REVIEW DATE: 12 Sep 2007
Ford's Mondeo has long been a firm favourite with business users but can the latest model meet the growing challenges of the modern fleet market? Steve Walker reports
For the lucky employees that get to make it, the decision over which company car to choose is a big one. The boxes you tick on the selection form will define your place in the business world, demarking your allotted position on the rat race starting grid for the next few years. It's not a call you want to get wrong.
This is the market where Ford Mondeos have traditionally flourished. Along with fellow medium range stalwarts like Vauxhall's Vectra and Volkswagen's Passat, it has been the darling of fleet managers and browbeaten sales reps for more than a decade. Competition, though, has never been stiffer. Prestige brands are turning the heads of the Mondeo's core market with lustrous premium hatchbacks and lower-end compact executive models. There's also the growing band of compact 4x4 models to consider and all the time, the taxation burden is prompting more people to take the cash allowance and buy their vehicles privately. So where does all this leave the latest Mondeo? Is its traditional blend of qualities still relevant enough to maintain its position as a fleet sector favourite?
Given the importance of the company car as a status symbol, it's hardly surprising that the prestige brands are enjoying increasing success in the fleet sector. When faced with the choice of a bog standard 3-Series or a well-specified Mondeo, there's a definite tendency amongst corporate climbers to go German. But are they making the right choice?
Cost is king in most company car selection decisions. The 2.5T Mondeo variant we've been testing comes in at nearly £24,000 which puts it dangerously close to some decent compact executive metal. The car is fully-loaded, however, with Titanium X trim and a 217bhp 2.5-litre turbocharged engine that is never going to be popular choice amongst fleet customers. The engines that are far more likely to appear on the radar of company car buyers are the economical 1.8 and 2.0-litre TDCI diesels. Priced predominantly in the £16,500 to £21,000 bracket, these Mondeos are at a level that will only get you into the reediest petrol-engined 3-Series. They're also well-equipped to help company car users circumvent the chancellor's best efforts to get his hands on their cash.
"Cost is king in most company car selection decisions"
The entry-level diesel is a 98bhp unit but at motorway speeds it feels like its working hard. The 123bhp 1.8 is much better for big mileages, adequately powerful and reasonably composed when cruising. It will return 48.7mpg which is only 1mpg down on the 98bhp unit and CO2 emissions of 154g/km aren't half bad. The 2.0-litre TDCI is better still. 138bhp gives this car a muscular turn of speed for overtaking and firing up those motorway on ramps. The hefty torque delivery gives an effortless quality to the driving experience and with 47.9mpg possible, there's no great penalty at the pumps. The CO2 emissions rating is low as well, at 156g/km. In terms of running costs, there isn't a huge difference between the diesel Mondeos but the performance benefit of the bigger engines does make itself felt. The message is go for the most powerful TDCI you can afford.
The latest Mondeo has impressed us consistently. It's a car that edges extremely close to the best compact executive models in terms of interior ambience and build quality while setting new standards for its medium range contemporaries. Some doubts have been expressed over the excessive use of aluminium-effect plastic on the centre console of our Titanium X test vehicle but the slick control interfaces and the general solidity of the construction are real eye-openers.
The boot is enormous. Press the release and the tailgate of our hatchback model yawns open to leave you teetering on the precipice of a veritable pit of practicality. Family holidays, business trips or the weekend DIY blitz - the Mondeo will accommodate more stuff than you'd credit in any number of situations. When it is time to load up and run for the sun, there should be little complaint from back seat passengers either, with exemplary head and legroom right across the rear bench.
The downside of all this space on the inside is that the Mondeo is a seriously big car outside, bigger than the old Ford Scorpio executive saloon. It feels substantial and extremely solid on the road but the sheer size becomes a real issue in tight situations and when parking. Get the Mondeo out in the open and all this is forgotten. It shines brighter than any other medium range offering whether you're attaching a set of sweeping bends or a marathon motorway trip. The suspension is extremely well judged, giving the firmness and control you want for spirited driving but without crossing over into the harshness that makes mundane trips a chore. The car is a pleasure to use on longer journeys where wind and road noise are never intrusive and the engine idles away meekly in the background until called upon to deliver the goods.
This Mondeo is a very different proposition to the iterations that have gone before. The squeeze has been put on the medium range sector from all sides and the usual low cost, low quality repmobile recipe is no longer good enough to secure sales from fleet or private buyers. The Mondeo upped its game and the results are genuinely impressive. There will be company car buyers who simply must have the car park cachet of a German badge on their bonnets but the amount of Mondeo you get for the same money makes the Ford a highly tempting option for free-thinking buyers. The gap from medium range to compact executive metal has never looked smaller.
The results below show the top MONDEO deals on buyacar
|Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 140 Titanium 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 163 Titanium X Business Edition 5dr diesel estate|
|Price £18,465||Save £6,580|
|Ford Mondeo 1.8 TDCi Zetec 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Ford Mondeo 1.8 TDCi Titanium 5dr  diesel estate|
|Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 163 Titanium X Business Edition 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £17,571||Save £6,224|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT MONDEO DEALS|
|OVERALL||7.6 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
Let our car quote assistant help you configure your ideal new Mondeo - it's 100% free and easy to use...
Click below for more information: