The cars : Ford Mondeo development story

The Mondeo has eased past its quarter century, meaning it should have gained access to the classic car world. To mark the occasion, Andrew Elphick recounts the story of its design, development and later introduction of Ford’s vitally important mid-liner.

And it really was an exercise in clean-sheet design.

Ford Mondeo: One world, one vision

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These were the words of two giants – one, the world’s most flamboyant rock band, Queen; the other a multinational known to millions – the Ford Motor Co. The ‘World Car’ is an ambitious task for any manufacturer; many had managed to score in two out of the three main markets – Europe, Japan and the USA – but all three markets was a goal only the smaller-scale prestige makers had managed so far.

Ford thus decided it would again try to offer the world a one-size-fits-all option for the 1990s. It had form. In 1980, it had tried to offer an Escort common to North America and Europe – whether you were in Detroit or in Dagenham, you could stroll to your Ford dealer and buy an Escort. The only problem was, shy of the odd nondescript part under the skin, it seemed that the Blue Oval grille badge was the only shared part you could see.

So come 1985, and just three years after the launch of the Sierra, and a few months after the Granada (Scorpio) launch, Ford decided to have another crack. John Oldfield (Executive Director of Engineering Staff) was given a brief – he was to replace the European Sierra and the US market Tempo/Topaz models with a single model – CDW27.

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The un-named CDW27 came to being. The code name letters: C/D is the class of car, and W is for for world. Oldfield relocated himself back to England, and recruited a team of engineers ready for March 1987. Their task was create the ‘Mondeo’, a mash-up of the word ‘mondo’, meaning the world.

Ford CDW27: sophistication sells

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The main question for the Design Team was just how advanced did the Sierra’s replacement for the 1990s need to be?  After all, heads were still rolling after Robert Lutz and Uwe Bahnsen’s in Ford after the ‘ jellymould’ Sierra debacle. Should they play safe with the styling, or should they limit the amount of technology under the skin?

Or both? Or, more pleasingly, should the bar be raised – and Ford create a world car and a world beater all in one? Front-wheel drive was chosen for the drivetrain, because it was the way the industry was going – and a benchmark was set by such a car already available in all three markets – the Honda Accord.

By 1988, Ford was busy carrying out its own ‘benchmark’ testing with all rival competitors’ cars. In them, the Accord was given a benchmark figure of 100 per cent, with other rivals scoring better or worse depending on their strengths and weaknesses. Among them, the strongest cars were the Peugeot 405, Toyota Camry, Vauxhall Cavalier (or its twin, the Opel Vectra), and the Volkswagen Passat.

Ford’s battle with impressive rivals

However, these benchmarks needed to be set ahead of what the competion would also be producing in six years’ time. It was a tall order for the car they called the CDW27. And why CDW27? C/D signified that it straddled the C- and D-sectors, while the W was for ‘World Car’.Mondeo story (4)

Ford’s top brass decided that the new car needed to be a stylish cab-forward design, and it briefed the design offices of California, Cologne, Dearborn and Turin (Ghia) to that effect. The four studios duly presented their differently styled proposals for customer clinic testing.

These clinics were carried out in the USA, Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. And with the results coming in, it was down Dearborn to choose which model to progress with. Meanwhile, the engineers were developing the drivetrain under innocuous-looking, Sierra-based development mules (below). Eleven of them were developed throughout 1988, along with the new Zetec DOHC 16-valve engines.

During 1988 John Oldfield was promoted to Executive Director of Programme Offices, leaving David Price (a Director of Power Train Programmes) to head-up the CDW27 project and deliver it to production. Such was the importance of the programme, he reported directly to Lindsey Halstead – Chairman of Ford of Europe.

Raising the standard: how Mondeo became so good dynamically

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Note the extended wheelbase of this Sierra-bodied mule. Photo: Hans Lehmann

During March 1989, the project’s goals were hammered out – and just three months later (in June 1989), they were finalised. Except that the later introduction of the Nissan Primera would demand a revision to what was now considered the acceptable standard refinement in class when it went on sale in 1990.

By September 1989, the first mechanically-correct Mondeo prototypes for testing had been built, with accurate production prototypes coming on stream early in 1991.  In total, 400 vehicles were created in the run-up to the engineering sign-off a year later. On 23 November 1992, production started, ready for the world launch at the upcoming 1993 Geneva Salon.

