The Blue Oval is nudging into £30k+ executive territory with flood of new, pricier models
Ford Mondeo Estate 1.6 EcoBoost review (2011 onwards)
Model: Ford Mondeo Estate 1.6 EcoBoost
Bodystyle: five-door estate
Engine: 1.6-I 160 EcoBoost
Transmission: six-speed manual
Date of test: June 2011
Gallery: Ford Mondeo Estate 1.6 EcoBoost (2011 onwards)
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What is it?
Not so long ago just about the highest compliment you could pay to a diesel car would be to say that it was like a petrol one. That basically meant that it didn't sound like a bucket of spanners being thrashed repeatedly with a nine iron or kick out more smoke than a kipper factory.
Times, of course, have changed. Diesels are no longer noisy or smokey. In many sectors of the car market they're overwhelmingly preferred to petrol engine models and rightly so. Moreover, the Ford Mondeo Estate 1.6 EcoBoost is a petrol car that I'm going to say is like a diesel one and mean that it's rather good.
Where does it fit?
Ford's Mondeo has dominated the large family car market for a very long time indeed. The latest version arrived in 2007, taking over at the top where its predecessor left off and since then a whole series of new rival models, including the Vauxhall Insignia, the Toyota Avensis and the Peugeot 508, have tried and failed to topple it.
That would all be fantastic news for Ford were the Mondeo's particular sector of the market not shrinking like a crisp packet in the microwave. The company car users who have traditionally defaulted to the big Ford have been drifting in to MPVs, 4x4s and smaller hatchbacks for some years now so the Mondeo isn't the crucial car for the Blue Oval that it once was.
Despite diminishing sales, the Mondeo is still among the first models to get Ford's latest engine technology. Petrol has been largely ignored by buyers in the Mondeo's sector in favour of the superior torque and lower running costs of diesel but the new generation of EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engines might change all that.
The model we're trailing here is the 1.6-litre EcoBoost with 158hp but a more energetic 200hp 2.0-litre Ecoboost also exists. Both engines have direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a turbocharger so there's a lot of high-tech magic happening under the bonnet of this Mondeo Estate.
Is it for you?
Calling its crop of turbo petrol engines 'EcoBoost' is Ford's way of telling customers that it's giving them the best of both worlds. That is, the extra power boost you'd expect from a turbocharger but improved economy too. It sounds great, and it will need to be if it's to overshadow the 2.0 TDCi diesel engines that most Mondeo customers choose.
It's the Mondeo's luggage-swallowing estate bodystyle we're looking at here and although it's true that many family car buyers have deserted the Mondeo class in favour of people carriers and 4x4s, this is still a very large and practical vehicle. The boot is nothing short of humongous and rear legroom is just as substantial.
Our model came in Titanium X trim, the Mondeo's poshest grade, but it seems reasonable value at £24,350 with stability control, a Sony-branded audio system, Bluetooth, air-conditioning, cruise control, the Quickclear windscreen and lots of add-ons to enhance the looks of the car.
Things only start to get a bit steep once the options list has been raided for the touchscreen satellite navigation system (£1,250), the Premium X Pack (£1,250) and the Driver Assist Pack 2 (£2,050) which were fitted to our car. The latter includes a Blind Spot Information System, a Lane Departure Warning System and driver impairment monitoring, which bleep or flash at you when you're about to do something silly.
Also thrown in is Driver Select Suspension which lets you soften or firm the ride as the fancy takes you. It all went to make this Mondeo feel conspicuously well kitted out.
What does it do well?
It's size and advanced years compared to the majority of its key rivals don't stop the Mondeo standing out as the driver's choice in its class. Grip at the front wheels, steering feel and body control are all worthy of a gold star.
The EcoBoost engine only furthers the Mondeo's case with keen drivers. The unit we tried might have a 1.6-litre capacity and lot of Mondeo to move but it does a fine job, the turbocharger boosting low-end grunt to the point that it feels like a diesel engine when overtaking or accelerating out of junctions.
The 177lb ft torque output of the 1.6 EcoBoost speaks volumes alongside the 136lb ft you get from the Mondeo's aging 2.0-litre normally-aspirated petrol engine. It's not far off the 199lb ft of the 1.6-litre TDCi diesel either, and the EcoBoost is both quieter than the oil-burner and livelier at the top of the rev range. The 0-62mph sprint takes a respectable 9.6s but if you want a really nippy Mondeo Estate, the 200hp 2.0-litre EcoBoost has an 8.2s time.
What doesn't it do well?
There's a sportier feel about the Mondeo than you get with most of the cars vying for the same slice of the market. A by-product of this is a slightly less comfortable ride than some but it's a trade-off that I'd happily make. The Driver Select Suspension that was fitted to our test car as an option solves this to an extent by letting you choose between Sport, Normal and Comfort suspension settings - Comfort being smoother on the motorway.
While we're splitting hairs, I'd also like a shorter throw gearbox than the six-speed manual fitted to this car with a little less clutch travel. The Titanium X trim level brings a lot of chrome embellishments to the cabin but the quality of some of the basic plastics isn't all that impressive and the satellite navigation's map display can be tricky to follow.
What's it like to live with?
It hasn't got the fancy acrobatic seats of an MPV or the panoramic driving position of an SUV but the Mondeo is big and in Estate form it can carry even more. The all-up boot capacity of the Estate is only nine litres larger than the 5-door hatchback but the 549-litre bag hole is more evenly shaped and easier to use as a result. Fold the seats down and you can get 1,740 litres of stuff inside.
How green is it?
So the boost side of this EcoBoost engine appears to work, now what about the eco? Helped by Ford's start/stop technology turning the engine off when the Mondeo is stationary and the clutch is raised, it can return 41.5mpg. The most economical TDCi diesel Mondeo can get an outstanding 65.7mpg on the combined cycle, that's with CO2 emissions of just 114g/km compared to 158g/km from the 1.6 EcoBoost.
Would we buy it?
With running costs playing such a big role in the thinking of the family buyers and company car users who traditionally prop up the Mondeo's sector of the market, it's hard to see petrol engines storming back to the top of the sales charts but Ford's modern EcoBoost units do close the gap.
Keen drivers drawn to the Ford Mondeo buy its polished road manners and engaging handling might be willing to forgo a few miles per gallon for the extra thrust and refinement of a 1.6-litre EcoBoost engine. In the supremely spacious Mondeo Estate it works very well and priced around £1,000 below the entry-level diesel engine, it's a petrol option that's well worth thinking about.
Gallery: Ford Mondeo Estate 1.6 EcoBoost (2011 onwards)
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