Built for com­fort

Euro­pean Mon­deo aims at Mazda6 and Camry plus big-six buy­ers

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@news.com.au

NOW that the Fal­con has dropped off shop­ping lists, the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion on the mid-sized Mon­deo in­creases.

Aus­tralians ig­nored the first­gen­er­a­tion car launched here in 1995, stick­ing with the big Aussie six.

Sub­se­quent Mon­deos failed to find many buy­ers, de­spite the prom­ise of spir­ited han­dling and prac­ti­cal­ity.

The latest Mon­deo has ar­rived fresh from Europe with smart styling and plenty of gear, in­tent on soak­ing up some of the Fal­con buy­ers as well as snatch­ing cus­tomers from Mazda6 and Toy­ota Camry.

DE­SIGN

The Mon­deo makes its pres­ence felt thanks to a mus­cu­lar de­sign. It can be con­fused with the Fal­con from a dis­tance, thanks to the Ford fam­ily head­lights and “hun­gry fish” grille.

Iron­i­cally, the bon­net has a big­ger bulge than the XR8 Fal­con.

The styling on the in­side is fo­cused on mod­ern el­e­gance. Ford has taken away many but­tons, hid­ing func­tions in menus on the cen­tre touch­screen or in­stru­ment clus­ter dis­play.

This makes for a less clut­tered in­te­rior. The dash­board is dom­i­nated by the eight-inch touch­screen and the au­dio panel be­low, while the speedo and tacho are dig­i­tal read­outs, which look pretty cool.

It has com­fort­able seats with good qual­ity leather trim and a heater for front and rear alike — which is quite rare — and rear pas­sen­gers also get air vents.

The hatch gives ex­cel­lent ac­cess to the cargo area. The boot is not overly deep but it is long (ca­pac­ity is a de­cent 557L with five seats in place and a whop­ping 1356L with the sec­ond row folded).

ABOUT TOWN

Sat­nav is stan­dard on the Mon­deo range, as are the touch­screen, front and rear sen­sors and re­vers­ing cam­era (but Am­bi­ente mod­els built be­fore June miss this fea­ture).

The Ti­ta­nium and Trend get auto brak­ing at low speeds, col­li­sion avoid­ance with pedes­trian de­tec­tion and lane de­par­ture warn­ing. Blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and park­ing as­sis­tance are stan­dard on the Ti­ta­nium, which gets a power tailgate ac­ti­vated via the key fob and closed with a but­ton on the tailgate.

Steer­ing is very light, mak­ing city park­ing easy, but the Ti­ta­nium sus­pen­sion (in the stan­dard set­ting) is or­di­nary at lower speeds.

ON THE ROAD

The Mon­deo used to be a bit of fun when it was a sporty han­dler but this one is more of a pie floater. Its rear sus­pen­sion ar­chi­tec­ture is en­tirely new but it is tuned to en­able ex­ces­sive move­ment — there is too much ver­ti­cal travel and the body sways from side to side over some bumps.

Switch­ing to the Sport sus­pen­sion set­ting (in a hard to find menu) helps rein it in — but then it is too firm and all the bumps are passed on to the cabin.

The steer­ing has a non­lin­ear re­sponse, es­pe­cially just off cen­tre. It doesn’t feel quite right and gives lit­tle con­fi­dence. This is a sur­prise from Ford, which nor­mally makes cars that head the class when it comes to fun.

Ford Aus­tralia should push for a chas­sis and steer­ing tune that bet­ter suit this mar­ket.

PER­FOR­MANCE

The 2.0-litre turbo four — shared with the Fal­con — is a rip­per. With 177kW/345Nm in the Ti­ta­nium (a lesser ver­sion has 149kW), it clearly out­punches the Mazda6 and Toy­ota Camry.

It is also a smooth-revving job yet there’s a hint of rorti­ness — but it doesn’t get too rau­cous. The six-speed torque con­verter au­to­matic works well and gear changes are barely no­tice­able, a sign of a slick driv­e­train.

Fuel con­sump­tion is noth­ing to write home about, at 8.5L/100km, which is not all that far off a Fal­con. A leaner diesel Mon­deo is an op­tion. The Camry Hy­brid is the best choice in the class for fuel mis­ers.

VER­DICT

Stylish and prac­ti­cal with all the gear at a good price, pity the steer­ing and sus­pen­sion are not quite right.

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