Packing up the Mondeo hybrid for a long drive
It looks like Ford's big car is on the way out - so Campbell Spray starts the long goodbye by taking the hybrid estate on holiday
Many might like to conjecture that the Ford Mondeo, similar to so many big saloons, could be headed for the knacker's yard within the next three years or so. In some ways that would be a pity, as on its day it was one of the best cars to drive with almost faultless dynamics.
Yet we waited too long for the latest model, and when it came the SUV/Crossover craze was running riot, so big saloons were not the first choice for families. Yet the return of the Toyota Camry after a long absence from these shores may mean that all is not lost. I have had some great times in Mondeos over the years as well as its forbears.
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So, I was in quite a nostalgic mood when I picked up the Ford Mondeo Hybrid Estate to take on a trip to Donegal. Mondeo Man lived again.
The estate version was one of the biggest load carriers in the business, however the batteries for the hybrid electric power have taken a big chunk of the space behind the rear seat, probably almost halving the area between floor and pull-out cover. Yet despite that I am a serial over-packer we managed to get in a fold-up double canoe, a massive suitcase - that could probably take two bodies - and a whole array of other luggage, including dog beds, four very large supermarket carrier bags and, on the return, a lot of purchases while still keeping everything out of sight.
However, the most impressive thing about the Mondeo Hybrid was its economy. We did a lot of fast motorway driving as well as the testing Donegal roads and by the time we returned to Phibsborough 800km had been built up, yet there was still 115km available and 300km had been done in EV mode. The overall consumption had levelled out at 5.1 litres per 100km. Not bad at all for a large comfortable car, which - as you will see from the photograph above, taken outside our very favourite hotel, Rathmullan House - also has a certain charm.
Talking of Rathmullan, this was our third trip there in four years, and we love it. Not only do they have great dog-friendly rooms; a superb restaurant, the Tap Room, with Kinnegar beers and great pizzas; but the hotel overlooks Lough Swilly, and you just walk across the front lawn to a glorious Blue Flag beach. Oh, of course, there's also the delightful White Harte bar overlooking the pier.
But back to the Mondeo. It is ideal for a long journey even if most of the time the back seat was only taken up by our Jack Russell, Ziggy.
The test model was the Mondeo Titanium Hybrid Estate in Moondust Silver. It is in the 126-140 emissions band and main features were: the very satisfactory 16in alloy wheels; power folding door mirrors; SYNC 3 with 8in touchscreen; parking sensors - front and rear; keyless entry; cruise control with speed limiting device; traffic sign recognition; and lane keeping aid.
Additional options include: privacy glass at €150 and metallic paint for €600. All pretty normal and very much musts on a car in this price range. There should also have been a rear camera, if not an all-round-view one. While the Mondeo starts from a very low €22,513, the HEV estate model came in at €35,247, and with additional options, €35,997 (this excludes p&p).
It was a good car for the trip but it seems like the start of a long goodbye. I feel that Ford has given up on it. An icon will go out of motoring and political discourse. A fully electric Mondeo doesn't seem on the cards - Ford SUVs like the Kuga are likely to get that - but the company is generally coming very late to the EV party.
The day I gave back the Hybrid Mondeo, I was whisked off to spend a day with the new Ford Focus ST, which claims to "blend track-day performance, B-road fun and everyday usability without compromise". Now I can't talk about the "track-day" stuff unless you take in a fast chase down a motorway, but a few hours of driving across mountain roads during which the weather would switch from absolute torrential downpours to awful steamy heat meant that you couldn't fault the "usability without compromise".
I'm not a target market for the fast ST cars (the ST-line range is different - style without substance) but in a good year Ford would sell about 50 of them at prices that will start at €40,000. The uncertainty in the market might change that.
They are fun to drive, especially with the great throaty roar of the Ford's 280 PS 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol. The new engine line-up makes available to drivers up to 12pc more power and 17pc more torque compared with the previous generation ST. The petrol engine deserves to be the most popular choice, but there is also a 190 PS 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel. Both deliver a broad spread of power and torque across for fast sports performance. Ford's first application of an electronic limited-slip differential (eLSD) for a front-wheel drive vehicle further enhances the cornering and stability of the EcoBoost-powered variant - sharpening responses to changing grip levels and driver inputs using computer-controlled pre-emptive actuation. The Michelin tyres are excellent.
A choice of six-speed manual or quick-shifting new seven-speed automatic transmission is offered, and Selectable Drive Modes technology is introduced to the Focus ST for the first time, enabling drivers to adjust the vehicle's character to suit the driving scenario.
"We've incorporated learnings from programmes including our Ford GT supercar and the acclaimed Focus RS to develop a mid-size performance car with a degree of flexibility that's unique in its segment." said Leo Roeks, Ford Performance director, Europe.
I wish Ford luck with the Focus ST. It's definitely fun, looks sportier, is fast and well built, but a bit like the Mondeo, these sorts of cars will become dinosaurs. Although the investment in dynamics should trickle down to keep cars like the Fiesta at the top of their game. Ford is going through a lot of change, which will impact heavily on the Irish HQ in Cork. I wish them well, they are good people.
While I was with the Focus ST news came of the pricing for the all-electric MINI (below). At €27,765 on the road for an iconic car - which is celebrating its 60th anniversary - this is a great way for city dwellers especially to get into the EV market while having all the MINI style and driving ability we all love.
Range is between 230-270km. Deliveries will start next March, and I can't wait to give it a blast.
This time a classic deservedly lives on.