Ford Mondeo

No matter how brilliant the old Mondeo drove, it was not a commercial success anyway. Back in 1993, Ford announced in high profile that it spent some record-breaking 6 billion US dollars in the Mondeo project - a world car that was going to be sold in most places as Mondeo and in the US as Contour or Mercury Mystique. It was dynamically brilliant but cramped for its size and lack of an attractive packaging. When it was replaced in late 2000, most analysts doubt that any profit was generated throughout its life. Ford learned the lesson: driver appeal alone doesn't sell. 

Undoubtedly, the new Mondeo has been designed with the lesson learned in mind. No more big spending, especially considering the market for family sedan segment is down-sizing recent years. Technically conservative, using modified versions of the old suspensions, gearboxes and V6 engine. However, extra attention was paid to packaging, from the Passat-size cabin to Passat-like plastic and switch gear. According to those who saw it in real, it even looks very Passat alike. So, although Ford denied, the new Mondeo was designed with the Volkswagen rival used as benchmark. 

I don't like the styling, which is as angular as the old car organic. Odd headlamps, odd grille, odd C pillars ... however, chief designer J Mays said it would have been worse if not he and designer Chris Bird joined Ford some 2 years ago to change the final design. By the way, their resumes listed Volkswagen New Beetle and Audi's first A4 respectively, so you can hardly doubt that.  

Technical View 

Hard to imagine, now the new Mondeo is the biggest in class as it is a lot longer, wider and higher than the car it replaces. The 2754mm wheelbase is 50mm longer than before (which was already class-leading) and out-class everybody else convincingly (Passat is 2703mm while Peugeot 406 is 2700mm. Even the American Honda Accord is just 2715mm, no match with the Mondeo). Moreover, as the body shape is now more rectangular, it doesn't waste a lot of space like its predecessor. You can see its cabin as a Passat with more rear leg room. In other words, half a class larger than competitors bar Passat. 

Better still is that the massive increase of size added just 25 kg to the overall weight of the 2.0 Ghia model despite that the chassis is 60% stronger in torsion. Aluminium engine block accounts for 18 kg among all weight control measures taken.  

On the other hand, the Zetec engine family has been replaced by a new Duratec HE series which was mainly developed by Mazda (Ford's subsidiary) for the whole group. It features alloy head and block, a powerful 32-bit management system and a two-stage variable length intake manifold to improve torque curve - for example, the 2-litre version delivers 90% of peak torque from 2000 to 6000rpm. And the "peak torque" we say is a high 140 lbft. Peak power of 143 hp is also outstanding compare with most competitors. Although the new Mondeo has not yet employed VVT, it is sufficient to out-accelerate many 2-litre class rivals. 0-60 mph now takes 8.8 sec, an improvement of a full second from the old car, thanks to the new engine, effective weight control and shorter gearing. 

The 5-speed manual is still the old MTX-75 except with revised gearing and a cable-operated shift mechanism, the former was made possible because the engine is much quieter at high rev than the old rough Zetec, the latter improves shift quality. 4-speed automatic is unchanged. 

Top model still employs the 168 hp 2.5-litre Duratec V6 (also all-alloy) with little revision to make it comply with new emission regulations come effective in 2005.  

Suspensions were carried over from the old car. However, the front MacPherson struts are mounted on redesigned sub-frame while the rear multi-link has more travel and new bushing. 

On The Road 

The new Mondeo really feels a lot more refined, something approaching German premier cars. The engine is quite smooth (if not class-leading) and quiet, torquey from low rev. Acceleration is satisfying, especially gearshift is precise and crisp.  

Braking has been improved as well, thanks to larger discs (300mm up front and 280mm at the back) and improved pedal feel which makes light braking smoother.  

In terms of handling and ride, the rigid chassis and tuned suspensions deliver a grown-up feel by its fluent control in bends and the way it absorb bumps, although the extra size inevitably make it less flickable on tight B-roads. Like BMW, Mercedes and Audi, the Mondeo's new suspensions are tuned to offer better high-speed damping with a bit trade-off in low-speed bump absorption. This make it less floaty on most roads and very composed at higher speed. You'll feel it rides firmer than before, but overall ride quality is actually improved, partly thanks to the rigid body. 

Make it clear, the new Mondeo has beaten our long-time Champion Peugeot 406 in terms of handling. It steers with wonderful precision and feedback, adequate weighting and little kickback. Sharper and more linear than 406 at the limit. Moreover, its cornering limit is higher, that is, resists understeering better. Far better gearshift and sharper throttle response as well. 

In The Cabin 

Large and comfortable aside, the new Mondeo shines in visual build quality. Dashboard is made of soft-touch plastic approaching, if not exactly matching, the quality of Volkswagen. In other words, feels more prestige than anyone else. There's also some niche details, such as the chromed rims surrounding gauges and the four spokes of steering wheel in silver color. Many switches and grab handles are made with damped feel. 

Look aside, the new Mondeo is extremely desirable. Volkswagen Passat is still the best built, but it can't quite touch Mondeo's dynamic. Peugeot 406, on the other hand, loses in all areas to the Mondeo except styling. So a new Champion has been born. 

What a pity the new Mondeo is no longer a world car as its predecessor used to be. It won't be on sale in North America although I do think its big cabin actually favour this market. Ford expect to build 350,000 units annually in the Genk plant of Belgium. 

