Renault Clio VS Ford Mondeo
- Great chassis
- Decent specification
- Good all-round liveability for a hot hatch
- No AEB or rear curtain airbags
- No CarPlay, Android Auto part of expensive option pack
- RS Monitor no longer standard
- Well equipped
- Practical and refined
- EcoBoost engine hammers
- Hit and miss styling
- Inconsistent ride
- SUV-like seating position
I'm going to reveal something of myself here - I used to be a RenaultSport Clio owner. This is what the purists call what we now know as Clio RS, and I find myself constantly corrected yet unrepentant. It was a 172 - a nuggety three-door with wheels that looked too small, a weird seating position and a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine that was big on torque as long as you belted it.
It was a classic and you could still see the links back to the epoch-making Renault Clio Williams, that blue and gold Mk 1 Clio we never saw in Australia that redefined the genre. The current Clio has been around for four years now and I even drove this current RS Clio at its launch in 2013, memorable for the sudden bucketing rain that drenched the circuit and made things very interesting indeed.
This Clio was a big change from the cars that went before - slimmer-hipped, less aggressive-looking and with a 1.6-litre turbo engine, five-door-only body and (gasp!) no manual, just Renault's twin-clutch EDC transmission. It was a hit, at least with enthusiasts. Back then it was the dawn of a golden age in small hot hatches. But that was then, this is now. With a small power bump and a couple of features thrown in, is the ageing RS still at the pointy end?
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Yes, this is a Ford Mondeo review in Anno Domini 2018.
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.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
The Clio RS is still a ton of fun and in Cup spec, probably the best compromise between price and livability. Despite its advancing years (it turns five this year, so ready to start kindy) and big brother Megane hogging the limelight with a fancy new model on the way, the Clio is a stayer. It's missing some frustratingly obvious things like CarPlay, AEB, rear airbags and rear cross-traffic alert, but it's hardly alone in the segment.
With the departure of the Fiesta ST, though, the Clio returns to the top of the list of best small hot hatches on sale today.
Think the Clio is ready for the pension? It it living on franking credits it doesn't deserve?
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.
The Clio is a handsome small car but nothing out of the ordinary until you apply the very cool Liquid Yellow paint. That hue really is quite something and works even better with the black alloys of the Cup chassis.
The car has some lovely surfacing and in a recent-ish refresh, the slightly odd headlights were reworked, as were the front and rear bumpers which now link to the RenaultSport Megane. Sorry, Megane RS. The RS flag signature lighting is a nice touch, acting as DRLs at the bottom corners of the front bumper.
The lovely organic shapes of the Clio's sides still look good and the rather tough rear end with the chunky diffuser leaves you in no doubt that it's the proper RS not the halfway-house, 1.2-litre GT-Line.
Inside is starting to look its age, but graceful, a bit like Jamie-Lee Curtis' or George Clooney's embrace of grey hair. There are still some of the sharp edges I didn't like. It's certainly a Renault to look at and ergonomically works pretty well. One thing that has been fixed at some point is the switch on the gear selector - it won't bite you if you curl your finger underneath when you press it. You might think that's a small thing, but when you did it, damn it hurt.
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.
The Clio's interior is certainly snug. Rear seat passengers do okay for legroom but headroom is a mite marginal with the falling roofline for six footers. There are no cupholders out back, that curious French habit of supplying just a couple of cup receptacles of different and weird sizes persists. The front doors have space for bottles, the rears do not.
The boot is class-competitive at 300 litres (worth knowing the Trophy loses 70 litres to the Cup) and with the seats down stretches to a claimed 1146L.
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
The iconic 'Liquid Yellow' ($750 option) Clio I had for the week was the Cup spec chassis. The Clio RS 200, as it is officially known, comes in two specs - Sport and Cup - and there's a Trophy 220 at the top of the range. I had the Cup, which retails at $32,490 (plus on-road costs). The RS220 Trophy, with a bit more poke and stuff, weighs in at $38,990 if you're interested.