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From clay to the customer clinic

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Cab-forward, not Jelly mould…

If just one thing was certain, it was that Sierra replacement must satisfy the need of every market it was to be sold in – in other words, be restrained, conservative and capable. Ford was still hurting from the costly Sierra launch four years earlier (though the situation was partly its own fault due to Ford Cortina stockpiling in the months leading up to the Sierra’s introduction). So the Detroit top table would be keeping a tight rein in the design studios this time round.

Ford’s four design offices (California, Cologne, Dearborn and Torino) were given their design brief from Manfred Lampe, in what he later described as the biggest single project undertaken by the company. From autumn 1986 until February 1992, Lampe chaired the CDW27 project. From the four proposals initially prepared, (by each design office) a reference was created from which each design studio crafted its own interpretation.

From the easy-going sun-baked Californians, came a design that had its frontal aspect and glass house closely based on the then-new Scorpio. It was almost floating roof, but the A-pillars remained body-coloured. Curiously, it seems that this three-box design was reminiscent of Bertone-styled 1990 Daewoo Espero.

Germany versus USA: stylists do battle

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Daewoo Espero anybody?

The design from Cologne in Germany (below) had an almost Japanese feel to it – especially in the lighting. That impression was also continued to the fussy rear pillars, which offered differing belt line (side and rear glass levels). Ultimately, though, it would emerge the surprise victor of the four proposals – and its sculptured sill design survived all the way to the final production design.

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Cologne’s Mazda-esque styling theme

The US design studio produced the most upmarket looking design of the four, with its kicked up rear flanks and a stylised full-width rear light eating into the boot lid. It too had the favoured sculpted sills of the final production car.

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Design proposal from the Motor city

Finally, from the Ghia studios in Turin (Ford’s ‘ideas pool’), came the design from under the direction of Filippo Sapino. While in no way displeasing, and considered ‘inoffensive’ by the panel present, its design was ‘middle of the road’ and considered a bit too safe for the 1990s.

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Ghia’s offering – disappointing

All four presentations were compared in March 1987 at the annual worldwide design conference, held in Cologne. Though the Cologne proposal was deemed the basis for the next step of the styling process, it was agreed the rear end with its kicked-up belt line were too dominant a feature to progress. At the same time the internal fascia proposals were being considered. Due to the cab-forward styling of the raked windscreen, ways to disguise the depth of the dash top were required.

That spring, Design Director Andy Jacobson (successor to Sierra’s ‘father’ Uwe Bahnsen) gave John Doughty’s European Merkenich (Cologne) studios the go-ahead for the finalised CDW27. The internal and external styling was finalised; the mechanical packaging was honed to suit these packages.

Mondeo: variations on a theme

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An example of a glassfibre shell being constructed

So we have designed our world car, now time to build it…

Well, not quite! A further four designs were sculpted; five if you count the marriage of two of them; and six if you throw in a Californian wildcard. Between July 1987 and June 1988, the advice from the design conference and data from earlier market research clinics, fermented into three proposals from Merkenich (Cologne), alongside a solitary Dunton design.

Each was first cut from clay bucks, then moulded in glassfibre on rolling chassis, for presentation.

Type 4A (below) had been constructed to maximise interior space, with a large glazed area and well-balanced proportions allied to a Taurus-esq nose cone. However, it was considered a bland yet family appealing car.

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Type 4B’s (below) roots lay in the original Cologne proposal, but with a sweeping belt line level with the rear window via a sixth glass light.  It had a thinner rear tail light treatment giving a higher sweeping rear, when viewed from that angle.

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The 4C design (below) was praised for its fresh dynamic look and expressive bonnet line, however concerns were raised it was too sporty and its panelling may be complex to manufacture. Note the Honda-esque nose, the BMW Hofmeister kink and the tail.

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Dunton produced the fourth variation – 4D (below). Highly thought of featuring good interior space, helped by the six glass light design. Seemingly influenced again by American fashions, it featured a similar nose treatment to what would appear on the Mustang and Thunderbird of the late 1980s.

