By on May 5, 2010

You can spell favorite both ways – the American way, with a single ‘o’ – and the British way, with a ‘u’ following suit. The Ford Fusion and Ford Mondeo are not unlike this fascinating grammatical phenomenon: they both come from the same manufacturer, and they both answer the equally strong demand for misize cars on both sides of the ocean – but they both differ in execution. Right?

Ford’s last attempt to tempt American customers with a European-derived midsize sedan failed miserably. It was called the Contour (Mondeo in Europe), and it literally fell between the chairs – it wasn’t a proper midsize car by American standards, nor was it a proper compact which residents on the western side of the Atlantic could relate to. The Contour was gone after a few years of dawdling sales, never to return again.

But here we have the newest Ford Mondeo. Introduced in 2007 – and first driven by Agent 007 himself in Casino Royale, no less – it aimed at replacing the humdrum sedan which came before it with a bit more zest, and a lot more size.

While zest can be subjective, there’s definitely no arguing about the sheer size of the Mondeo. It’s no longer a compact-and-a-half – in fact, it trumps the Fusion in every exterior dimension, save for length – in which it’s exactly equal to the domestic sedan. At 112-and-something inches, its wheelbase brushes on the Mercedes E Class’s and its 74 inches of sheer width glance downwards on the S Class itself. Maybe these impressive figures shouldn’t come as a surprise seeing as the Mondeo shares its underpinnings with the Volvo S80.

Even with a quick glance from the outside, almost every inch of these impressive sheet-paper specs is apparent. The Mondeo looks massive, solid, and respectable – you can insert your own row of adjectives here. When it was introduced, Ford went to great lengths to emphasize the new “Kinetic Design Language” that was introduced along with it – see, you’re supposed to imagine the Mondeo moving, even when it’s stuck in harsh London traffic.

The thing is, kinetic design aside, this Euro-sedan ain’t pretty. The front is a good effort, what with its gently-chromed mesh grill (on the top of the line Titanium tester) and two swooping profile lines (say kinetic!) going all the way from the hood to the trunk. On their way over back there, however, something goes terribly wrong. The trunk is flat, looks glued-on and simply doesn’t harmonize with the rest of the car; if you stare long enough at the rear lights you’ll be able to see a kid’s sketch of a car with a huge side windshield. Kinetic windshield, so to speak. As if the complete lack of harmony between front and rear styling wasn’t enough, Ford has chosen to hide the twin exhausts under the cavernous body (why?), making up for that sin with a small diffuser with bullet holes in it.

As far as first impressions go, you’re better off starting with the interior, which manages to make up for the exterior’s disappointments. The build quality is good, and everything seems to be firmly secured in place – the doors are almost too heavy. More importantly, the cabin is a nice place to be – save for the slightly gloomy interior colors. Leather covers the seat bolsters as well as other critical areas and the softer kind of plastic is used generously throughout – and what’s not soft is generally good quality, unless you go touchin’ in hidden areas. The center console comes complete with a brushed aluminum finish which looks and feels good.

Most controls are simple and intuitive, with a logical layout and no excess of buttons. Due to the sheer width of the car, some of the controls – like the climate control panel – can be hard to reach if you’re of smaller proportions. The same goes for the gear lever which is a bit of a stretch for lazier arms. The touchscreen audio system you see in the photos is an aftermarket installation offered as an option by the dealer – the standard car comes with an original Sony stereo. Both are good sounding and easy to use.

There’s ample space in the cabin, too, thanks to the exterior dimensions. Shoulder room is especially impressive – both in the front and back. Four adults will feel comfortable in the Mondeo – both in terms of space and seat comfort. The front seats are, however, too wide for my size and don’t provide enough side bolstering. You can put the trunk on the ‘disappointing’ list as well. At 17.4 cubic feet, it isn’t exactly small – but it’s smaller than what you’d expect – especially while compared to the exterior – and not particularly easy to load due to a slightly raised floor.

My tester was equipped with a four cylinder 2.3 liter gas engine pumping out about 160 horsepower and a six-speed Durashift automatic. If the numbers add up to something familiar, it’s only because they should – the engine is courtesy of Mazda, having served its duty in the previous-generation Mazda3 and Mazda6. This is a large engine by European standards, judging by the Mondeo’s automatic gas-powered competitors which utilize 2.0 and smaller units – but then again, you have to remember this is the rarest Mondeo powertrain in diesel-loving Europe.

