First drive: 2014 Ford Mondeo

Ford Mondeo

Where once the Ford Mondeo was synonymous with working Britain, the Blue Oval has lost market share in the family saloon sector to premium German opposition, namely the BMW 3 Series. Ford is aiming to claw back customers with this all-new model, by pushing the Mondeo further upmarket than ever before. AOL Cars headed to the south of Spain for a shakedown test.

What is it?

The fourth generation of Ford's flagship car is the first Mondeo to be developed under the company's 'One Ford' policy of creating a single car to appeal to markets around the world. It'll be available in the UK in hatchback and estate body styles (and as a four-door saloon in hybrid guise only), and boasts sharp new styling, aimed at presenting a more prestigious image to appeal to buyers who have in recent years favoured the likes of the Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. It's a similar story inside, where an increased toy count and generous space both in the front and rear see the Mondeo squaring up to its premium competition. Ford keenly claims that its big car's dynamics make it the best driving car in its class too, and going on past experience of previous generations, there's no reason to doubt that, but more of that below.

What's under the bonnet?

The familiar mix of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines, with a couple of surprises. Heading the petrol range is a 2.0-litre Ecoboost unit, available in 237bhp and 200bhp states of tune. While both are impressively brisk, whisking this big car up to 62mph in 7.9 and 8.7 seconds respectively, they are likely to be rare sights on British roads. More popular will be Ford's new 158bhp 1.5-litre Ecoboost unit, which offers a more rounded blend of performance and economy, managing 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds and returning 48.7mpg. A three-cylinder, 1.0-litre Ecoboost engine, most commonly seen in the Fiesta supermini, will also be offered in due course. We'll reserve judgement until we've driven it, but we can't help think that this motor, while relatively powerful for its size, will feel overwhelmed in a car as big as the Mondeo,

Of greater interest to UK drivers will probably be the diesel offerings, of which there are three: a 113bhp 1.6-litre, available in ECOnetic trim for car tax busting CO2 emissions of 94g/km, and a 2.0-litre, offered with 148bhp and 178bhp. A 207bhp twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel will join the range later this year.

All new for the Mondeo is the addition of a hybrid version to the range. It uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor for a combined power output of 184bhp and CO2 emissions of 99g/km. It's not a plug-in hybrid system like that offered on the newly announced Volkswagen Passat GTE, and will not offer emissions-free driving for more than a couple of miles at a time. However, it is to be competitively priced, costing around the same as a mid-range diesel model.

What's the spec like?

Buyers will have a simple choice of four trim levels. Starting from £20,795, the entry-level 'Style' grade is pitched more towards fleet use, though comes with crucial bits of kit such as cruise control, dual-zone climate control, DAB digital radio, 16-inch alloy wheels and Ford's SYNC 2 infotainment system, which is driven through a high resolution eight-inch colour touchscreen.

'Zetec' trim - tipped to be the UK bestseller - adds to this tally with a heated front windscreen, electric windows all around, front fog lamps, power folding mirrors and body coloured bumpers. Prices start at £21,045.

For £22,245 'Titanium' adds 17-inch alloys, sports seats, sat nav, automatic lights and wipers, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, ambient interior lighting and a TFT display nestled between the dials.

Available in conjunction with Titanium trim is the X Pack, which, for a £2,000 premium, adds leather upholstery, LED headlamps, heated and electrically adjustable front seats with memory function, keyless entry and tinted windows at the rear.

Ford has priced many of its choice options keenly, meaning you won't have to opt for a bells and whistles version just to get the bits of kit you want. Highlights from the extensive array of offerings include Active Park Assist, blind spot monitoring and a rear view camera.

Any rivals?

Traditionally, the Mondeo has competed with the likes of the Volkswagen Passat and Vauxhall Insignia, though has seen hugely increased competition from the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4, with buyers seduced by their premium interiors and badge prestige. Spec for spec, however, the Mondeo represents much better value than either, being available with a greater amount of kit for less. It's not as though it trails behind in terms of interior ambience, either, being as quiet and refined as anything the Germans can offer, with only some rather drab cabin plastics letting the side down. Only those after the last word in driver entertainment may want to look elsewhere, namely to the BMW, which leads the field in this respect.

First drive: 2014 Ford Mondeo

First drive: 2014 Ford Mondeo

What's it like to drive?

That the new model inherits the Mondeo DNA is evident in the first five hundred yards of driving. The ride is well judged: shielding occupants from the worst imperfections on the road but not resulting in any exaggerated pitching and wallowing in the bends. In fact, body control is very good, with the car remaining faithful and poised even on the tight, twisting roads of our test route. There is however a slight lack of sharpness compared to the outgoing model, highlighted by a switch to an electric power steering system that is slightly less direct and forthcoming with feedback.

Given how most Mondeos are used – being flogged mercilessly up and down the motorway – of more interest to buyers will be the Mondeo's exemplary cabin refinement. Even in the diesel model there is nary a hint of engine noise, with only a dull roar from the tyres at speed intruding on the tranquility inside.

Of the engines, we tested both the 178bhp 2.0-litre diesel and the 156bhp 1.5-litre petrol model. Both are to be recommended, though the diesel feels the more complete package, with more low down torque to make light work of powering what is a rather large car. The 1.5-litre would also be a more than adequate companion, particularly for users who spend most of their time in town. However, driven at speed on the demanding inclines and undulations of our Spanish test roads, this motor did feel as though it needed working hard to maintain momentum.

The AOL Cars verdict

Another stellar performance from Ford. The new Mondeo keeps the likeable traits of its forebear, namely its huge cabin and boot, comfortable ride and engaging drive, though is improved in almost every other area, with greater levels of technology, an improved infotainment system, and a refreshed cabin boasting better quality materials. It may have lost a smidgen of dynamism, but it's hardly a deal-breaker, as the Mondeo remains one of the best driving cars in class.

The knowledge

Model: Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 180 Titanium manual
Price: £24,245
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo diesel
Power: 178bhp
Max speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
MPG: 64.2 (combined)
Emissions: from 115g/km CO2