Remember once upon a time when the Ford Mondeo was Britain's best-selling car, or at least thereabouts? Well, now it doesn't even make it into the top ten. Tellingly, the BMW 3-Series outsells it.
Ford would like to change that and here in Paris it's unveiled a new Mondeo, which it wants to kick up market – trying to win back many of those company car users who've migrated up to a 3-Series or A4.
Does it stand a chance? On first impressions, no. The new Mondeo may have a smart new face, which the mainstream media may have told you features an Aston Martin-like grille. Don't believe this, it's much more Audi than anything else in reality and while striking and purposeful, it gives way to a car that can't quite sign the cheques the face writes. The 5-door hatch might have a little bit of Audi A7 in profile and you may think the Mondeo fundamentally prettier than before – but it ultimately forgoes any sense of real "premium". Mondeo or one of the German triumvirate of C-class, 3-Series or A4? Ninety-nine out of 100 people would still be reaching for a set of German keys, we reckon.
It's a big car though - almost too big for some of Europe's smaller cities and Britain's tight parking spaces. At more than 4.8m long, it's as big as cars from the class above. Blame the fact the Mondeo shares much of its design and pretty much all of its underpinnings with the US Fusion.
In Europe, we're getting 5-door and estate versions only, but other markets get a 4-door too. But if you're liking what you see, don't get too excited yet – as the Mondeo is still 14 (yes, fourteen) months from going on sale. Just as well, because the cars in Paris featured a level of build quality and finish so poor that we can't remember seeing the like of at a major motor show for years. Sunglasses storage bins that had jammed shut, doors that wouldn't shut properly and panel gaps so big you could - on some cars - see what engine they were running without opening the bonnet, doesn't bode well. But part of the reason for the long launch lead is that Ford says it couldn't hit its quality target by the planned launch in the middle of next year, so has pushed it back. Expect major tweaking and improvement before cars you can actually drive hit the ground.
Inside, there's a much simpler design theme, with far fewer buttons. The Mondeo's user interface - like many American Fords - has been built around the Sync/MyFord Touch, touchscreen system, which cleans up all the buttons and controls and groups most functions into one (very large) central touchscreen. The gauge cluster is largely digital too – a central speedo in many versions, flanked by two reconfigurable TFT screens. It looks cleaner and the screen is accurate and fast if these show-stand cars are anything to go by. But the interior's nothing to write home about as a piece of design or a place to sit. It doesn't feel special. An Audi A3 absolutely murders it for perceived quality, material authenticity and user interface logic and layout.
The new Mondeo will be much more efficient, though. Ford's bringing the Ecoboost 1.0L (yes, a 1.0L engine in a Mondeo!) engine, along with a hybrid, to the engine party, this time. Both of which are likely to give the Mondeo class-leading fuel economy and emissions figures. There'll be a range of other petrols and diesels, along with the option of a dual-clutch auto transmission. Expect the Mondeo – when it finally arrives – to cost from a little under 20 grand.
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