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The Californian 4F prototype was unusual when presented, it was an homage to the Renault 4 – the wheelbase was longer on one side than the other! With a small front overhang, and a short and even shorter rear overhang dependent on which side was viewed.  Overall it is very recognisable as an enlarged 1990 Escort from the front quarter view, notably its lighting and swage line level with the door handles. Ultimately, it was deemed just too radical.

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The second generation of these prototypes began with the 4G, (below) which, if given a quick cursory glance shouts Mondeo – though, when examined more closely, they really don’t have much in common! It seems visually a smaller classed car too when viewed from the rear.

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Types 4E and 5E (due to their respective doors, below) appeared early in 1989 and the design was nearly finalised – other than the handsome swage lines down each flank, they were close to the Mondeo’s final form. These swages would also appear on the upcoming fourth-generation Escort and Orion. One wonders whether the launch of Alfa Romeo’s 164 scuppered this fine detail as the resemblance is quite striking, though strangely the 1990 Escort and Orion to 164 comparison falls flat.

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Note the differing rear treatments both featuring a sixth-light ultimately not present on the production model.

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Closing in on sign-off

March 1989 and the final (well, nearly…) signed-off model. The 4H was a development of the 4E, but with a 50mm/2in increase in wheelbase (at the cost of the front and rear overhangs). The grille and lights would be tweaked however, as would the flanks, as they became more organic.

Manfred Lampe later declared there wasn’t a Japanese influence – more a coincidence resulting in the softer styled appearance.  Ultimately (bar the diesel models), the grille would become a stylised oval, with a thin bar bearing the familiar Ford badge. By May 1990, we finally had the Mondeo as we’d recognise it today. An estate model was created too, gaining bespoke rear door frames to carry off its bulk handsomely.

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Final Design model 4H
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Final Design model 4H
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Final production model 5H, note the softer curved sides between the above.

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This design would have given a family resemblance to the Scorpio estate. (note the rear pillars)

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Estate with standard saloon doors proposal

View with a room…

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‘But what’s your favourite shade of grey!”

Cab-forward styling has one drawback: how does the designer transform acres of fascia plastic moulding into a pleasing integrated design? The designers at Dunton were given this task, along all other internal upholstery and trim design. The original proposal evolved from an Escort-style design to a more organic sweeping fascia, giving an air of quality.

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Original fascia starting point – note the Escort influences
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The gradual development to final design as we know it, note the round horn push space
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Note the stylised Italian/Japanese switches on the binnacle, and ‘Air-bag” steering wheel
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Pretty much as we know it in the finished article

Integration of air bags was a new challenge, as were requirements such as switches that could be operated while wearing gloves! The rear door-mounted speakers were unusual too. Alas the delightful integrated pen holder sadly could not contain the humble disposable Biro…

The family man goes multi-valve

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Feedback from Ford ambassador Sir Jackie Stewart

By the late 1980s, double-overhead camshaft multi-valve engines were de rigueur for any performance model. Prime examples were the Cosworth-designed GM C20LET engine fitted to the Vauxhall Astra/Opel Kadett GTE, the PSA XU9J4 as used into the Peugeot 405 Mi16 and Citroen BX 16 Valve, and the VAG 16-valve fitted to the Golf GTI and Corrado 16V.

However, Rover’s new K-Series engine as fitted to 1989’s 200 and 400 range (and which Ford came close to buying in 1986) raised the bar for ‘cooking’ family cars. Of course, the pursuit for economy and efficiency combined with lower emissions had led this need for 16-valves across the board. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions were now governmental requirements, not just marketing aids.

A new Ford-designed Zeta engine (later Zetec due to trademark wrangling) was to be launched with the Mondeo – even though it had its roots in the CVH power unit first seen in the 1980 Escort (which itself had been subject to a 16-valve head courtesy of Schrick in 1985).

This was mainly so the existing manufacturing facilities could be used – indeed both engines shared the same 91.8 bore spacing, leading to the creation of ZVH engines by independent Ford tuners. Manufactured in three capacities (1.6- , 1.8-, and 2.0-litres, all with an 88mm stroke), and sand cast in grey Iron – the weight advantage of aluminium was swapped for iron’s sound absorption properties. It also featured a cast aluminium rocker cover and ribbed sump pan.

