Shrinking world of Mondeo
Still a delight to drive, but as the big Ford goes hybrid, Campbell Spray discovers it isn't so booted and suited
Twenty-one years ago when Tony Blair won an historic election for a "new" Labour Party, part of his strategy was appealing to the "Mondeo man", the archetypical aspiring, often self-employed person who wanted a house and a big car and had very middle-of-the- road views. He or she was the successor to "Essex Man" who had put in Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives in 1979.
In fact, Tony Blair had developed his strategy thinking of "Sierra man" but as that big Ford had been replaced by the Mondeo in 1993 (which sold 127,144 that year in the UK) the name had to change and was well embedded by the time Blair made his famous speech in 1996. In that election year of 1997, the Mondeo sold 322,716 throughout Europe. Last year it sold 56,173, even though it had undergone a long-awaited refresh a couple of years before which saw it become the 2016 Irish Car of the Year.
The decline of the Mondeo mirrored the massive fall in saloon car sales generally as the move to SUVs and, especially, Crossovers gathered pace.
However, there is a fairly large cohort of people who still want traditional booted-style cars, even if the rear is sometimes more of a hatch or liftback than traditional boot.
Just last week we saw the launch of the very tasty Honda Civic saloon and earlier in the summer, the new Peugeot 508 saloon was getting a lot of plaudits. The Mondeo brought a new type of excellent responsive front-wheel driving to the marque, which, in the words of one noted commentator, had been "launching some of the worst-handling Fords in a generation".
Now the engineers, said Andrew English in The Telegraph five years ago to celebrate 20 years of the Mondeo, "had thrown off the accountants' shackles and under the leadership of Welsh engineering wizard Richard Parry-Jones said, 'Never again'.
"The Ford Mondeo was their first car, and even now to have worked on the original Mondeo is the source of immense pride."
This was to be a world car, the very name Mondeo meant world, which could sell around the world broadly unchanged. It didn't happen, of course, for years.
It was, said English, the car that taught the public that steering integrity, low noise and vibration and top-notch ride and handling do matter.
And those were the very reasons why I was delighted to be back in a Mondeo at the beginning of this month.
This was especially so as it was the first hybrid model and with grants comes in at around €9,000 cheaper than the equivalent diesel, even though I was driving the very top-of-the-range Vignale model at €35,240, €2,500 above the entry-level Titanium Mondeo HEV.
Although the Mondeo has lost a bit of its lead in driving abilities over the last few years it is still a very impressive car; very large, comfortable and extremely well equipped. The hybrid uses two electric motors - one to support the petrol engine in driving the wheels and another to enable regenerative charging to the 1.4 kWh lithium-ion battery behind the rear seats. It gives better consumption than the equivalent diesel.
However, the whole project is compromised by that large battery, which seems to almost halve what used to be a stupendous rear carrying area, even when the seats are folded down. It is a pity and takes away many of the benefits of such a large saloon. It wouldn't get the vote in this form.