A trip to the Bay of Plenty and a chance to drive the Mondeo HEV hybrid has Mark Baker musing on the mainstreaming of hybrid technology.
Ford’s Mondeo HEV is the latest step in the mainstreaming of the hybrid. We drove it in the sunny Bay of Plenty on a mix of urban and rural roads. Given a sneak airing late last year at Fieldays in Hamilton and now available for sale, the Mondeo’s styling is unaltered in this latest hybrid version – a move Toyota and others have already taken, which indicates the widespread acceptance of hybrid drivetrains as mainstream and ‘normalised’. In a relatively short time, design teams have become confident enough to move away from making hybrids look like the car from the Jetsons. The same will no doubt follow for EV and PHEV cars – Mitsubishi for one is already heading down that route. The Mondeo’s drivetrain employs both light electric motor assist and petrol power from its 2.0-litre Atkinson engine. The ECVT transmission has six ‘speeds’ and offers crisp shift points, especially when used through the ‘paddle’ shifters on the steering wheel. The result is smooth, near silent running, low emissions and economy figures of 3.9 litres/100 km. In mixed driving in the Bay of Plenty it was relatively easy to coax the fuel computer down to this figure or better. A separate electric motor operates on deceleration to provide regenerative charging. The suspension is tuned to deal with the often uncompromising ride of ‘eco’ tyres, which are designed to enhance range and economy but often do so at the expense of ride quality. Despite a loaded spec that includes partial leather privacy glass, Apple Carplay and Android Auto along with Ford’s proprietary Sync infotainment portal technology, its starting showroom price has stayed at the initial indication of $55,900. The hybrid Mondeo is available only as a four door sedan, and Ford says its arrival is a pointer to full plug-in hybrid and pure electric versions likely in the next year or so.