The Cup spec is heavily based on the more affordable ($30,990) Sport, which means you get 18-inch alloy wheels (painted black, so watch those kerbs), climate control, four speaker stereo, keyless entry and start (the "key" is still that unwieldy keycard style thing), reversing camera, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, fog lamps, LED daytime running lights, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, launch control, leather bits and pieces and a tyre inflation kit instead of any kind of spare.
The 7.0-inch 'R-Link' touch screen software runs the four speaker stereo with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB. If you get the optional RS Monitor, there is a full-on telemetry system from which you can save your, er, "track day" data and overlay in Google Maps to compare with your mates' or past efforts. You can also change the piped-in engine sound to various different sound effects which are delightfully silly.
Android Auto is part of the breathtaking $1500 'Entertainment Pack' option that includes RS Monitor (which used to be standard) and no, there's no Apple CarPlay. Leather is a further $1500.
Bottom line is that you do get a decent spec bump from the $30,990 Sport along with the more capable (and less comfortable) Cup chassis.
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).
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
The 200-equipped RSes pony up 147kW/260Nm, which is pretty much bang-on the obvious competition (Peugeot 208 GTI and the outgoing Fiesta ST), driving the front wheels through Renault's six-speed EDC twin-clutch. Unlike those two, there is no overboost function.
Dieppe's finest sprints from 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.7 seconds, pulling along a kerb weight of 1204kg.
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…
Renault claims 5.9L/100km on the combined cycle but, yeah, nah. My week was admittedly filled with plenty of horseplay and spirited driving, yielding 11.4L/100km. If you were careful you may fare better - but not that much better.
The fuel tank is a fairly standard 45 litres. It requires 98RON premium unleaded.
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.
The RS has always had a belter of a chassis. The Cup chassis became a thing just over a decade ago and is lauded by the fans as The One To Have. I've not always been convinced of this as my earlier drives of the Cup-equipped machines have usually been in close proximity to the Sport chassis.
The Cup is slightly lower than the Sport, with 15 per cent stiffer springs and dampers and perhaps more importantly it scores 18-inch wheels with Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 tyres, which you can reasonably expect to be a bit firmer than the 17s with Goodyear F1s on the Sport. And they are.
However, in most situations, the Cup chassis is perfectly benign. You certainly feel the bumps and lumps, but you haven't bought a Cup chassis for Lexus-like isolation. It's certainly sharper than the Sport chassis and when you're really giving it a go around the bends, the comfort deficit is more than made up for by the extra grip and poise.
The chassis is aided and abetted by a torquey 1.6-turbo that cheerfully...no, gleefully spins to the redline which could do with another thousand revs, but that's forced induction for you. The aluminium shift paddles need a good positive pull to get a gear, but that gear is delivered quickly and effortlessly. The Clio is a great deal of fun in Sport and Race modes, with throttle mappings and gearshifts becoming more aggressive as you switch through the modes.
The brakes are tremendously effective and the electronic limited slip diff (*cough* brake-based torque vectoring) ensures you'll hit your apexes and the tyres spend more time gripping than spinning.
But it's not all hairpins and off-camber left-right-lefts, is it? Plenty of owners have to live with the car in traffic day to day. Driving the Cup in isolation, I've changed my mind about it. I reckon it's the best of the two chassis settings. The city ride is better than decent, with the hard edges potholes chamfered off by the dampers and decent compliance. It's not too noisy, either.
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.
The Clio was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in November 2013.
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.
Renault says it was the first European maker to offer a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty in Australia, and who are we to argue? The package also includes up to four years of roadside assist and three years of capped-price servicing.
Renault expects to see you just once a year or every 20,000km, which gives you a bit more headroom than some similar service plans, at least on the mileage. The first three services will cost no more than $369 unless you need a new air filter ($38) or pollen filter ($46). At 60,000km or four years you'll cop $262 for a set of spark plugs. The company's website also suggests if the Clio doesn't like the state of its oil, it will beep at you until you have that attended to.
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.