Toyota Corolla VS Ford Mondeo
- Well equipped
- Practical and refined
- EcoBoost engine hammers
- Hit and miss styling
- Inconsistent ride
- SUV-like seating position
The last time I drove a Toyota Corolla hybrid was a couple of years ago when I tested on by one by taking it 400km north from Sydney to a meeting of old cars with giant petrol engines, otherwise knows as a hot rod run, a pilgrimage to worship at the shortened exhaust of the combustion engine.
The good news is that nobody torched the Corolla hybrid during the night of revelry, and the other good news is that I found it to be an impressive car.
That was the previous generation Corolla hybrid, now the new-gen one is here and, while I didn’t take it on a hot rod run this time, I put it through another test – the day-to-day living challenge of pre-school drop offs and shopping, parking, commuting… I even used it to carry a 2.5m tall tree. So, is the new Corolla Hybrid just as impressive as the old one?
The grade I tested was the Ascent Sport. What does that mean? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular 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|
I’m never going to stop worshipping the combustion engine and I’ll keep going to hot rod runs in my big, old V8-powered beast, but to me, if you’re going to buy a Corolla why wouldn’t you choose the hybrid? It’s more fuel efficient than a regular petrol variant and offers a better city driving experience, by being able to run silently and smoothly as an EV at low speeds with decent off-the-mark shove when you need it. As for hybrid rivals – there are none right now, but even if there were, Toyota’s perfection of hybrid tech over the past two decades means it would likely be better than the competition.
Would you choose the petrol or hybrid version of the Corolla Ascent Sport? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
There’s a lot of love for the Corolla, particularly older versions of the species (just ask our editor Mal, he rescues rusty ones out of paddocks), but the previous model was never really widely adored for its looks and was beginning to age compared to new and improved rivals. Enter this new-generation Corolla, which looks sexier and more modern.
I’m especially taken by the tail lights, which are far more appealing than the previous model’s egg-splat design. The same goes for the new headlight design and that large grille.
It’s a completely different Corolla to the last one, but has kept the same pointy nose at the front and the bulbous bum.
The only indication that the hybrid isn’t a petrol variant is the Toyota badge with the blue halo aura effect and, of course, the word ‘Hybrid’ on the tailgate.
The interior is also modern feeling with a large, cleanly designed dashboard with that touchscreen sitting prominently atop it, like a billboard. I have to admit, though, the Ascent Sport’s interior lacked a bit of wow-factor, with its hard surfaces and too much use of piano-black plastic. I know Toyota can do cool interiors – just look at the C-HR, so it’s a bit disappointing that the Ascent Hybrid’s cabin isn’t more interesting.
In terms of dimensions, the Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid is 4375mm long, 1790mm wide and 1435mm tall. The small size made it easy to park in the tiny spots left outside my house by the time I get home, and easy to pilot in narrow laneways and city traffic.
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.
I was afraid you’d ask me that question because the answer is: not very. The legroom in the back seat is tight, so much so that at 191cm tall I can’t fit behind my driving position. I’m tall, but even our more normal-sized reviewers found the rear legroom to be limited.
My four-year-old is only three feet tall and he remarked that “Mummy’s seat is squashing my feet”. That was when he was in his car seat and my wife was sitting next to me. She had to move her seat almost until her knees touched the dash so that his feet weren’t squashing.
Also a bit disappointing is the boot space – 217 litres of cargo capacity if you have a space-saver spare wheel and 333 litres if you go with the tyre-repair kit. That’s too small for our CarsGuide pram, so if you’re thinking of a Corolla as your next family hatch, then I’d take your pram/golf clubs/drum kit and test out the space before handing over your money.
Cabin storage isn’t bad, with two cupholders up front and two in the back, along with bottle holders in the doors. The centre-console bin offers good storage and there’s a small tray in the second row big enough for a wallet.
As for USB ports, there’s a lonely looking one under the dash.