Forged connecting rods and high silicon alloy pistons were an unusually specialist touch (indeed this ‘factory’ bottom end was found by tuners to be capable of producing 200bhp, and only requiring uprated rod bolts – quite an impressive feat).

The design becomes a reality

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The lesser spotted ‘Citrine yellow’ Mondeo Si gets tested in the Dunton labs

By 1990, the final design had been approved. Now all the engineers had to do was make it go, stop and handle. In all, 13 parameters were established: Ride, Handling, Steering, Powertrain, NVH, Driveability, Shiftability (the feel of the gear shift), Brake feel, Operational comfort, Seat performance, Climate control, Illumination, Perfection feeling. This last category was all about giving the Mondeo a ‘hewn from solid’ feel, like Volvos and Mercedes-Benzes. Basically, a 10-year-old Mondeo should still feel like a new one – not an easy feat to carry off with accountants running the show.

With this in mind and the potential for South American and Antipodean road surfaces (and sales), the suspension needed to be exceptionally durable, yet handle seamlessly on the billiard table smooth roads of mainland Europe. So, credit to the engineers for the rave reviews at launch in 1993.

Paul Horrell tested the Mondeo Ghia in CAR Magazine, taking it 1000 miles from Tower Bridge (London) to the Forth Bridge (Scotland) and back, commenting, ‘The journey tests its every facet and it emerges with honours.’

Great dynamics: all in the body design

The key to this lay not in the suspension, but in the bodyshell. The stiffer it is, the closer the suspension reverts to its natural setting, hence the more compliant the ride. The element of NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness – a Ford-invented term) being controlled by a separate subframe front and rear for the MacPherson  strut suspension. The Mondeo was specified with front and rear disc brakes for nearly all models, and a rack and pinion steering set up – in all, nothing remotely advanced, but effective.

Sophistication was an option though – you want adaptive damping or four-wheel drive, sir? No problem. If the electronic adaptive dampers were specified, you had the choice of ‘sport’ or ‘comfort’ settings. Either way, every 20 milliseconds a measurement was recorded. Above 100mph, or during heavy cornering, acceleration or braking the system automatically reverted to ‘sport’, until normal service had resumed.

Had you ticked the box marked ‘four-wheel drive’ however, as well as another set of drive shafts and a differential, came an electronic microprocessor – the traction control unit. This had the ability to cut engine revs and, if necessary, apply the brakes (via the ABS), hence limiting wheel slippage until the broken traction had stabilised. Commonplace now, but impressive in 1993.

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The availability of ABS as an option acrodss the Mondeo range was a disappointment

Now to matters of safety equipment. Active safety – ABS will help you avoid the incident. Passive safety – the airbag will protect you during the incident. And this is where the engineers suffered… The accountants insist you can only have ABS or an airbag. The marketing men say that airbags sell cars, and so, the engineers’ wish for ABS and airbags get relegated to the options list.

Still, the Mondeo was a very safe place to be – standard ABS or not. In addition to the standard fit airbag, there were seat belt pretensioners to ‘grab’ the slack in the seatbelt once the airbag had been activated in an accident. The anti-submarining seats were an active safety feature too – the idea being the seat bases pressing ramped towards the front to hold your hips in place should you suddenly stop. Finally, door side-impact bars were fitted.

Ford Mondeo: Testing Images

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From the extremes of heat in Arizona to…
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…the chill of a Finnish winter

Occasionally though scoop photographers such as Hans Lehmann would spy the prototypes before release – compare the factory shots (above) to his (below).

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Note the bonnet badge to throw casual observers off the scent…

Pilot production and final assembly

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From cold steel to car – the latest state-of-the-art transfer presses were installed

Ford calls its staff ‘the family’, and ‘the family’ from all over the world created the Mondeo together. It was designed by Americans, Germans and the Brits (with help from the Italians), tested by the Scandinavians, and built by the Belgians. Prior to the Mondeo, all major production models had been double-sourced, in case trouble with suppliers, acts of God and acts of, er, activists… However, it was all or nothing – Genk in Belgium would exclusively produce the Mondeo, a move that meant employing 1500 new staff, and creating a third night shift.

