Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Driveway - Bill Buys

WHEN the last Fal­con rolls off the pro­duc­tion line in Oc­to­ber next year, this is the car that will fill the void.

The pre­vi­ous Mon­deo wagon had al­ready as­sumed the role left va­cant by the Fal­con wagon af­ter it was dropped in 2010 — soon, the Mon­deo sedan will do the same.

The new Mon­deo is just 7cm shorter and 1.6cm nar­rower than the Fal­con and yet its boot ca­pac­ity is greater.

It is loaded with more tech­nol­ogy be­cause it was built with Ford’s global ve­hi­cle devel­op­ment bud­get.

Start­ing from $32,790 plus on­road costs, the new Euro­pean­built Mon­deo costs al­most $2500 less than the cheap­est lo­cally made Fal­con. With the new Mon­deo, Ford has in its sights the Toy­ota Camry.

Ford has thrown ev­ery­thing at the new model.

It is, for ex­am­ple, Australia's first car with rear seat­belt airbags as stan­dard across the range (bring­ing the airbag count to nine). Touch­screen nav­i­ga­tion and dig­i­tal ra­dio are in­cluded on ev­ery model. Top-end ver­sions have radar cruise con­trol, lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance and au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing (now with pedes­trian de­tec­tion) at speeds up to 40km/h.

There is no rearview cam­era on the most af­ford­able model.

The Mon­deo also has a smart key that lim­its the top speed of the car and the vol­ume of the ra­dio, de­signed to give peace of mind to par­ents of novice driv­ers.

As with many new Fords, if a mo­bile phone is paired, the Mon­deo will au­to­mat­i­cally dial 000 if the airbags are de­ployed in a crash and send the lo­ca­tion to emer­gency ser­vices, re­duc­ing re­sponse times.

The Mon­deo shares its four­cylin­der en­gine with a Fal­con yet is thirstier, de­spite be­ing about 100kg lighter.

Fal­con fans may lament the pass­ing of gutsy rear-wheel drive per­for­mance, but the new Mon­deo is no slouch.

Its turbo-charged four-cylin­der petrol en­gine — also used in the Fal­con Eco­boost, the Kuga SUV the Fo­cus ST hot hatch — works smoothly with the six-speed auto, en­dow­ing the Mon­deo with more oomph than a Camry, Mazda6 or Subaru Lib­erty.

The Mon­deo feels sure-footed in cor­ners and sup­ple over most bumps.

The steer­ing can feel too di­rect at times and the front end thumps more than usual over pot­holes.

There is only a space-saver in the boot, rather than a full-size spare.

In the cabin, the Mon­deo has am­ple space. Its front-drive lay­out gives plenty of leg and head­room— more than the Fal­con although not as much as a Camry.

The new Mon­deo also sym­bol­ises the mas­sive im­prove­ment in Ford ve­hi­cles glob­ally.

There’s good odd­ment stor­age in the doors, cen­tre con­sole and glove­box.

The in­te­rior ma­te­ri­als — and what the car in­dus­try calls "per­ceived qual­ity" — are above av­er­age for this class.

There is no doubt the new Mon­deo is a solid ef­fort, with enough tech­nol­ogy on the most ex­pen­sive ver­sions (which top out at more than $50,000 on the road) to chal­lenge the best in the medium-size sedan busi­ness.

Cashed-up Ford didn't skip a beat in the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, while its peers were be­ing bailed out, or hit the brakes on re­search and devel­op­ment, or both.

The Mon­deo shows just how much of a head start Ford has on its main ri­vals. Holden Malibu any­one?

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