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Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi review (2000-2006)
Bodystyle: 5dr hatchback
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Date of test: May 2004
What is it?
The Mondeo remains one of Ford's key models, despite shrinking sales in the so-called 'D sector'. It's a marketplace dominated by fleet sales, who love the Mondeo for its wide range, affordability, low running costs and reliability. But since new company car tax rules were imposed a few years ago, the market has shifted from the traditional 2.0-litre petrol variant, to the 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Such engines are more economical and emit less CO2 - tax is based on such emissions, so the lower, the better. Just one problem. Diesel engines which don't meet strict Euro IV standards have a 3% tax penalty imposed, which lessens their advantage. The only way to escape this is with a thoroughly revised engine - such an engine now on offer in Ford's Mondeo. The 2.0 TDCi 130 Euro IV is a bit of a mouthful, but is a fiercely attractive proposition to company car drivers.
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Where does it fit?
As it's such a popular sector, finding competitors is straightforward; Vauxhall Vectra, Renault Laguna, Peugeot 407, Volkswagen Passat, Mazda6, Toyota Avensis and so on. But increasingly, premium makers are getting in on the act, luring buyers who'd ordinarily choose a high-spec version of the above. So the Audi A4 1.9 TDI 100 and BMW 318d are also considered rivals. We looked at the higher-power version of the Mondeo, which has more power than those premium models, but an only average output compared to mainstream competitors. The 407, ironically, uses a 2.0-litre engine which in due course will be seen in the Mondeo, because of a shared development deal with PSA and Ford.
Is it for you?
The Mondeo is very much a head-led choice. It lacks the 'got to have one' appeal of an Audi or BMW, but cleverly plays its strengths elsewhere. For example, it's extremely roomy (much more so than many rivals) and comes in a wide range of trim options which tailor perfectly to budget. There's a Ford dealer everywhere you turn, the design is pleasing, the interior well thought out and everyday driving is as painless as could possibly be. Furthermore, if you're a company driver, you'll not only save on Benefit In Kind tax, but you may find your company's offered a healthy discount by Ford - allowing you to drive a far higher-spec'd car than you thought.
What does it do well?
The engine is very refined. There's little diesel clatter below 3,000rpm and although it can be heard, it's rarely objectionable. It's also a punchy unit, with a strong and smooth power delivery. The six-speed gearbox has a weighty, pleasing action and is exceedingly positive and slick, and sixth cuts revs to near-tickover levels on the motorway. Handling is superb, with driver-pleasing steering feel and accuracy, and body control is admirable, as is ride quality. It's not the most serene hatchback, but the balance with handling is spot-on. A redesign has improved the interior dramatically, with top-level, classy-looking materials being used, which surround intuitive controls. Seats are naturally comfortable, and the leather steering wheel of Zetec models is a treat to hold. It reminds you of 1960s sports cars. We also adore the optional Sony stereo - if you can stretch to it, go for it. It looks stylish and has a powerful, crisp sound.
What doesn't it do well?
Drivers sit high in the Mondeo, and some will feel they're perched too high - although our car was fitted with electric seats, which may be a factor. The gearchange demands muscle to select reverse and this Mondeo's extremely easy to stall. You have to concentrate to keep the revs up when pulling away, not helped by scant engine noise. And surprisingly, neither traction control nor ESP stability control are standard - smart take-offs in the wet are greeted with tremendous wheelspin if you're too brisk. It cuts noise and boosts economy, but sometimes sixth is maybe just too 'high' for UK motorways; it's virtually useless below 70mph, because as revs are so low, the turbo's not spinning so engine power is limited. Some find the seats too soft, and if you want a decent ride quality, avoid extra-large alloy wheel options as they spoil this.
What's it like to live with?
As mentioned, the Mondeo is cavernous in the rear, with ample space for three adults and all their luggage in the boot. It's far bigger inside than it looks. Equipment levels are fine, the stereo decent and build quality really can't be faulted. There are no rattles over bumps, no dodgy trim assembly. Fuel economy is good, with 50mpg attainable on a run, and of course those emissions save company car drivers more cash. The only cloud is depreciation. Mass-manufactured cars will always lose more money than premium brands, and the Mondeo is no exception. It's not bad for its sector, but an Audi or BMW will hold on to more of its 'new' price after three years.
Would we buy it?
The Mondeo is rarely a car people choose to buy; the company buys it for them. But those given a TDCi 130 variant shouldn't feel short-changed, because it's a very capable machine. Powerful, refined and efficient, the engine supports a sporty chassis and extremely roomy cabin, creating a competitive family-focused business tool. It won't stand out in a crowd because there are so many about, while a few quibbles with wheelspin and high-set seats may cause some gripes. But generally this is a car which leads its class in many areas. If your company insists, don't resist. You won't feel hard done by.
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