160 horsepower don’t sound like overwhelming power in a midsize sedan, and with a weight figure of more than 1.5 tons, it really isn’t. The Mondeo does the standard sprint to 60 in 10.5 seconds, but that’s only telling half the story, because despite the lack of power the engine and transmission combination works quite well, if a bit lacking in the sound department – provided you’re not hurrying anywhere, of course. Shifts are usually smooth, save for downshifts to first gear with manual control, and the engine donates whatever power it has to give in a fairly civilized manner.

The good news is that this engine is history, with the newly-facelifted Mondeo receiving a new 2.0 EcoBoost engine with 203 horsepower, without any cosmetic changes to the exterior. It will also receive Ford’s dual-clutch PowerShift gearbox. Which is just as well, as this Mondeo with a fresh 120 miles on the odometer, exhibited a not-too-impressive fuel consumption figure of just below 19 mpg during combined (if a little aggressive) driving.

It takes only a couple of minutes to realize that the Mondeo’s suspension is tuned to the softer side, and only a few seconds more to appreciate this. Ride quality is excellent with even rough roads failing to break the Mondeo out of its serenity, and yet the car never feels oversprung or floaty. Noticeable winds noises from the A pillar, which start at 70 mph, will be your primary cause for concern during a freeway cruise.

The previous Mondeo’s trump card was its balanced handling, so there was reasonable cause for worry that the many inches and pounds the new Mondeo gathered over the years will affect its athletic capabilities. The answer is twofold: yes, the new Mondeo feels heavier and a bit more disconnected than the previous generation, but it’s still a lot of fun to drive on twisting roads – almost more so than a car of its weight and caliber should.

The Mondeo grips the tarmac quite well and there’s even reasonable feel from the hydraulically-assisted steering. It resists understeer well, but driver provocations will quickly send the hyperactive electronic nanny berserk. The Achilles heels of the Mondeo’s dynamic abilities, like in some genuine American Fords, are the brakes. They border on average in strength, and the pedal feels too mushy and imprecise.

The name Mondeo is derived from the Latin word mundos, meaning world. The third generation Mondeo can finally carry this title in total peace of mind. The Ford Mondeo offers a complete package with a roomy interior, good cabin, excellent dynamic abilities and perhaps most importantly – that solid ‘big car’ feel, without the big car price.

It’s one car which could have been equally enjoyed by people on both sides of the pond, but instead Ford is waiting for the next-generation Mondeo to launch as a global car, like it recently did with the Focus. Judging by the quality of the effort on this sedan, I’d say they have a good chance of making it work.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

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39 Comments on “Review: Ford Mondeo 2.3 Titanium...”

  • avatar

    Looks like the Fivehundred’s more handsome baby brother. Sounds like a competent family car too judging by this review.

    • 0 avatar

      Actuall, the rear reminds me a little bit like either a Jag or a Volvo and the front is a dead ringer for the last model of the Ford Taurus.

  • avatar

    I’ve seen this car in person, and found it reasonably attractive. Volvo S80 underpinnings don’t promise much in the handling department, though, so I’m not surprised that the review is only moderately positive here.

    The new Escort looks fantastic. If the next Mondeo is the same, just larger, it will be an excellent car.

    No idea how reliable these European Fords are. We should find out soon, starting with the Fiesta.

    • 0 avatar

      A year or so ago, when my in-laws agreed to stay with our kids, I rented a Focus for them here and I rented a Focus for my wife and me in Italy. Same name, you know the rest. Ford can and does build great cars and after a week with the Focus in Italy, I was amazed at the car they pass off as the Focus in the US. As I noted in the Sonata review, styling is personal, but I really liked the styling of the Mondeo and Ford’s European design language when I saw it there. Same for the Focus.

    • 0 avatar

      As far as I know, the Mondeo platform (EUCD) is a derivative of the Euro Focus (C1) platform. It’s basically the same as the Focus from the firewall forward and shares the ‘Control Blade’ suspension at the rear. The goal was to keep costs down but it also gave the car solid underpinnings. Incidentally, this is also why the Mondeo can’t accept a V6.

