UN­COV­ERED

Driven: Ford’s for­got­ten Mon­deo mid-sizer

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

WE don’t hear much about this at­trac­tive and prac­ti­cal five­door hatch­back which also comes as a wagon.

It’s an Euro­pean al­ter­na­tive for the Fal­con which has ended pro­duc­tion af­ter buy­ers re­jected big Aussie sixes and mi­grated to SUVs.

But not ev­ery­one wants a SUV and there are Fal­con own­ers want­ing to re­place the car with some­thing which is not much smaller, more eco­nom­i­cal and tech-savvy.

En­ter the Mon­deo, Ford Europe’s big­gest pas­sen­ger car, and avail­able in Aus­tralia for some time, but un­til re­cently, over­shad­owed by the Fal­con and SUVs.

It’s do­ing quite well this year with sales of 1145, third in its seg­ment be­hind Toy­ota Camry (6274) and the Mazda6 (1190). Its per­for­mance is up nearly 15 per cent this year and by al­most 50 per cent last month.

DE­TAIL­ING

The re­view car was the mid range Mon­deo Trend cour­tesy of a rental car com­pany in New Zealand.

It came to my res­cue and was hastily hired at sig­nif­i­cant cost af­ter flight can­cel­la­tions.

It cost $488.04 for one-way hire (in­clud­ing in­sur­ance) and $73.12 for fuel.

The Trend five-door hatch is avail­able from $ 37,990 petrol au­to­matic on the road.

It in­cludes the more pow­er­ful 177kW/345Nm 2.0-litre four­cylin­der turbo EcoBoost petrol en­gine.

There’s pl e n t y o f ge a r in­clud­ing a re­vers­ing cam­era, auto-fold­ing ex­te­rior mir­rors, key­less en­try and start, adap­tive cruise, lane- keep as­sist, auto high beam, heated front seats, as well as a push- but­ton start, auto-dim­ming rearview mir­ror, 10- way pow­ered and par tleather front seats, au­to­matic wipers, par­tial leather seats, auto head­lights, idle-stop, cruise con­trol, dual- zone cli­mate con­trol , a le a t h e r wh e e l , Blue­tooth au­dio and phone stream­ing , SYNC2 vo ic e com­mand, DAB+ digital ra­dio, fo g - l ig ht s , f ront and rear park­ing sen­sors, LED tail-lights, fol­low-me-home light­ing and 17-inch al­loys.

The Trend only re­ally misses out on the flag­ship Ti­ta­nium’s auto tail­gate, sun­roof, adap­tive dampers and 18-inch al­loys.

The five-door hatch is large and spa­cious, al­though the slop­ing coupe-like roofline and high win­dows do re­duce side and rear vi­sion.

The dash­board lay­out and ma­te­ri­als are top class with so­lid­ity, logic and sim­plic­ity. It’s invit­ing with plenty of show­room pull.

The cen­tre con­sole is dom­i­nated by a touch­screen­op­er­ated dis­play with stan­dard nav­i­ga­tion, en­ter­tain­ment, cli­mate and phone op­er­a­tions.

It is co l o u r co de d an d pre­sented with­out too much dis­tract­ing de­tail, each works well. The Blue­tooth phone/ au­dio stream op­er­ates with ease and clar­ity.

The SYNC2 voice com­mand sys­tem can be an­noy­ing at times, how­ever, un­til you learn to speak ‘her’ spe­cific lan­guage, any­way.

It’s a shame a digital speedo read­out isn’t in­cluded with the ana­log di­als.

The driv­ing po­si­tion is first class with ef­fec­tive ven­ti­la­tion and many stor­age choices.

Ford seems to have adopted Volvo- style er­gonomic seats, mix­ing firm­ness and soft­ness with ex­cel­lent head­rests and side-sup­port, for pain-free and re­lax­ing long-dis­tance com­fort.

The rear is com­fort­able too with cen­tralised rear air­vents, a read­ing light, a 12V out­let for charg­ing de­vices and suf­fi­cient stor­age.

Lug­gage ca­pac­ity is vast with 458 litres ex­pand­ing to 1356L when the rear seats are folded to a flat floor.

DRIV­ING

The turbo en­gine is quiet and par­tic­u­larly smooth, quick off the line and ac­cel­er­ates with al­most star­tling ea­ger­ness all the way beyond the 6500rpm red-line, aided by a slick-shift­ing and well-cal­i­brated six-speed torque con­verter au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. There are wheel­mounted pad­dle shifters.

It re­minds me of a BMW or Benz turbo four.

It has in­cred­i­ble over­tak­ing abil­ity, it pulls force­fully at high­way speeds, re­flect­ing this en­gine’s au­to­bahn breed­ing. It is re­laxed and re­fined.

The Mon­deo’s sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol sys­tems did an ex­em­plary job of chan­nelling the 345Nm of torque through the front wheels.

I hit the road at 10.20am, mind­ful of speed lim­its, high­way pa­trols and speed cam­era units. My flight was leav­ing at 6.15pm. I wanted to be there by 3.30pm.

De­spite log­ging trucks, car­a­vans, pour­ing rain and road­works, I reached Auck­land Air­port with three hours to spare, with­out cre­at­ing any land speed records.

At one stage I was be­hind a Jaguar XK-R coupe and I could see he had a radar de­tec­tor fit­ted. I was hop­ing to tag along but he was gun-shy.

The Ran­giteiki Plains on the ru n in t o L a ke Ta u p o i s tremen­dous cruis­ing coun­try and there is a temp­ta­tion to up the ante.

Ho we v e r , th e r e wa s tor­ren­tial rain, speed was down to 80km/h and it was im­pos­si­ble to pass be­cause of the poor vis­i­bil­ity.

It is a sporty drive with good brakes and a com­fort­able and re­lax­ing ride.

DE­CID­ING

The Mon­deo was im­pres­sive. Com­fort­able, quiet (ex­cept for road noise over coarse bi­tu­men sur­faces), rel­a­tively eco­nom­i­cal (8.2L/100km over 400km) and a pu n c hy 2 . 0 - li t r e pe t rol tur­bocharged en­gine, which was su­perb for over­tak­ing.

The Mon­deo Trend EcoBoost is a good com­bi­na­tion of dy­namic prowes s, ri de sup­ple­ness.

It’s the sweet spot in Ford’s range.

Do your­self a favour and get smart and get be­hind the wheel of a Mon­deo be­fore con­sid­er­ing any­thing else first.

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