In total 600 million dollars was invested, a high percentage on the new body pressing plant. Also a just-in-time strategy favoured by the (ultra-efficient) Japanese was adopted for Mondeo’s parts supply.

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The Genk ‘pilot’ production line, late 1992

Unusually, Genk would construct the first pilot batch of cars as well, (before series-production in November 1992 – four months before launch). During this time, members of the assembly line family were invited to aid flagging any potential hiccups in the design and assembly process. In addition to this, 115 cars were being tested by heavy usage customers across Europe – emergency services, couriers and toner salesmen. The greatest test…

And when they were satisfied, on 8 January 1993, the Mondeo went on sale to an expectant public. The rest, as they say, is history.

Andrew Elphick
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  1. Consider that the basic floor pan was also used for the 1999-2002 Mercury/Ford Cougar, and even made using Mondeo parts brought to the USA for the RHD models.
    The USA version of the Mondeo was the Ford Countur and Mercury Mystique. It was a so-so seller, critized for it’s tight rear shouder and hip space as well as it’s bland styling. We also had a SVT version with a hopped up 2.5 V-6, a kind of sneaky performace car. The NA version creeped into the Taurus line for some sales and not much smaller that it. The Fusion pretty much replaced it, using a floor plan and some other parts shared with the Mazda 6/Atenza.

    • It was that the Chrysler offerings (Chrysler Cirrus/Dodge Stratus/Plymouth Breeze, collectively nicknamed the “cloud cars”) made rear seat space a priority, as Mazda had done with the 1990 323/Protege which carried over to the American Escort, although Honda, Toyota and others had caught up to and surpassed it by the mid ’90s.

      The Stratus had the back seat of a car one size up, the Contour wasn’t even up to the standards of the class below it.

  2. Fascinating stuff, interesting how much effort went into it, whereas the 1990 Escort seemed to be a minimum effort design, which rightly got slaughtered!

    • Indeed the 1990 Escort and Mondeo must have been in development at the same time but could have come from completely different companies. Presumably if your annual appraisal didn’t go well circa 1986 you found yourself on team Escort!

      • Also my thoughts, it was almost the reverse of a decade earlier when the Mk3 Escort & Sierra were in development.

  3. In the end wasn’t the design considered bland and boring? There was a very extensive facelift only 3 or 4 years into its life.

  4. Surprising how many of those attempts (4a, 4b etc) remind me of the Chrysler Neon.

    And I agree with 4 above, the end result was one of the most blandly anonymous cars ever to be let onto the roads. Great example of designing by committee which ended up with no character at all.

    • Apart from the Toyota Paseo nose, 4E practically screams GM. If I’d seen it debadged circa 1993 I’d have thought it was the new Pontiac Grand Am, not the Ford Tempo’s (long belated!) replacement.

  5. Interesting reading!

    The Zeta engine was a dog. Had one in a 92 Orion. Part of the problem was that Ford garages didn’t really know how to service them, being used to the old CVH.
    They were temperamental to oil – it had to be 5w30.
    Mine kept cutting out / stalling, and running with a misfire.

    The proposal 4C has a very Volvo look about it, Ford would develop the S80/S60 in the mid 90s.

    The US version flopped, as it was deemed to small to be a D-segment car, and too expensive to be a C-segment car. The replacement, the Fusion was bigger.

    The V6 Duratec model got a chrome lined Cosworth-style grille and full width red bootlid decoration (as was the style briefly in the early 90s).

    Facelift in ’96, with the horrible round grille and pointy lights.

    Heres a roadtest up against the Rover 600

  6. Hard to think it’s 20 years since the Mondy arrived. My experience of the MK1 was limited to driving a 1.8LX facelift hire car in 1998 – which was quite powerful on the open motorway… comfortable too. Also drove an earlier 1.8 garage loan car which had a high mileage on it but still felt okay (smooth & not that noisy.) Certainly a car that went up against the R600 – and won.

  7. Had the 1.8 engine in my Mrogan 4/4. Had to have the engine rebuilt because of poor servicing by Morgan garages despite 5ooo mile service intervals.

  8. Drove a facelift 1.8 as a hire car and seem to remember the heavy clutch, stalled it a few times pulling out of a hill junction.
    These models seemed to rust round the arches early, and the bumpers of any existing examples are usually covered in gaffer tape.