      Volvo further modified the platform to accept a Yamaha V8 up front. By all accounts, it can’t handle at all compared to the Mondeo but could be the fault of Volvo’s chassis engineers. After all, they couldn’t get the C30 to handle as well as the Focus or the Mazda 3, which all share the C1 platform.

      It’ll be interesting to see how Ford reconciles the need for a V6 with the desire to use Focus parts in the next gen Fusion/Mondeo.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      With Ford putting a newfound emphasis on the EcoBoost engines, I’m not sure a V6 is even in the pipeline.

    • 0 avatar

      PaulieWalnut—> The Mondeo is(or was before the ecoboost update) available with a 2.5l V6 with 220hp(only manual trans). With pretty much identical fuel consumption compared to this 2.3 auto.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      The 2.5T is an inline five. It’s a detuned version of the Focus RS powerplant, and is sourced from Volvo.

    • 0 avatar

      Right you are. I just always assumed it was a V6 as i had never noticed a turbo or cylinder count mentioned in the specs, and the first two gens were available with a V6. Found it in the brochure after some looking though. Should have just checked carfolio to start with. Oh well..

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      Reliability is on a par with VW , though the interior is not up to VW standard. Not sure about the Volvo connection , these cars handle better than any Volvo , almost as good as the Mazda 6.

    • 0 avatar

      IMO the Mondeo interior is better than the Passat. Possibly slightly better plastics in the Passat, but not a big or really noticeable difference. As a whole, it just seems better in the Mondeo.

      The Golf beats the Focus though. Im waiting for the new Focus to catch up to VW with the engines and transmissions, then i might even consider a Ford to replace the Focus i bought new seven years ago.

      The one thing that i find really annoying in the Passat interior is the “swoop” that goes from the door panel to the dash and around it, with the sharp edge. The dash just ends too abruptly and a concave door panel looks weird.

  • avatar

    This car is better looking than most of the other Fords out there; maybe all of them.

    I definitely agree with you on the exhaust. The earlier Mondeo with the exposed exhaust tips + faux diffuser (2007?) -ala the Mazda 3 looked MUCH better.

    I didn’t see it in person, but I have less problems with the trunk area than you do.

    Also, the Swage line on that earlier model looks better than this one. Maybe it’s just the black paint I saw on the newer one.

    note: Article[s] needs more photos. I had to leave your site to see what I wanted. here and here

    You guys want ppl leaving your site so soon?

  • avatar

    I rented the diesel version of this car in Ireland in 2008 and loved it. Roomy, sharp handling (compared to US-spec cars I’m used to), and 38mpg was averaged while driving around the country. Wonderful car. Considering the quality of the content within the car, and the diesel powertrain, I think if it were offered in the US as-is it would price itself out of the midsize market. That is why it will be interesting to see if Ford can sell their Fiesta and next Focus in the US at competitive prices, yet not de-content the car too much when modifying it for our market. If so, then when they bring the next Mondeo to market, it could be a revelation.

  • avatar

    Nice, but the wagon version looks even better.

  • avatar

    Excellent review, great car. Keep on the good work.

  • avatar

    As well as being an odd size, the other reason I heard that the original Contour tanked in the US is because it was so badly built. That suprised me as the Mondeo’s I’ve known in Europe were pretty long lived and hard to kill. They were perfect commuter wagons – comfortable, handled ok and cheap to fix if they did go wrong.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on your definition of quality. After inadvertently building a midsize that despite all its faults simply would not die (witness the geezers still piloting their beloved Tempos 15+ years later), Ford swung to the opposite rail with the Detour/Mistake. Great ride, nicely equipped, but with engines and trannies timed to explode at 100K to ‘drive more repeat business’. I’m praying Mulally won’t repeat the error.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got a 1995 Mystique which I loved dearly. 175hp V6 which got it to 60 in under 8 seconds, great seats & fabric, electric seats, cruise, power locks, good speakers which responded well to an aftermarket Pioneer, and really good build quality on the interior. The paint was fantastic, too.

      Problem? Two alternators, a fuel pump and regulator failure, … etc.

      On the other hand, after 100k and being hit from behind by a delivery van and rolled onto its side, the body was still tight; no creaks or rattles at all.

      It’s still running fine, but I swapped it for a Saab 9-5 due to its fundamental failure: It’s a death trap. After seeing that a 35mph offset crash would punch the pedals back more than a foot, smashing my ankles and breaking my knees against the steering column, I decided that the time had arrived to move on…

      So, now I have a Saab 9-5 which has stellar safety, a great interior, and will get me to 60 in 6.7 seconds while getting 22 city / 30 highway.

