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Mazda3


Ford Mondeo

Summary

Mazda3

We all know that X means buried treasure in the world of children’s book pirates, but it’s looking like it could hold similar relevance for what lies under the bonnet of future Mazdas.

We first officially heard about Mazda’s industry-leading Skyactiv-X technology at the brand’s Global Tech Forum in Germany two years ago, but now we’ve ventured back to Germany to drive it in production form ahead of its Australian arrival aboard a new flagship version of the Mazda3 early next year. 

No other manufacturer has managed to productionise compression ignition for a petrol engine, and with an underlying intention to make the combustion engine work better for everyday driving, in the face of the electric-focus of all other global brands, this could be the most exciting technological development of my career.

Why invest so much in combustion engines if every other major brand is beginning to treat them like yesterday’s news? While the Japanese government predicts that 52 per cent of new cars sold in 2030 will use some form of electrification in their drivetrain, the same data suggests 90 per cent will still use an internal combustion engine as at least an element of their drivetrain. That’s 90 per cent of the market, more than a decade from now.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.5L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency6.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Ford Mondeo

Yes, this is a Ford Mondeo review in Anno Domini 2018.

This assumes, of course, that Ford even still sells the Mondeo, and despite the fact that it's the third best-selling car in the segment, Ford oddly doesn't seem keen to talk about it.

Why? Perhaps Ford doesn't want anybody to get overly attached to a sedan-y hatch that has a cloudy future in an ever-shrinking mid-size market. After all, there's still a rather vocal sect of the population feeling burned by the end of the Falcon dynasty.

You'd also be right to assume those numbers are padded out a fair bit by corporate leases. Salesmen in England were long referred to as Mondoe Men for a reason. I'll tell you this much, though, I'd be pretty stoked if I got one of these Mondeos as a lease.

As an FG Falcon owner, for most intents and purposes it would even be a half-way decent replacement for my large sedan. Stick with me as I explain why.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.1L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mazda38.4/10

Unlike most big technological advancements, this isn’t about extra performance or reinventing the wheel, it’s about Mazda’s bigger picture approach to deliver the best mobility solutions for right now, while still planning for electric and fuel cell vehicles in the future.

That may sound like a line straight out of the Skyactiv-X press release, but Mazda’s realistic approach to our continued dependence on combustion engines is commendable. 

My final judgement will have to wait until we know how much more it will cost over a regular Mazda3, but I can say the technology works really well and should really suit Australian conditions.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.


Ford Mondeo7.5/10

The Mondeo creeps to the forefront as one of the best Fords with the smallest marketing budget.

Well equipped, reasonably fun to drive and semi-luxurious to be in for long periods, it's hard to remember why it's so forgettable.

Its certainly worth your consideration over its rivals, but then perhaps you don't want to fall in love with another Ford potentially headed for the chopping block in the near future.

Did you know Ford still sells the Mondeo, and would you ever consider it? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Design

Mazda3

Aside from the stunning good looks of the new Mazda3, the only visual distinctions the Skyactiv-X version scores over a regular high-sec model are bigger exhaust tips like those seen on the latest version of the Mazda6, and a Skyactiv-X badge in place of the regular models’ Skyactiv-G. 


Ford Mondeo7/10

There's no doubt that the Mondeo is a chunky monkey. Just get a look at those proportions, it looks like a dense rectangle's worth of car, and that's before you line it up next to something else for perspective.

In this case I sat it next to my Falcon. Once the largest sedan on offer by Ford in Australia, in some ways it looks dwarfed. The Mondeo is taller and just as wide, but not quite as long. A quick comparison of spec sheets proves it's not much lighter either, despite the Falcon sporting a cast-iron engine that's literally twice the size.

The front three-quarter especially makes the Mondeo look tough. The big catfish-esque grille combined with the slimline headlight clusters and bonnet ripples make it look aggressive - like a rolling advertisement for the Mustang.