    • in Germany, this Mondeo model is called “panzer tape Mondeo”.
      (panzer tape is this strong shiny grey tape).

  9. Does anyone remember Blueprint For A New Ford? This was a questionnaire sent to homes aking opinions about their perfect car. I wonder if this research excercise had anything to do with Mondeo or Focus?

    Mondeo was a breakthrough car for Ford, early ones getting rare now too.

  10. The long wheelbase of 4F does give it a slight hint of NSU Ro80!

    Will M
    I actually preferred the 96 Mk2 facelifted models, and quite like the new headlamps! Certainly more distinctive than the Mk1 ‘Mundano’.

  11. @Mikey C

    Most people preferred the facelift model, it was more distinctive. I was alone in preferring the plain jane almost-Japanese looks of the mk1 🙂

    A 4×4 version of the mk1 is the newest car on display in the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum, as it was part of the convoy that took part in the London-New York overland challenge, which was a marketing exercise for the 1993 Mondeo and Maverick.

    • I’d agree with that. The early version had a bland, but inoffensive “face”, but the later version was trying way to hard, with a comedy oval radiator grille that also afflicted the Fiesta and Transit. Fortunately, Ford quickly got the message and much better designs followed.

  12. Good article.

    Very minor point – the photo captioned “transfer press” is actually a welding station?

    Shame there wasn’t wasn’t more input from Mazda while the Mondeo was being developed, especially since they were benchmarking Honda, Toyota and Nissan competitors.

  13. Chris well spotted, I must had another image in my brain!

    The overland Mondeo shot is excellent! Were these the cars that were left running 24 hours to stop them freezing up in the cold climate part of the trip?There is a citrine yellow Mondeo in the Science museum collection – it was hanging from the rafters a few years ago upside down! I would like to know its story, especially as it features those trims beloved of the Granda Ghia, latterly Sierra LX…

  14. The car was small for a D segment and too expensive for a C segment car here in the States. (The rear seat area was really tight in terms of shoulder room and leg room.) And it was often referred to as being “blandtastic” when styling came up for discussion. However, the SVT Contour is still something of a cult car, and highly prized by those who have them.
    Little known is that the Elise GT, a more luxurious Elise with a fast sloping hard topped roof that made it look like a Dino 246 in miniature, was in development at the same time. What Lotus didn’t have, however, was a suitable engine/transmission package for it. The KV6 was looked at, but — during a discussion with Roger Becker one afternoon (evening for him, his wife must still hate me) — I mentioned that there was a 3.0-liter version of the SVT motor. A quick call to my brother (then head PR man for SVT) got the ball rolling, and plans were hatched to sell Lotus the powertrain through Ford Power Products for, as I remember, a very good price. Initial simulations suggested the Ford V6 would give a top speed of 154 mph, and return decent fuel economy. Unfortunately, the Elise GT was cancelled by new CEO Chris Knight as it had 70% new parts. Better, he said, to spend that money on an all-new car. He did, but the M250 didn’t make it into production either.

  15. I’ve only skimmed though this but it’s interesting to see what goes into a developing a new car, especially the styling mock-ups.

  16. This was a make or break car for Ford as the 1990 Escort was seen as completely underwhelming and British market share had fallen to 22 per cent. Fortunately the Mondeo proved to be a decent car and a few of the originals survive locally, usually in lilac metallic with tape on the bumpers. However, the 2000 Model was the real leap forward: I drove a 1.8 LX model and was amazed at how smooth and powerful it was, obviously the Jaguar link was paying off.

  17. Can understand the claims about the Mondeo being built to last. Until a few years ago the roads where still full of early 90s MK1s – they seemed to remain in decent condition long after similar vintage Vauxhalls, Rovers and other Fords had gone to scrap. I remember the TV series about the overland challenge – you can still see clips on Youtube.

  18. As a 17year old who had just passed his test 1993 was a great year. First time I’d driven and Peugeot 205 (1.4SR) and then a Mondeo. Apart from the zingy Zetec and notchy gearchange it was a world apart from anything else. And then the Xantia arrived. What a great year!