The above report was last updated on 20 Feb 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Mondeo V6 Zetec-S

The V6 comes from the previous generation Mondeo. Exactly the same 2544c.c. displacement output the same 168 horsepower and 162 lbft of torque, both are just adequate by today’s standard. It has the smoothness and linearity matching rival’s V6s, but the power delivery is perhaps too linear, so linear that we would have liked more low to mid range torque. Although dual-length induction manifold help maximizing torque, the problem still lies on the size of combustion chambers, which is some 500 c.c. less than rivals. As a result, the V6 Mondeo just beat the 2.0-litre Duratec HE version by a little bit in terms of power to weight ratio, so is acceleration. It takes an adequate 8.0 seconds to reach 60 mph from standstill, less than a second earlier than its little brother. 

Inevitably, the heavier V6 burdens the nose thus deteriorates handling. However, being small and all-aluminium, the penalty is far less than, say, Renault Laguna V6 or Citroen C5 3.0. In other words, the Mondeo V6 still handles brilliant enough to retain its crown as the best driver’s car in its class. Ride, however, is pushed even further to the sporty side as the suspensions are stiffened to take on the extra weight.  

Now the name Zetec-S is quite misleading. It used to represent the Yamaha-developed four-cylinder engines used in Fiesta and Puma. But the V6 is actually Duratec (built in the USA), so Ford now uses it as a badge for higher performance models - not as high as ST though. While the engine and performance are not all that sporty, the 18-inch ZR rating 225 width 40% aspect ratio tyres deliver a different message ... the message that could persuade your eyes rather than brain. 

The above report was last updated on 19 July 2001. All Rights Reserved.

Mondeo ST220

It is still quite unbelievable that today’s European Ford is the same company as when it produced Escort and Sierra. Since the first Mondeo, then Puma, Ka, facelifted Fiesta, Focus and today’s Mondeo, Ford has successfully changed its image from econo cars to exciting cars. However, Ford did not forget that its root is still based on affordable prices and accessibility. Therefore it will never produce something as expensive as M3 or as uncompromising as MG ZR160. 

To Mondeo ST220 - the sportiest version of Mondeo, the question is still how to make a good balance between performance and price, between excitement and comfort. Some might call this a compromise, but a Mondeo chassis should be a very good "compromise" to start with. It has the sharpest chassis / suspension package of the class and a fine MTX-75 gearbox which can handle more power. What it needs is a more powerful engine.  

Without seeking beef up the current engines, European Ford decided to use the American 3.0-litre Duratec V6 which has been serving Taurus for years. For what ? of course is for price reason. With 500cc more than today’s most powerful Mondeo, running at a relatively unstressed way, it takes just a little tuning to achieve the target 220 horsepower which gives the car’s name. Modifications include the usual larger intake manifolds and exhaust, bigger valves and higher-lift cams. Easy job. It even does not need a variable valve timing system which appears in the Jaguar version of the engine. 

Nevertheless, the 3.0 Duratec has a weakness - low rev torque. Basically, its oversquare design of combustion chamber (89mm bore, 79.5mm stroke) favours power at the price of torque. In addition to the larger intake and exhaust the engine becomes more peaky, refusing to develop its maximum 207 lbft of torque until as high as 4900rpm. Therefore it does not feel as powerful as numbers suggest - Ford claims it accelerates from 0 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, half a tick faster than its main rival Honda Accord Type R. At 151mph, its top speed also beat the Honda by nearly 10mph.  

Perhaps we were fooled by the aggressive look of the ST220. It has massive air dams front and rear, fashionable mesh grille and flared wheelarches filling with 18-inch alloy wheels. Yes, really 18-inch. It seems that Ford chose such an unusually large wheel purely for look, because the brakes of ST220 are unchanged from standard Mondeo (although 300mm front and 280mm rear are not considered small either). All these ingredients contribute to an image of mind-blowing performance. However, if you consider power-to-weight ratio (220hp pulling 1460kg), you will get a clearer picture that the ST220 is actually a warm performance saloon. 

Anyway, the ST220 is involving to drive. Beautiful exhaust note, crisp gearchange, communicative steering, sharp turn-in and great chassis balance all inspire the driver to get more rev from the V6. Compare with standard Mondeo, it has heavier steering (due to reducing servo assistance) and finer body control (because of stiffer suspension setup and 15mm lower ride height). It feels taut and composed, corners fluently. Ford’s tuning is especially successful in two areas: 1) there is virtually no torque steer; 2) ride quality suffers so little, making ST220 a comfortable daily transport. 

Some may prefer BMW 330i Sport or even the hotter Alfa 156GTA, but they are at least 25% more expensive than the ST220. Only Accord Type R and MG ZT190 are direct rivals. Type R is still a great driver’s car, but Mondeo matches it in handling while overwhelms in quality and space. The driving dynamics of MG is very close to Mondeo, but it is too slow to be called a performance saloon. ST220 seems unbeatable in its price range. 

The above report was last updated on 31 Mar 2002. All Rights Reserved.


Mondeo 2.0 Ghia
Mondeo V6 Zetec-S
Mondeo ST220
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Front-engined, Fwd
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
4731 / 1812 / 1459 / 2754
4731 / 1812 / 1429 / 2754
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl,
variable induction
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl,  
variable induction
V6, dohc, 4v/cyl.
1999 c.c.
2544 c.c.
2967 c.c.
143 hp
168 hp
220 hp
140 lbft
162 lbft
207 lbft
F: Strut; R: Multi-link
1361 kg
1469 kg
1458 kg
Top speed
131 mph*
139 mph*
151 mph (claimed)
0-60 mph
8.8 sec*
8.0 sec*
6.5 sec (claimed)
0-100 mph
26.1 sec*
24.0 sec*
* Tested by Autocar

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