Head round to the rear three-quarter, however and things get a little… off. The raised dimensions and high rear light features make it look too tall. The 'liftback' roofline does no wonders for the car's proportions either.

It's a shame that after so many decades of Mondeo there is still apparently no way to make that rear-end appealing.

Inside there are also plenty of quirks. While there are some parts that really work, there are also some that don't.

The plush leather seats unique to the Titanium grade are lovely, but they're positioned so high up you'd be forgiven for thinking you were at the helm of an SUV. The sunroof is also so far back it's basically useless for front passengers, yet it eats their headroom (also, it's just a glass roof that doesn't open).

Then there's the switchgear, of which there is an overwhelming amount. You're presented with a sensory assault of buttons and displays, half of which could seemingly be easily offloaded onto the multimedia system. It's an approach that dates an otherwise modern-looking cabin.

Eerily similar to the Falcon, the fan speed and temperature controls aren't dials (a user experience nightmare) but the volume control is… go figure.

Those gripes aside there's plenty to like about the Mondoe cabin. There are soft-touch surfaces everywhere, helping the car live up to its luxury spec and price point, while all the switchgear and interactive parts are solid and tough, just like the Mondeo's big brother, the Ranger.

While the digital dash is way too busy, it presents the relevant information well, and is a good interactive design once you get used to it.

The back seat is a very nice place to be, making full use of that big glass roof, and the rear seats are just as plush as the front ones. If you spend lots of time ferrying friends or family around, it's a strong point for the Mondeo.

Practicality

Mazda3

It’s a similar story for practicality, except it’s completely identical to the regular Mazda3 this time. So expect the same decent interior packaging and convenience for four adults, with a 295L VDA boot and a space saver spare tyre under the boot floor. 


Ford Mondeo8/10

Do you like stowage spaces? Good, because the Mondeo has heaps of 'em. No longer content with just making one huge plastic fascia across the dash, there's a surprisingly large extra stowage space sitting below the air-conditioning controls. That joins a massive centre console box, with two USB ports and an extra tray layer for tidbits, as well as one of my favourite features, two truly massive cupholders. These show Ford's American influence as much as the aforementioned chunky switchgear.

The cupholders spent our weekend easily swallowing two phones, two wallets and two sets of keys with no problem at all. They'll fit your XL Coke no problems.

As I mentioned before, front passenger headroom is impacted by the glass roof, and there's a slightly claustrophobic feeling brought about by the huge swooping A-pillars, which also create a bit of a vision impairment for the driver. The SUV-like seating position can potentially be awkward, room-wise, for people with chunkier knees, or those that prefer sitting in a low, sporty position.

Up the back there's plenty of legroom and space for heads and arms and legs. I fit easily behind my own driving position, and there's the luxury of a fully leather-bound fold-down armrest with two big cupholders for rear passengers.

The keyless entry is also truly keyless, in that all four doors can lock or unlock the whole car at a touch. Another nice feature for when you're ferrying people around.

Boot space is also colossal, thanks to the liftback design. Ford states the size as 557 litres but as this seems to be a non-VDA-standard measurement it's hard to compare to competitors with numbers. Rest assured it will swallow a set of suitcases with ease, and the space is a practical rectangle with little intrusion from wheel arches.

Price and features

Mazda3

This is probably the biggest question mark above the Mazda3 Skyactiv-X’s head for now, with all we know being Mazda Australia’s plan to launch it as a new top-spec version, so sit above the existing $36,990 G25 Astina flagship. 

How far above will be the clincher, and given it’s not likely to quite match the performance of the G25, it will depend on what value you place on outright driveability and a marginal fuel saving over the base 2.0-litre engine. 

Like the rest of the Mazda3 line-up, we also expect to see the Skyactiv-X with a choice of hatch or sedan bodystyles with either manual or automatic transmissions.


