GENEVA PREVIEW: Ford details redesigned Mondeo
Having previewed its new D-segment contender in wagon form at the Paris motor show late last year, and given the public a glimpse of the hatchback in the latest James Bond movie, Ford has now released details of the full redesigned Mondeo range ahead of its debut at Geneva next month.
While Japanese rival Nissan has now abandoned this segment in Europe, dropping the unsuccessful Primera, Ford is wading in to do battle with the other local volume contender - GM Europe's Opel/Vauxhall Vectra - with a full range of four-door sedan, and five-door hatchback and estate (wagon) body styles and a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines. Sales of the Belgian-built line begin next June.
Mindful of the encroachment of low-end 'premium brand' models like the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series into the minds of D-segment buyers with a top-specification Mondeo company fleet budget to spend, Ford is stressing the quality and technology of its redesigned range.
The Ford Easyfuel capless refuelling system with fuel inhibitor to prevent misfuelling is a pioneering development, likely to attract the eye of fleet managers. When Ford announced it late in 2005, it said that over 150,000 people in the UK alone every year put the wrong fuel in their cars (usually petrol into a diesel tank).
The new system guards against either petrol or diesel mis-fuelling at the filling pump as the fuel filler neck aperture has been specifically designed around the different sizes of fuel nozzles. The system is engineered only to allow the nozzle that matches the corresponding fuel type of the car to enter the filler neck.
Other standard equipment across the range includes electronic stability programme (ESP), Thatcham category 1 alarm, air conditioning, 'follow-me-home' headlights, trip computer and an MP3 connector socket.
Four distinct trim/equipment grades will be available with each body style: the Edge, which provides a high level of standard equipment aimed at business and family buyers; the 'contemporary' Zetec series, and the top Ghia and Titanium X models.
The Ghia is the 'classic luxury' model, with extensive use of chrome and wood decoration inside while the Titanium model "will appeal to those customers favouring a more contemporary, technology flavour", according to the automaker.
New driver-focused technologies available as standard or options include keyless entry and keyless start with 'Ford Power' start button, a new 'Convers+' human machine interface (HMI) instrument display (with a sat-nav-sized 16:9 aspect LCD screen between the main dials), adaptive cruise control with forward alert, interactive vehicle dynamics control with hill launch assist, and tyre pressure monitoring system.
Diesel engine options are: 1.8-litre 100PS or 125PS Duratorq TDCi diesel with five-speed manual transmission as standard and a six-speed option for the 125PS version; 2.0-litre 140PS diesel with six-speed manual transmission; and a 130PS version of that engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The petrol engines are a 1.6-litre 'Duratec Ti-VCT' in 110PS or 125PS tune with five-speed manual; two-litre 145PS with five-speed manual; a new 2.3-litre 161PS I4 with six-speed automatic; and a range-topping, performance-orientated 2.5 litre 220PS I5 six -speed manual transmission - this engine is already used in other European Fords such as a sporty Focus hatchback.
Major chassis modifications include a wider track, revised front suspension design, redesigned rear suspension, an isolated rear subframe and modified steering.
The new generation Mondeo retains MacPherson front suspension and, at the rear, gets a new version of the proven multi-link rear suspension design now with an isolated subframe mounting system with four links to control each wheel precisely.
Engineers have also managed to reduce interior noise levels 3dB across the whole frequency range, compared with the current model. Wind noise, measured in Ford's state-of-the-art aero-acoustic wind tunnel is c;aimed to be the lowest in the class.
Over 4m Mondeo models have been built at the Genk plant it replaced the Sierra in 1993 and more than 1.5m of those were sold here in the UK.
Though designed primarily for Europe, the Mondeo will be exported further afield but US sales have been ruled out as the model would clash with the domestic Fusion line there. The first-generation Mondeo was, with only minor changes, built and sold in the US with Ford and Mercury badging, but not the second generation. Ford US executives have recently indicated they are eyeing the European range for models suitable for the US but are expected to opt for specialty models like the S-Max minivan.
European Mondeos have also found their way to Asia-Pacific markets over the year; the current model is a top-seller in New Zealand against stiff Japanese competition. Australia took the first generation car, but not the second, but slowing sales of its locally-made Falcon due to high fuel prices, might prompt Ford Australia to give the latest line a look.
The Mondeo is also likely to make it to Asian markets such as Taiwan where Ford has a strong presence, and a manufacturing plant, as well as China where the current generation is assembled and sold with rear seat and cabin upgrades for buyers who are chauffeur-driven.
"The exciting new Mondeo is very important to us", said Ford of Britain's chairman and managing director Roelant de Waard,. "It's probably the most elegant car we've ever launched, and it's certainly the most technologically-advanced.
Like the S-Max, Car of the Year 2007, the new Mondeo will attract many new customers to our showrooms as well as delighting our loyal UK customer base," he claimed.