The ubiquitous Ford Mondeo first launched in 1993 and now in its fourth generation was the catalyst for the re-emergence of Ford as a major force in world motoring. Prior to this Ford's future in Europe was hanging in the balance due to the unfortunate reputation of bland underperforming cars that on the face of it seemed to be designed by accountants rather than engineers. Phrases like “Dagenham dustbin" were being banded around and Ford were determined to reverse the negative tide.
Ford embarked on what was to be one of the most expensive new car programmes ever and from that under the codename CDW27 “Mondeo" was born. Mondeo derives from the Latin word mundus meaning “world" and was designed to be a world beater. It was also known as the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique. In Europe the Mondeo was the successor to the fairly well received Sierra but Ford were hankering after the heady days of the all-conquering Cortina which sold over a million during the twenty years it was in production.
A large proportion of the high development cost was due to the Mondeo being a completely new design sharing very little if anything, with the Sierra. With new transmissions and a sophisticated new suspension design Ford were hoping to achieve class-leading handling and ride qualities to give executive car refinement. Ford set its sights high with the likes of Honda and Nissan as the main targets.
By this time safety was a growing issue and as such was a high priority in the Mondeo design with a driver's airbag in all models. Also on offer were side-impact bars, seat belt pre-tensioners and ABS. The advent of the heated front windscreen branded Quickclear which is still a great feature today.
The then-new Zetec petrol engine which was developed for the revised Escort powered the range together with the Endura turbo diesel which had older origins and was a bit outdated compared to the competition. Also available was a 2.5 litre 24-valve V6 unit which went on to power the performance “ST24"
The Mk2 Mondeo received a major a facelift when launched in 1996 and Ford set about addressing some of the criticisms of the Mk1 mainly around the styling, cramped rear legroom and poor headlights. Although this was all improved it was said this was at the expense of the equipment level which was lowered slightly. The cynics also argued that this was an attempt to recoup some of the huge investment cost in the original design. The Mk2 saw the emergence of the ‘oval’ grille which was a big feature of Ford vehicles around this time and was well received. Indeed the Mk2 was a big success in Europe.
In the US the Contour and Mystique did not fare so well and equally was unpopular in Australia leading some in the motoring industry to question if the Mondeo could ever achieve world car status unlike global models such as the BMW 3 Series. Although curiously Japan was a good market for the Mondeo as was New Zealand.
Next we come to the Mk3 Mondeo which is of special interest to me as I own one. The Mk3 was launched in 2000 and was larger than its predecessor. The design was not as bold as some other Ford models from around the time but had a more mature and sober feel to it. This was due in part to the fact that Ford was targeting the likes of the VW Passat seen as the benchmark for quality in this class. By using more expensive materials, the Mk3 has a quality feel especially the interior. Safety was a major selling point for the Mk3 and saw the introduction of “Intelligent Protection System" (IPS) which incorporated sensors to deploy a combination of airbags front, rear, side and curtain according to the circumstances of a collision. Combined with ABS and EBD the Mk3 is a very safe car. The level of equipment is very good and meant that the Mondeo maintained its popularity as a fleet car and in the large family car market.
June 2003 saw a slight makeover with a larger grill and some interior changes and again in 2005 some cosmetic changes were made, most notably a ‘Mercedes’ style rear light cluster. New engines were introduced and an annoying seat belt fastening reminder warning system. The unveiling of the latest Mk4 model in 2007 has affected used prices of the Mk3 so they can be picked up at very competitive prices with the TDCi being the most sought after. The high cost of fuel combined with forthcoming punitive road tax related to emissions in the UK has created an uncertain future for the larger saloon but the Mondeo lives on and we love ‘em.
Kevin Creese has spent many years writing for and working in the motor trade and in that time he has learnt a lot about used Ford Kevin is currently working on behalf of a UK ford dealer to promote their range of Ford cars.