Ford Mondeo8/10

Today's Mondeo has evolved to adapt to modern expectations for a mid-size sedan. It's a far cry from the budget Mondeo of the ‘90s and even approaches territory that once would have been restricted to cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. No, really.

Our top-spec Titanium, for example, is packed with heated and leather seats front and rear, a power tailgate, auto-leveling ‘dynamic' LED headlights (the ones that move where you're pointing the steering wheel.), a fixed panoramic sunroof, power tailgate (handy) and even an auto-dimming wing mirror on the passenger side. The Titanium also gets a different digital instrument cluster and a heated windscreen.

These join the regular suite of Mondeo features such as Ford's Sync3 multimedia system on the 8.0-inch screen (thankfully, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), rain-sensing wipers, Digital radio (DAB+) and adaptive cruise control (part of a rather excellent safety package).

It's an impressive features list, which means nothing if the price isn't right. Our Titanium EcoBoost comes in at $44,790 before on-roads, pitting it against the Holden Commodore RS-V sedan ($46,990), Mazda6 GT sedan ($43,990) and Toyota Camry ($43,990).

You may also want to consider the Hyundai Sonata Premium ($45,490) and, dare I say it, the $45,990 rear-wheel-drive Kia Stinger 200S

None of those rivals have the heated windscreen or fully digital dashboard, though, and only the Mazda6 GT has heated seats front & rear. The Commodore RS-V is the only car here than can match the 8.0-inch screen size, but it does come with the addition of wireless phone charging and a colour head-up display. Food for (value) thought.

Engine & trans

Mazda3

What’s compression ignition again? It’s basically how a diesel engine works, by using extreme pressure instead of spark plugs to burn fuel. Skyactiv-X still uses spark plugs, but only to kick off the ignition process and act as a safety net for cold starts and other edge cases, while extreme compression makes for much more effective combustion, which means improved efficiency. 

This combustion efficiency means the engine can use a much leaner fuel-to-air mixture, and make more power and torque with less fuel and even less wasted fuel out the exhaust. Mazda describes it as delivering diesel-like torque and fuel consumption, with the power, responsiveness and refinement of a petrol. Or in other words, one step away from turning water into wine... 

Mazda is calling the process Spark Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI), and the extreme pressures required to make it all happen are created by higher static compression ratio (but less than a typical diesel), much higher fuel pressure and boosted air pressure entering the combustion chamber. 

Key to managing all these heightened parameters (and the very technological advancement that makes it all possible) is an ultra sensitive in-cylinder pressure sensor that has been developed specifically for this task. 

Delivering the boosted air pressure is a Roots-type supercharger - or what Mazda describes as a high-response air supply - which was chosen over other air pump designs like a turbocharger or the Miller-cycle supercharger previously used in Eunos models because of its instantaneous boost delivery and breadth of efficiency.

Speaking of breadth of efficiency, perhaps the biggest plus for average motorists is that the engine’s efficiency zone has multiplied, meaning the difference between city and highway consumption, leadfoot drivers and my Dad, heavy and empty loads etc will be far less than a typical petrol engine.

This all represents a continuation of core principles we’ve seen from the start of Mazda’s Skyactiv era. That is, to make an existing engine type work better under everyday driving conditions rather than targeting outright performance.

The Skyactiv-X era starts with a 2.0-litre based on the regular Skyactiv-G engine, with the same 1998cc capacity. Other capacities are planned, with the eventual reborn rotary looking increasingly Skyactiv-X along with a straight-six version for a new CX-9 in a couple of years. Smaller versions are unlikely due to the economies of scale involved with such technology in a smaller and therefore cheaper car. 

Mazda is making two versions of the Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre for now, one with 16.3:1 compression designed for Europe that favours Premium unleaded petrol, and one 15:1 version aimed at the US with their abundance of lower grade unleaded. 

Unlike conventional engines, it’s the lower compression version that will deliver the biggest benefits, because Skyactiv-X relies on the usually “bad thing” pinging to do its best. 

