A station wagon has finally arrived to fill the Ford Mondeo family in Australia. But it comes at a cost - the Mondeo sedan is gone, leaving the wagon to slide in alongside the hatch in the latest MB Mondeo range - and prices have risen a little.
The cheapest Mondeo is now the LX hatch from $31,990, while the LX wagon is priced from $32,990 and revised and improved upmarket hatches begin with the new Titanium model at $42,90. There is still a diesel hatch, the TDCi, from $39,990.
The new wagon is just what we expected and intended as a serious threat to Holden's Commodore Sportwagon and the hordes of SUVs sold in Australia. It is well equipped and full of space.
There are two wagon models, the LX and Zetec, and both use the existing 2.3-litre cylinder unleaded engine and six-speed automatic gearbox. There is 542 litres of basic boot space - more than the Sportwagon, as Ford staffers point out many times - rising to 1733 litres with the rear seats folded flat. There is extra underfloor storage for some smaller items.
To put the Mondeo into perspective, Holden makes a maximum of 2000 litres with the Sportwagon but Ford still rules thanks to the 2584 litres in the homegrown Falcon wagon.
Space is still a priority in the mid-sized Mondeo class, but Ford's vice-president of sales and marketing says the wagon retains the hatchback's driving qualities. "It drives like a sedan, the customer looks at it as not making a compromise, they just needed more space; the space is a "surprise and delight" thing for them," says Beth Donovan. "We have more cargo space than a Sportwagon, with good fuel economy from the petrol engine, it's got plenty of hi-tech features as well," she says.
Donovan says Ford doesn't see the Mondeo wagon competing with the BF III wagon because they are aimed at different customers. "That (Falcon) is a non-private vehicle that is built to order for company fleet. What we're finding is the Mondeo wagon fits better into the private sector, it's appealing to a different buyer," she says.
The LX wagon has a decent features list for $31,990, with air conditioning, front power windows and an eight-speaker MP3 compatible sound system as well as voice-activated Bluetooth phone link, cruise control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Zetec is priced from $36,990 and ups that list with 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, a Sony sound system, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, parking sensors; added to the Zetec spec is a USB input for the sound system (with full iPod integration) and the human-machine interface control system previously only on the XR5.
The hatch-only XR5 sports model starts at $44,990 and now has active cruise control, keyless entry, voice-controlled Bluetooth phone link, a sunroof, 18-inch alloys, bi-xenon headlights with cornering lights and alcantara/leather trim with red stitching.
The MB Mondeo update also introduces the Titanium model, which gives those looking for an XR5 without the clutch pedal something to consider. The Titanium sits on 18-inch alloys and sports suspension, with alcantara/leather trim, heated front seats, a sunroof, the keyless start system, voice-controlled Bluetooth and rear ventilation, as well as the adaptive cruise control with forward alert and dynamic headlights with swivelling low beam headlights and static cornering lights, firsts for a Ford vehicle in Australia.
The updated Mondeo range is well-featured - particularly from an active safety and infotainment perspective - putting itself ahead of much of its opposition in the segment for features and safety gear as well as remaining a well-balanced machine to drive.
The 118kW/208Nm 2.3-litre petrol engine is smooth and quiet, which is a good thing because it has to work hard to keep the Mondeo rolling along. The uprated 103kW/320Nm diesel is quiet and powerful, and a far better all-rounder. The ride quality on the top-spec models with sports suspension and 18-inch wheel/tyre package isn't exactly supple, but the wagon are a good drive on the open road, despite the extra weight over the rear end.
There is little of the booming noise you sometimes get in wagons through the large loadspace and the car is very smooth and quiet overall, even when working the 2.3-litre engine hard. The LX/Zetec models offer a better ride/handling compromise. If you're looking for loadspace without the desire for an SUV, or the thirst of an SUV or V6-V8 wagon, then the new Mondeo deserves a place on the shopping list.
Ford Mondeo Wagon
Price: LX $32,990; Zetec $37,990
Engine: 2.3-litre 16-valve four-cylinder
Transmission: six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Fuel consumption: 9.5L/100km