Mondeo comes of age with range boasting new style, talents and a hybrid

Fourth-generation Ford Mondeo is the most stylish, roomiest yet with the widest range of powertrains

Fourth-generation Ford Mondeo is the most stylish, roomiest yet with the widest range of powertrains and a host of new safety features. - Credit: Charlie Magee

Ford's Mondeo celebrates 21 years of innovation with a hi-tech, high-spec all-new generation that drives it forward, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

As the Mondeo celebrates its 21st birthday, it is fitting that Ford is launching the fourth generation and the long wait is over – the European launch of this global car was delayed while production was switched to Valencia in Spain.

Over the Mondeo's 21 years, 4.5 million have sold worldwide – almost a third of them in Britain with a big proportion of them going to fleets.

With sales in its class shrinking, the Mondeo is not the big seller here it used to be but, in a world market, the One Ford mission and vision means it is still a model in which Ford can justify some serious investment. The Mondeo is still very much a halo model in showrooms, demonstrating what Ford can do and showcasing its latest technologies.

Ford is proud of the new Mondeo – hailing it as the most stylish, best driving, safest, greenest and roomiest ever. You wouldn't expect top brass to say anything less but, having driven it at the international launch, I don't dispute any of it.

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It's certainly the best-looking with the new Aston Martin-like face (once owned by Ford), already seen on the Fiesta and Focus, and a bold design highlighted by the strong crease line, linking the front and back lights. Dark colours show it off best – hence the ruby red and deep impact blue hatchbacks and estates at the launch event.

The new range also boasts the widest range of engines – all with standard auto start/stop, even the automatics. The 160PS 1.5-litre and 203 and 240PS 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo petrol engines will be joined by the 125PS 1.0-litre EcoBoost – international engine of the year three years running – while the 115PS 1.6-litre and 150 and 180PS 2.0-litre turbo diesels will be joined by a 120PS 1.5-litre turbo diesel and 210PS twin-turbo 2.0 TCDi as well as all-wheel drive versions of the 150 and 180PS diesels.

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The 1.5-litre EcoBoost is smooth and refined even when worked – just as well as it needs to be to make this big car feel lively – but gets vocal.

Diesels will power 90% of Mondeos with the sub 100g/km 1.6 TDCi Econetic appealing to business-users and manual 150 and 180PS 2.0 TDCi hatchback putting out only 115g/km of CO2. The 180PS version proved easier and more relaxing to drive with more low-down urgency and fewer gear changes, not that it's a hardship given the light, slick shift.

The Mondeo also debuts the first hybrid electric vehicle made by Ford in Europe which is offered only as a Titanium trim saloon – the only four-door Mondeo for Britain.

It uses two electric motors – one to support the 2.0-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine – and the other to charge the drive battery when braking.

With a total output of 187PS, the hybrid has a combined economy figure of 67.3mpg – but more than 100mpg on the urban cycle – and 99g/km of CO2.

At £24,995 it is priced the same as an automatic 150PS 2.0 TDCi turbo diesel Titanium hatchback and Ford says it will account for about 3% of total UK sales.

With a standard CVT automatic gearbox, it's easy to drive but is raucous under hard acceleration when the revs surge.

Ford claims the hybrid is capable of up to 85mph in electric mode but, on a short drive at the launch event, most journalists found it difficult to drive on purely electric power with the engine having a tendency to cut in at the merest squirt of throttle.

With the battery behind the back seats, boot volume is cut to 383 litres even with a tyre repair kit instead of a spare wheel.

The Mondeo has always been something of a class benchmark when it comes to ride and handling and Ford has upped the ante again with new integral link rear suspension, a stiffer chassis, new brakes, a host of electronic aids to keep the Mondeo on course and, for the first time, electric power-assisted steering.

It's all very technical but the result is a sublime balance between agile, well-mannered handling and brilliant bump control – capably damping irregular urban surfaces at low speed and wafting over them on a fast cruise. The Mondeo is so good to drive that it can rival premium products from German manufacturers.

The cabin also has an upmarket feel and a more tasteful appearance than the previous model with interesting trim highlights and focal points but less 'bling'. The instruments are big and clear and major controls well placed but, on models with a wealth of safety features, the fascia throws a lot of information at the driver and it takes a little while to find your way round all the buttons and display menus but they soon become pretty intuitive.

The Mondeo is still a big car so boasts more than enough head and legroom for six-foot occupants to stretch out in comfort, front and back, while the hatchback's 541-litre boot and estate's 500-litre load bay are deep, flat-sided and go back a long way so swallow luggage easily.

Despite being 25kg lighter – most of the weight savings were 'reinvested' in features to improve fuel economy, comfort, convenience and safety. The Mondeo sees the global debut of a new pre-collision assist system with pedestrian detection – part of the adaptive cruise package – which automatically brakes if the driver does not respond to warnings. Another new safety feature, a £175 option, is the European debut of inflatable outer rear seatbelts which disperse crash forces across an area of an occupant's body five times greater than a conventional seatbelt.

One of the technology highlights, standard across the range – Style, Zetec and Titanium with the latter also offering an X Pack – is the new Sync 2 connectivity system with advanced voice control and an eight-inch touchscreen to operate things like phone, entertainment and navigation via simple conversational language – you can even say 'I'm hungry' to bring up a list of local restaurants.

The Mondeo is not the force it was in Europe but it's easy to see why it is still a big player on a world stage.

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