  19. I still see an L reg saloon around that looks in reasonable condition.

    My Dad bought a year old one 10 years ago & only sold it last summer.

    In that time hardly anything went wrong with it, certainly when compaired to the company cars that he used to change every 3-4 years.

  20. I remember how unbelievably good they drove when launched,certainly better than the 3 seriesand the Primera it was benchmarked agianst.Has aged very well in my eyes.

  21. To this day I cant think of a car that has received a better reception by the British Motoring press. They went positively orgasmic. You also got the impression that they genuinely rated the car as well – as opposed to being nobbled by the BMW/VW/Audi press machine as happens today. I still have a copy of Autocar from March 1993 where they drove a 1.6LX 12000 miles in a week around Europe.

  22. Someone at work has an M-reg GLX saloon in a curious shade of light metallic brown. Apart from the Poundland wheeltrims and the odd dent, it still looks really good 🙂

    I’d personally jump at the chance to own an early Mondeo, preferably a fully-specced Ghia estate with the “Mondeo Gold” stereo system, which I saw (and heard) demonstrated on the Ford stand at the Motor Show in 1992 😉

  23. I remember there was a lot of publicity leading up to the launch, so much that for years I thought they had gone on sale in late 1992.

    I guess after the Escort underperforming & memories of the Sierra launch they wanted it to go right.

  24. Ford had to get it right 20 years ago, the 1990 Escort was a nasty looking car with awful engines and reliability issues, the Sierra had become dated and had engine issues in later models and the Granada was looking old as well. The Mondeo was the start of the Ford revival, which saw a new Fiesta arrive in 1995 with the long lived and rather good 1.25 DOHC engine, the funky looking Ka in 1996 and then the Focus, which really moved on from the Escort.

  25. At Will M (7) – Ford did not purchase Volvo until 1999, with the S80 and the P2 platform having being launched a few months before in late 1998. Therefore any resemblance to a Volvo is purely coincidental.

    As a child growing up in the 90’s, the Mondeo was a car that merely existed rather than ever caught my young observant eye. It was only years later when I started reading websites and car magazines that I became aware of the furore it caused upon its launch in 1993.

    Still, having spent £6 billion on developing the thing, how did it end up looking so dull?

  26. I’ll throw a bit of American perspective here.

    A couple of things that I always found a bit strange about the Mondeo/Contour/Mystique deserve mentioning here. Like so many “world” cars before, the Contour was more of a fraternal twin to the Mondeo than an identical one. A few changes don’t make sense in light of the market, and some of the others don’t make sense at all. At first glance, the Contour and Mondeo look alike, especially the post-facelift versions. A closer look reveals so many changes that I’d doubt they shared any visible stampings aside from maybe front door skins. Much of the US market’s distaste for the Contour was related to a lack of room, some of which is caused by Ford NA’s changes to the car. Look at the rear doors and the shape of the rear roof. The rear seat room of the US version was less generous than the Mondeo because of the lowered roof and entry was hindered by the matching cut down of the rear door shape. The rear seat was moved a little down and forward to compensate, which ate into knee room. Perhaps this was done to keep the Contour buyers distinct from Taurus buyers, but it made the Contour less appealing as a family car than it had to be. When the US (Mazda 323) Escort got a serious MCE in 1997, it even had more interior room in almost every dimension than the Contour.

    It was well-liked by the magazines for its good driving (especially the diabolically rare stick/V6 combos), but the shoppers weren’t convinced. In the meantime, its target Accord grew up a bit, petrol was cheap, and Americans weren’t terribly into a 2.5 liter sedan that was expensive and small. I always thought it was cute and had a nice feel, but I’ve never owned one. The Cougar was very appealing to me as well.

    Finally, I have to mention how the blue fiberglass mockup has a front end that really looks a lot like the (5 years later) Oldsmobile Alero.

    • Yes although they were essentially the same car and you could tell they were related, the Mondeo and Contour did look quite different. Bit like the relationship between the 1970 MK3 Cortina and Taunus TC.

  27. I still recall the excitement in the wider press and to some extent, the public leading up to the Mondeo launch. It was even discussed at length on the BBC Radio Ulster breakfast show in early 1993!