If it’s any consolation, I used the Corolla to transport a 2.5m tall tree that arrived at CarsGuide HQ for me after I ordered it online. My other two choices were a Mitsubishi Triton ute and a Ford Mustang and, as it turned out, the hybrid hatch was better suited to the job, as you can see in the images. So there you have it: the Corolla is more practical in some ways than a ute or a Mustang.
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 Ascent Sport is the entry grade into the Corolla range and the hybrid version is $1500 more than the petrol-engined variant at $25,870.
There is the Hyundai Ioniq, which is larger and a damned good thing, but the most affordable one costs way more, at $33,990. The closest car to the Corolla Hybrid isn’t really a competitor but more of a sibling rival, in the form of the Toyota Prius C, which was being offered at a driveaway price of $27,596 at the time I wrote this.
Standard features on the Ascent Sport Hybrid for the most part mirror those on the petrol version. The list includes LED head- and tail lights, LED running lights, heated and power door mirrors, an eight-inch touch screen with reversing camera, six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, dual-zone climate control and some cool advanced safety tech, which you can read about below.
As far as standard features go, Toyota hasn’t been super generous and you’re made to step up to the SX if you want sat nav and the wireless-charging pad, while you need to climb higher into the top-grade ZR if you want to swap the cloth seats for leather.
One of the bonuses of buying the hybrid version of the Ascent Sport is getting dual-zone climate – the petrol version only has single zone air conditioning.
Still, at $26K the value equation is impressive.
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
So, you’re thinking of a petrol-electric hybrid, eh? Well you’ve come to the right review because Toyota has been producing hybrid cars on a huge scale longer than anybody, which has given the company decades to refine and develop the tech.
The Ascent Sport Hybrid doesn’t plug into a power point. Toyota doesn’t currently sell any plug-in hybrids in Australia. Nope, this one builds the charge back up in its batteries from the energy captured when you brake.
Those nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries are in the back of the car and under the bonnet you’ll find an a 72kW/142Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 53kW/162Nm electric motor. The engine and motor take turns and also work together to drive the front wheels, and the transition between one power source and another is smoother than any other hybrid I’ve driven.
The transmission is a CVT, which is an automatic and, while I’m not a fan of them in petrol variants, because they cause the engine to rev without much in the way of shove to go with it, in a hybrid the extra torque from the motor means acceleration is pretty good.
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…
This is what it’s all about right? Well, sort of. Hybrids of this kind don’t achieve fuel economy as good as, say, a plug-in hybrid and while Toyota claims the Ascent Sport Hybrid should only use 4.2L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads, after mainly city testing I measured 7.7L/100km when I filled up at the petrol station. It takes 91 RON, by the way.
That fuel economy is still good, considering our testing of the regular petrol variant saw it use 9.0L/100km.
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.
Welcome to the driving bit, which will make even more sense if you read the section above, which explains how the hybrid system isn’t alien technology, but rather a petrol engine and an electric motor engaged in a constant dance to provide drive to the front wheels.
That engine-motor combination works superbly and more seamlessly than any other hybrid I’ve driven. I even like the CVT transmission, which is something I thought I’d never write, because when this type of automatic is in a petrol variant it provides a lucklustre feel to the acceleration. It's not the case here, thanks to the help of the motor, which adds instant torque and good off-the line shove.
Combine this with great steering, good handling, a comfortable ride and a very quiet cabin, and you have a hatch that’s enjoyable to drive. I’m not going to say outstanding (it’s not quite an 8 out of 10) because the Mazda3 is also impressive to drive and so are the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato. But the Corolla Ascent Hybrid is right up there with them.
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 Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2018. Coming standard are AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, speed-sign recognition and auto high beam headlights.
There are also seven airbags and for child seats you’ll find three top-tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
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.
The Corolla Ascent Sport Hybrid is covered by a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a five-year capped-price servicing plan. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km and you can expect to pay $175 for each of the first four services.
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.