New and improved
Goodbye, blue Mondeo Ford Mondeo -- PHOTO: FORD

Ford Motor Company is out to change the boring image of the Mondeo by making everything in the car brand-new and giving it a more mature style

THE previous-generation Ford Mondeo was a competent enough family saloon. It had neat and inoffensive looks, a commodious cabin, a solid feel and generous equipment.

But it was never a car that you could really look forward to driving - it was just too unexciting and ordinary for that. Its lack of styling and dynamic verve even earned it the somewhat unkind nickname of "Mundano" among some overseas journalists.

The all-new Mondeo is set to sweep all this under the rug, however.

Ford wants to change the way it thinks about itself, and also the way people think about it.

To achieve this, the company intends to position its products closer to those of upmarket German brands.

The motto DCDQ, meaning dependable, contemporary and driving quality, has been adopted to represent all future Ford models.

Dependability not only includes reliability (which previous Fords have not always been shining examples of), but also safety and durability. The contemporary bit means design and technology, and also making cars more user-friendly.

Finally, driving quality is much more than just dynamics; it encompasses comfort, practicality and ergonomics.

All this sounds ambitious, but the new Mondeo shows that Ford is well-prepared.

Everything in the car, from the engine to the suspension, is brand-new. The extra cabin space afforded by the 50 mm longer wheelbase has all been assigned to the rear, while the wheel tracks have been widened for greater interior room and better road holding.

Styling-wise, the Mondeo has gained sharply-drawn lines in place of curves, giving the car a more mature look. The exquisitely-detailed headlamps, front grille and flared wheel arches are design features taken from recent Fords like the Focus and Galaxy, and the neat styling is complemented by standard-fit 16-inch alloy wheels.

Cabin build quality is, reassuringly, several steps ahead of the old car's. You will not find any iffy switches on the dashboard, and everything feels classy. High-grade plastics are used everywhere and the aluminium centre console looks a million times more presentable than the fake wood trim used previously.

With height adjustment for both the seat and steering wheel, it is easy to settle into a comfortable seating position. All major and minor controls are located strategically for the best possible ergonomics and there is plenty of head and leg space for rear passengers. The boot can also accommodate more than two golf bags.

The new all-alloy 2.0-litre Duratec HE engine is a far cry from the coarse old Zetec unit. Designed by Mazda, the 145 bhp power plant produces a distinctive sporty note when revved hard, and it pulls willingly right up to 6,500 rpm. The four-speed automatic transmission shifts gears almost flawlessly, but its responsiveness could be better.

Despite having a supple ride, the car rolls surprisingly little in corners and its chassis feels balanced and taut on most road surfaces. Steering is on the heavy side during parking, but it proves quick and accurate once on the move.

The icing on the cake, however, is the price. At $109,900 with COE, the Mondeo is one of the lowest priced European saloons in Category B, yet the breadth of its abilities makes it feels much more expensive than it really is. In short, the Mondeo is a huge amount of car for the money.

Ford may not enjoy the strong brand identity of some high-end German marques.

But if DCDQ is also implemented on other models as it has been on the Mondeo, it will not be long before this situation changes.

FAST FACTS

Ford Mondeo Trend 2.0

Price: $109,900 with COE

Engine: 1,999 cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, double overhead cams

Max power: 145 bhp at 6,000 rpm

Max torque: 190 Nm at 4,500 rpm

Top speed: 210 kmh 0 - 100 kmh: 11.5 seconds

For details: Contact Regent Motors on 746-8880