First Drive: Ford Mondeo facelift and Titanium Sport X

Officially, this is the Mondeo facelift, but "engine-lift" would be a more accurate description. There are two new engines: a 2.2 TDCI diesel with a more-than-respectable 200bhp and an unfeasibly powerful 2.0 Ecoboost petrol with 240bhp.

The strange thing about these two engines is how similar they are, despite being powered by different fuels. The diesel is the most petrol-like unit ever seen in a Ford or indeed in any car. Unlike many highly-tuned diesels that have little power below 1,800rpm and then suddenly explode, the Mondeo 2.2 is pretty-well linear in its response. The torque (pulling power) builds smoothly and rapidly until it hits a plateau at around 2,000rpm. The proof of its responsiveness is the excellent 0-62mph time of 8.1 seconds – diesels usually struggle off the line until the boost kicks in, but not this one.
Conversely, the petrol is almost diesel-like in its massive torque (250lb/ft) and its claimed economy (36.6 mpg). However, there is still something very appealing about a petrol engine that can rev happily to 6,000rpm and emits a sporty growl while it's doing so. As to which motor to choose, it is one of the hardest petrol/diesel calls in the market. In terms of driving pleasure, the petrol engine still shades it, but the 47mpg diesel does have the lead in economy.

It partly depends on what transmission you want to choose: the 200bhp diesel is manual-only (at least for now) and the 240 bhp petrol is automatic only (via a twin clutch system like VW's DSG). The key factor is company car tax, and indeed whether your company will even still allow cars over the 160g/km tax threshold, in which case the 179g/km petrol is out of contention. The 200bhp diesel just gets under that particular barrier with 159g/km of CO2.

But what of the actual facelift? You might not guess it, but Ford says 1,350 parts have changed, including a new bonnet, front end and rear tailgate. The overall effect is subtle to put it mildly, but if you look at the old car and the new car together, the new one definitely looks a bit classier and more sophisticated – especially at the front.

The theme continues inside with new instrument graphics and a smart new satin black centre console. The combination of styling upgrades and the new petrol engine turns the Mondeo Titanium X Sport into a genuine executive car. Whisper-quiet, smooth and with a well-damped, compliant suspension, it is hard to see much objective difference between this car and, say, an Audi A6.

On the other hand, this is probably just as well given the prices – Ford is yet to confirm figures before it goes on sale in November, but it is expected to be in the region of £26,000. That sounds an amazing amount of money until you remember that the Vauxhall Insignia 2.0 Turbo is £25K – and it has 20bhp less and CO2 emissions 25 percent higher than the Mondeo.

However, the most important change to the Mondeo is still to come. In 2011, the 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrol will be downsized to a 1.6-litre and 160bhp. Ford reckons (and we would agree), that this will be the first genuine alternative to a diesel for most mainstream buyers. It thinks the new engine will boost petrol share of Mondeo sales from 10 to 30 percent as customers find the petrol engine is cheaper to buy and almost as cheap to run (especially as it will have the same company car tax rate as the diesel). The petrol fightback is about to begin.
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