The arrival of the new Mondeo couldn't have been at a more crucial moment for Ford as some of its biggest rivals launch competitor cars at the same time, so this much-anticipated new model faces some big challengers.
In the Metal:
Looking past the rich metallic paint and larger alloy wheels of this range-topping Titanium spec, the all-new Ford Mondeo is a very good looking car at its core. The front grille tows the company line in terms of style and shape whilst the smaller, sharper looking headlight units ape those of the latest generation Mustang - which is no bad thing whatsoever.
Coming back from that front is a bonnet that is in keeping with the Blue Oval's muscle car heritage given the clearly defined, almost bulging lines, all of which help to emphasise the car's purposeful-looking front. In fact you could almost go so far as to say that it looks plain aggressive. In side profile the Mondeo looks far better than its predecessor thanks mainly to a shoulder line that wouldn't look out of place on an Audi and a more flowing roofline that falls to meet a rear end that is a much neater design. There is still a degree of similarity with the previous generation in the rear styling but on the whole it is a car that is greatly improved from an aesthetic standpoint.
In the face of greater competition from rivals and expectation from consumers Ford has made a considerable effort in improving the quality of design and finish with the Mondeo's interior, and to an extent it has done a good job. That busy, somewhat cluttered centre console of the past is gone in favour of a simplified layout, which, in our Titanium spec test car, was dominated by an eight-inch colour touchscreen that also features an updated Sync 2 voice controlled infotainment system, but even though this is big improvement it is still dated looking, especially when compared to its latest rivals.
Another area where the Mondeo falls behind is the quality of the materials used throughout the interior. Even on this highest-spec version the plastics don't come up to par when compared against its biggest rivals and despite Ford's claim that this new car is a more 'premium' model than before, the apparent lack of more luxurious materials and technological features as standard still leaves much to be desired. On a more positive note the driving position is good thanks primarily to a new front seat design, which offers increased levels of support.
The Mondeo has always had a solid reputation for being one of the few large saloons that still retained engaging driving dynamics and this remains somewhat true of this new model. Yes, some of the steering's mechanical feel has been lost with the move from hydraulic to electrically-powered assistance, but it still delivers plenty of positive feedback that surpasses the majority of its rivals.
The Ford's chassis is composed, remaining supple over bumps and poorer surfaces. When cornering it is planted and has plenty of grip giving an overall impression of a car that it is more than capable. On longer runs at high speeds, particularly on motorways, it is a quieter car than before - Ford claims it to be three decibels lower - with wind noise reduced by eight per cent.
Where the Mondeo's driving experience is let down is by the 180hp 2.0-litre TDCi diesel engine, which, rather surprisingly, feels underpowered. Its performance is undoubtedly impacted on by the evermore stringent Euro6 emission regulations, but considering that this is the more powerful of Ford's diesel engine line-up, the less-powerful and expectedly more popular diesel engines may leave many feeling underwhelmed.
What you get for your Money:
Unusually, Ford has taken the decision not to introduce an entry-level model from the off. That will eventually come in the form of the Mondeo 'Style', though it won't reach Irish shores until mid-January, so for now it will come in Zetec and Titanium trim levels. Prices will start at €28,995 for the Zetec, which will include 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, MyKey, Sync voice control, cruise control, leather steering wheel and electric windows all-round.
Building on that specification the Titanium level adds 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome door trims, automatic headlights and wipers, electrically-folding door mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, Lane Keeping Aid, Traffic Sign Recognition, the more advanced Sync 2 voice-controlled infotainment system with the eight-inch touchscreen, sport seats and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
Ford has introduced a host of safety systems in the Mondeo, including a new inflatable rear seatbelt system that applies the principles of an airbag to the belt itself. This is claimed to significantly reduce the risk of injury to the passenger in the event of an impact. The system will be available to order as an option at a cost of €200, though we can't help but feel that Ford has missed a huge opportunity by not making this a standard item in the new car.
One other useful system is MyKey, which comes as standard on Zetec level. This enables the main user of the car to pre-programme a spare key to limit the car to a pre-set maximum speed. Needless to say the potential benefits of this are big, whether it is a younger member of the family learning to drive or a fleet of company cars set-up to prevent users from ever speeding, while also helping to reduce fuel costs and lower emissions.
It may have some shortcomings in the engine performance department but overall the new Ford Mondeo is a car that many will thoroughly enjoy driving, in part because it lacks the overly sanitised, clinical nature of some of its competitors. It will find a huge number of buyers and rightly so, but we can't help but think that given the lengthy delays in bringing the new Mondeo to market, Ford could have used the time to really make it a class-leading car.