    • 0 avatar

      I owned two Contours, a ’97 and an ’00. Both were wonderful driving cars, every mile was a real treat. The ’97 lived at the dealer though. How I got it to live to just a few miles shy of 100k is beyond me. The ’00 was better, but Ford’s cost-cutting was rather obvious by then. Back seat space wasn’t an issue for me as I’m only 5’5″ and as half….I will say that the trunk was huge and nicely laid out. Overall, good cars from a design standpoint, just badly executed.

  • avatar

    I think the Mondeo is reasonably attractive, if bland. It’s a much better effort than the Opel Insignia, which has received a huge amount of inexplicable praise.

  • avatar

    Is the hood opening on this one behind the oval in the grille like the Transit or the current Focus?

  • avatar

    Now that is a proper mid-sized sedan…taillights need some work though.

    It’s far better than our mediocre Fusion…

  • avatar

    You should try the 2,2 TDCI.
    With 173 bhp and 295 lb ft, it´s powerful enough.

  • avatar

    I can’t understand why anyone cares if the tailpipes aren’t exposed. It’s not a Ferrari, after all. One of the things I like about my Passat, in fact, is that you can’t see the exhaust.

    I see the Mondeo is offered in an Estate version, looks nice. An Estate with a diesel engine, interesting.

  • avatar

    big cars with small engines are always a real disappointment for me.

    i’m thinkin’ i’m gonna have to keep my car running until they get the new focus over here and drop the ecoboost in it though.

  • avatar

    This Mondeo sounds like it would be a much easier sell to Americans than the original one. The larger size and (softer) suspension makes all the difference.

    Just needs a couple larger engine choices including a nice V6 (how in the world is a 2.3 four-banger “large”?) and it would be perfect.

  • avatar

    I’m gonna be That Guy…sorry…

    The form “mundus” would be proper. As a 2nd declension noun, “mundos” is the accusative plural.

    –Your friendly neighborhood Roman, who had to look this up just to make sure

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The contour/mystique is one of Ford’s sadder stories. The car was not a Mondeo, it was a US take on the Mondeo that replaced the Tempo (a renta-car PoS if ever there were one), and was slotted between the Taurus and the Escort.

    At that time the Taurus was being sold as the mid-sized car against the Cam/cord, and was the best selling car in the US. The panther being the large car. Unfortunately, the C/M was too big, and had too much content to be properly priced in the slot they wanted to put it in.

    It was a pity. I owned two of them and they were nice little cars. With the Duratech 2.5L V6 they were peppy and fun to drive. I don’t know about long term reliability, because I owned neither of them for a lot of miles and both were largely driven by my kids. When the Focus came out, the C/M had nowhere to go and it was dropped.

    Since the Mondeo is built on the Volvo S80 platform, its current US counterpart is the Taurus not the Fusion. The Tarus is a large car. The Fusion is built on the previous generation Mazda 6 platform, which derived from an earlier, and smaller Mondeo.

    • 0 avatar

      The current Taurus is built on an evolution of the old Volvo S80 platform called D2 or D3

      The current Mondeo is built on an evolution of the current euro Focus platform (C1) called EUCD. The current S80 is built on a variant of this platform that can accept a V8.

      The current Fusion is built on an evolution of the old Mazda 6/Ford Mondeo platform called CD3. The current Mazda 6 is built on a variant of this platform.

      Its confusing stuff.

      EUCD and CD3 are set to merge for the next generation of the Fusion/Mondeo. The eventual fate of the D3 platform is undecided, i think.

  • avatar

    Interesting that they kept the 2.3 for the Mondeo, when the 2.5 that Mazda has upgraded to makes lots more power (on-paper, it’s not impressive, but the powerband is much fatter) and gets somewhat better economy.

    Strange, too, that the brakes could be so bad, since excellent brakes are one of the strong points of the Focus… but with so much more weight, maybe they need to upgrade to stronger binders… or the stronger binders aren’t stronger enough.

  • avatar

    Tal, do Israelis prefer saloons to hatchbacks?
    This one seems to be saloon though the hatchback is way more preferred variant in euro markets. It looks better too in my eyes, less awkward rear.

