At first glance, it looks as familiar as ever. But, Richard M Hammond drives the 2011 Ford Mondeo in the UK and finds it's been thoroughly updated
Mondeo man may not have proved as pivotal in the recent UK general election as he was back in 1997, but at least he can take solace in the fact that in the 13 years since, he has become better looking, more reliable and more powerful.
He may or may not be so pleased to hear that he's also become more exclusive. In the last decade and a bit, the company car-segment staple has been overtaken as the vehicle of choice for highway journey-men by the premium BMW 3 Series model, with drivers buoyed by a booming economy and an arguably more even distribution of wealth.
A couple of years on from the hardest-hitting recession of a generation, all of that seems a long time ago — and now the Ford Mondeo is gunning to bring some of those premium saloon drivers back into its fold as the age of austerity hits home.
There are one or two problems, however. Firstly, the Mondeo had become rather expensive and secondly, those drivers who have been enjoying the high regard, powerful performance and premium feel that a German marque affords have become somewhat accustomed to the trappings.
The responses have come two-fold. Ford has recently restructured its price plans across the existing line-up of models, offering far greater value across its range, including the Mondeo. And now, the bog saloon has been revised with the aim of offering more power, more refinement and a more premium feel.
Read any review of the previous generation Ford Mondeo and they'll tell you it's a vehicle that offers a class-leading package. Handsome good looks, a spacious interior, a contemporary cockpit and the crisp handling that's become expected of Ford models are all present.
It's probably for the best, then, that Ford has concentrated its efforts resulting in a revised model that is at once comfortingly familiar and yet, intriguingly different.
It's worth noting early on that the traditional four-door saloon model is no more in the UK. Its sales were so inconsequential that Ford has opted only to offer the sleeker five-door and accommodating estate there.
From the outside, the changes are subtle but apparent on closer inspection. The shared front ends are more in keeping with the Focus and S-Max models. The upper portion of the grille is sleeker, while the lower, trapezoidal portion has been made larger. Interestingly, behind the grille sits an adjustable flap system that deflects wind flow when it's not required for cooling, aiding aerodynamics.
LED running lights are integrated into the fog-lamp units and along the sides, more chrome around the windows of the upper trim level models highlights the sleek window line and gives a greater impression of quality.
The same effect is mostly achieved inside with revisions to details such as the door panel design giving a more upmarket and design conscious feel. The centre console boasts a simple and attractive layout while the instrument binnacle is very impressive, with a clear colour display conveying information in an effortlessly absorbed manner.
The menu-based interface takes a little practice to master, but is a success and even models equipped with the new lane departure warning and speed limiter options use a minimum of buttons. Also worthy of note are extremely comfortable and supportive seats, something which long distance drivers will really appreciate.
Material quality is good, with soft touch plastics to the upper portion of the dash. Only the satin-finish surround for the centre console is likely to divide opinion.
The changes go beyond cosmetics. Two new engine options include a 197bhp version of the 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel and a 237bhp, 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrol. The latter is available with Ford's six-speed, twin-clutch automatic transmission.
It's a slick combination and one that makes the most of the Mondeo's cossetting ride and responsive chassis, with seamless drive and an impressive turn of speed. Importantly, it's as smooth in town at low speed as when cruising, requiring no special treatment from the driver's seat.
As with the previous model, interior space is one of the Mondeo's trump cards. It feels hugely accommodating and the boot is generous in five-door form. For the driver, the impression of size remains present on the road — making it a tight vehicle to position against an oncoming truck — but it's a small price to pay for such accommodation.
Mondeo man can continue to feel on top of his game for a few more years yet Specs & ratings Model: Mondeo Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder Transmission Six-speed auto FWD Max power 237bhp @ 6,000rpm Max torque 360Nm @ 1,900rpm Top speed 246kph 0-100kph 7.5sec Price Dh99,000 (UK) Plus New engine, better looks, technology and space Minus German rivals are still better`