We’re set to get the Euro-spec one in Australia, which unfortunately means we won’t quite be getting the very best Skyactiv tech again.

The Euro-spec engine puts out 132kW at 6000rpm and 224Nm from just 3000rpm, which on paper sounds about halfway between the existing Skyactiv-G 114kW/200Nm 2.0-litre and 139kW/252Nm 2.5-litre petrol engines.

The engine also incorporates a mild hybrid system, but don't be confused by the H-word, there's no electric drive element. It simply means its got a cleaver alternator that only engages when needed and on deceleration to reduce efficiency-sapping drivetrain friction,

Pop the bonnet and you’re confronted by the biggest engine cover you’ve ever seen, but unlike most, this one is equipped with labeled latches that encourage you to have a look underneath. This encouragement continues with a clever little retention hook to hold the cover up against the bonnet while you’re poking around.

Unless you’re a Mazda engineer you’re likely to be baffled by the array of hoses, ducts and wiring, but you might get a kick out of spotting the supercharger.

There’s less to be said for the transmissions though, with versions of the existing six speed manual and torque converter automatics deemed up to the task, with the new engine’s increased efficiency zone negating any increase to the ratio count. The ratios have been adjusted to suit the new output characteristics, and while the ratios are yet to be published, there’s a narrower spread across the six with what feels to be taller first and sixth gears.


Ford Mondeo8/10

Ford offers two 2.0-litre turbocharged engines with the Mondeo, either a petrol EcoBoost engine or its diesel Duratorq equivalent.

The EcoBoost in our car is a bit of a gem. It produces an average sounding 177kW/345Nm when compared to the 220-plus-kW V6 engines in the equivalent Camry SL and Commodore RS-V, and it's even somehow out-played in the torque division by the Mazda6 GT, with its 170kW/420Nm.

As I'll explain in the driving section, however, it doesn't make the Mondeo feel any less powerful.

EcoBoost Mondeos can only be had with a six-speed traditional torque-converter automatic. Thankfully it doesn't carry 'PowerShift' branding either…

Fuel consumption

Mazda3

All this hooha about fuel savings, and Mazda is yet to confirm an actual figure for Australia. We do know the hatch is rated at 4.5L/100km in manual and 5.3L/100km in auto according to the NEDC, which is historically close to the figures generated by the ADR 81/02 test we go by in Australia. 

If it comes close to matching the NEDC figure it will be a win, sitting comfortably under the 6.4L/100km (manual) and 6.2L/100km (auto) figures currently applied to the Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre Mazda3 hatch

While the Australian-spec Skyactiv-X engine is expected to align with Europe rather than the US, and therefore be tuned to deal with Premium 95 RON unleaded, it’s still unclear if it will accept the cheaper Regular 91 RON unleaded.


Ford Mondeo6/10

Due to the entertainment factor given by the EcoBoost engine I wasn't particularly light on the throttle.

Ford claims you'll use 8.5L/100km on the combined cycle, which is 1.9L/100km more than the Mazda6 but on par with the V6 Camry and Commodore. In reality I experienced about 12L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the claimed figure, but not unusual for a keen-to-go engine. More on that in the driving segment.

For a bit of perspective, I can extract similar, if not better, fuel figures from my 4.0-litre FG Falcon.

Driving

Mazda3

What’s probably most amazing about Skyactiv-X is that you can’t really tell there’s anything special going on under the bonnet. 

Push the start button and it gets going like any other petrol Mazda, although perhaps quieter. 

Move off from rest and there’s no significant difference to the way it feels. 

When I drove the prototype version of this drivetrain, there was a slight pinging under light throttle as it transitioned from spark to compression ignition, but I’m pleased to confirm that the extra two years of calibration has tuned this down to the tiniest occasional diesel sound, and it all feels a bit like a smooth diesel that’s more responsive than you expect.

The European-spec Skyactiv-X 2.0-litre’s outputs suggest it should be closer to the existing 2.5-litre in terms of performance, but in reality it feels closer to the 2.0 litre.