    • 0 avatar
      Tal Bronfer

      Yes, Israelis do prefer sedans (or saloons) over hatchbacks. The Focus, for example, sells almost exclusively in its four door variant. They also sell the hatchback Mondeo, but it’s less of a seller. They both look practically the same.

  • avatar

    One thing I don’t quite understand. Doesn’t the current Mondeo, being based on the Volvo S80, share common parts with the MKTaurus? Plus, if the next Mondeo is to be a global car (thus spawnin a Fusion replacement) would it still be S80-based? Wouldn’t that put it at odds with the Taurus in terms of size?

    Notwithstanding, the Mondeo is an excellent vehicle and, if my peers in Europe are any indication, I can see why sales in the old country are booming right alongside BMW/Mercedes products.

  • avatar

    Hyundai beat Ford to the punch with a direct injection 2.4l 198 hp engine in the Sonata for around $20k. Ford just getting around to direct injection in mid size passenger cars. Good idea but the turbo is thirsty and will cost more to maintain.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a previous model Mondeo 2.0 turbodiesel 6-speed manual for the last 6 years, and it’s been a great car. 0-60 in 11 seconds may not feel fast, but it’s not meant to be a dragster. In first and second gears it runs out of revs so you have to change gear twice to get to 60, which shows up on the 0-60 time. On the move, at 40mph, you stick it in 4th, nail it, and it’s doing 80 by the time you’ve passed whatever you want to overtake. It’s just a question of learning where the engine’s performance is, then you find it’s a flying machine. It handles superbly too, and although it might be compact by US standards, it’s well suited to the narrower roads we have in Scotland. Fuel-wise it can do 50mpg(imperial) while cruising at 75mph, so it can do 600 miles on a tank. It’s been reliable over 100k miles, though it has needed a couple of things renewed in that time. Space-wise, it can take 2 mountain bikes in the back, or 5 adults for day trips, or 4 adults with luggage and mountain equipment for a week away. My next car will be another Mondeo, with the 140bhp diesel. The 2.2 has more power then you would need and the extra cost and fuel consumption would be money wasted.
    Mondeos? best things on 4 wheels!

  • avatar

    I remember the Contour. Tidy dimensions, the best-controlled suspension I’d ever encountered on a mainstream car (no dive, squat, pitch, nothing — unflappable, precise, and comfortable — a revelation!), and you could get it with a whirring little Mazda V-6 paired with a butter-smooth clutch and 5-speed. I was just about to buy one thus equipped when I was laid off! Memories…

    Now that tastes in vehicles are somewhat more similar worldwide than they once were, from the looks of it, we’d do better if Ford just sent us their European products. The current Taurus is GROSSLY oversized… the Mondeo is more reasonable. The current US Focus is a joke… the European Focus is widely viewed as the best car in its class. The US Escape is outdated… the Kuga, its Euro counterpart, is a sexy little beast. But then, these Eurofords are premium products, and Ford lives here by undercutting the imports on price, so I guess it is what it is.

  • avatar

    I don’t understand why so many outlets refer to the Contour/Mondeo as failures. I don’t remember them as such. I drove a 4 cylinder, automatic that my mother-in-law rented, and was actually wowed by the suspension tuning.

    Later, I bought a Toreador Red SVT contour with the blue leather seats, and what an animal that was. By today’s standards, probably not so much, but in a rather light package, the 200hp, with the V-6 on cam, screaming really, the car was a hoot. I put nearly 100K trouble free miles on it, before moving to an SUV.

    I understand the criticism of the car’s size, but again, that was back when everyone, much like today, felt they needed two tons of 7 passenger 4-wheel-drive surrounding them and shuttling their spouse and kid. By that measure, what car didn’t come up short? On a more rational level, the Contour was a great car. A poor man’s BMW if you will, especially in SVT digs.

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch

    I appreciate greatly the review.

    I just got done a comparo read in CAR with the Avensis Wagon and or the Mondeo wagon…

    How would you say they do in comparison? There is a really NICE shot of the two cars.. nose to nose, and the Knetic design has it over.. whatever Toyota is trying to pull over there. They look.. almost completely alike, small cuts and chisels in the design.. is the only visible differences.

    I did hear.. that while the Mondeo is a UK “product” it would “merge” with the Fusion for the U.S in the next generation. Nice to hear.

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