3mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 236lb ft

CO2 156g/km| VED Band D 140 | Insurance group 8E
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