My perception is likely to be clouded by the Skyactiv-X’s specific transmission gearing, but it could also be because it’s able to do the same job with less revs and therefore not sound like it’s working so hard. 

First gear feels quite tall with either transmission, and we also found the auto and manual were only sitting on 3500rpm in sixth at 160km/h on the Autobahn. 

Mazda doesn’t specify performance figures, so it would be handy to put all three alongside each other from a standing start. But then, that’s not what Skyactiv-X is all about, it’s more about performing better under light throttle and incidental bursts of acceleration. 

We can’t wait to put it to the test over some hilly terrain and familiar territory when it hits Australia early next year.


Ford Mondeo7/10

The Mondeo is thankfully quite a bit more fun than it looks. As I've been leading up to, the EcoBoost engine absolutely hammers with little encouragement. It's a hoot. The downside to this is that the fuel figure suffers.

Channelling 345Nm from as little as 2300rpm through just the front wheels also has the side-effect of tearing the steering wheel out of your hands under heavier bouts of acceleration. It does wonders to suspend the initial impression from the SUV-like seating position that this Mondoe must be a heavy car.

It definitely isn't a sports car, though, more of a semi-luxe sedan, which is a good thing, because when you're not driving as hard it's a pleasure to be at the helm of.

The steering is direct and light, making it easy to point at any speed, and in terms of noise the Mondeo is impressively quiet. There's barely a peep out of the engine. Road noise is great around town but increases a lot at freeway speeds and on rough surfaces, likely due to the larger alloys and lower-profile rubber.

The suspension makes for a mostly luxurious ride as well, but frequent undulations cause it to become unsettled side-to-side. Heavier bumps and potholes also resonate through the cabin.

It's almost annoying how close to excellent the refinement is.

The six-speed auto transmission is fantastic for a daily driver because you'll never know its there. I failed to catch it off guard once during my week with it.

There's a Sport mode and paddle-shifters you can use to make it stay in gear a little longer, but with the amount of power seemingly available at a moment's notice I never felt like I needed it.

Safety

Mazda3

The existing Mazda3’s maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating will almost certainly be carried over, and the high level of safety gear fitted to the existing G25 Astina is also likely to be matched. 

This means front and rear airbag coverage, front and rear AEB, front and rear cross-traffic alerts, lane keeping assistance and blind-spot monitoring


Ford Mondeo9/10

Once you get to Titanium level, the Mondeo's safety offering is truly expansive.

On the list is Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) with pre-collision warning, Lane Keep Assist (LKAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Driver Impairment monitoring and trailer-sway control.

There are also a standard set of airbags with a few sneaky extras like inflatable rear seat belts on the outer two rear seats,which join ISOFIX points in the same position. Since April 2016, every Mondeo has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

These join the very welcome surround parking sensors, rear-view camera and auto-park, which make not nudging things in the Titanium a cinch.

And a boon for long-distance drivers is the fact that all Mondeo hatchbacks have a full-size steel spare.

Ownership

Mazda3

Service pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but Mazda engine development boss Eiji Nakai assures CarsGuide that the new engine will not need servicing more frequently or cost any more to service than existing Skyactiv-G engines.  

So expect the same 12month/10,000km intervals, with five year/50,000km capped servicing plan totalling just under $2000 over that period.  

Like all new Mazdas, the recently upgraded five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty will apply to the 3 Skyactiv-X. 


Ford Mondeo7/10

Ford has recently updated its warranty to five years/unlimited kilometres, which is a nice standard, although it is now matched by Holden and Mazda. Toyota lags behind with a three-year offering. The Kia Stinger starts to look very impressive here with its seven-year warranty.

At the time of writing, Ford's own service calculator tells us the Mondeo will cost a minimum of $370 per year or 15,000km (whichever comes first) service interval. Every fourth year that jumps to $615.