    A friend of the family went down shortly after the launch and traded his two year old dog of an Escort Harrier (remember them?) in for a brand new Mondeo 1.8TD LX in that metallic aubergine colour most of them seemed to be. First impressions were that it was a large car, bigger than our mk3 Cavalier, and the funky seat trim. Rear tailgate glass put me in mind of the Renault Fuego…

    #15 – I remember the Overland Challenge, I’m glad somebody else does! I even had the poster for the event, which had a map on to allow you to keep track of the team. Must have been quite an expedition, especially in two 4×4 Mondeos and Mavericks.

    Not many mk1 Mondeos about these days – most of the ones left are tired old hacks with yellowed headlights, as per Peugeot 405. Not my cup of tea personally, never been a Ford fan, but I’ll admit they were a very good car in their day.

  28. The Mondeo was the start of Ford producing good, ambitious cars, leading on to the improved Fiesta, Ka, Puma and ultimately the Focus.

    All bad new for Rover though, with their biggest domestic rival producing decent cars, the pricing premium they enjoyed with R8 wasn’t able to continue.

  29. I stand corrected re: Volvo. Must’ve been a design cue from big 90s saloons.

    Tony Blair’s Mondeo – NewLabour made a point of appealing to ‘Mondeo Man’ – in his 30s, young family, suburban house. These days more likely to be 320d / A4 man.

    Saw a facelift model this morning, and as per every other facelift/mk2? model the rear bumper was held together by parcel tape.

  30. @5 Mark, I agree, the original Mondeo was deathly dull and so reminiscent of typical American cars at the time, all nose and tail and blandness. The facelift which was fairly hastily pushed out turned the car around IMO, otherwise I seriously think it would have had a very short shelf life in Europe. The Cavalier/Vectra of the time were much more interesting (which is not saying much !)

  31. @39, Mikey C, Agreed, it’s no surprise to me that the HHR turned out to be quite reminiscent of the Mondeo, especially at the back in hatch format

  32. The Mk1 Mondeo sold well but European models cost Ford bundles in warranty claims for the pulling to the left issues (steering rack and suspension alignment issues) which wiped out profits for the model for years.

    Although the Mondeo is often cited as the segment game-changer – that accolade has to go to the Nissan Primera P10 – a car with almost perfect chassis dynamics. the press ignored it because it was Japanese – it was an astonishingly accomplished car – better than the (excellent) Mondeo, shame about the boring interiors. Nissan were so miffed about the lack of praise (in the press) for their world class chassis they fitted inferior suspension to later models to increase margins as they were not benefiting (marketing wise) from the sporting prowess of their chassis. Nissans were still seen as cars for pensioners.

    • I thought the pulling to the left issue was something blown out of all proportion by BBC Watchdog? I don’t remember the motoring press being concerned. Once they understood what was causing it – on some, not all cars – it was a relatively easy fix so doubt it will have done that much damage to Fords bottom line

    • Interesting point. At the time of the launch I was in charge of a 120-strong fleet. We wanted 2-litres, four doors, a good automatic (everyone had carphones and we reckoned you couldn’t dial and talk properly in a manual…ahem) and a choice of saloon or hatch. We had a pre-launch Mondeo for assessment. It was very comfortable but the gearing was all wrong on the early cars – it made them fussy at speed, and the interior wasn’t popular with our people. But we all reckoned the Primera was leagues ahead, and we happily bought truck-fulls of em. The staff – a high proportion of whom were women – loved them, and few people chose the alternative – a Mk3 Cavalier. We got 100,000 trouble-free miles out of all of them and I never understood why everyone else bought Mondeos.

  33. Who still has the Mondeo video free with autocar magazine-its brilliant,presented by jackie Stewart!

  34. I agree with the sentiments of many other posters – the Mk1 Mondeo was deathly dull, more so than the dynamically rather impressive Primera. IIRC, even the Mondeo’s seat fabrics were dull at launch. The facelift was an unmitigated success, and managed to give a particularly bland car some much needed character. I’ve driven a few – not bad at all, not as entertaining as the Primera, but streets ahead of the Vectra. However, my favourite Mondeo was the Mk3 (?) the one launched in 2000 – a hugely impressive, and handsome car, with a great interior. I used to drive a 1.8 Diesel a lot, and although it was a battered pool car, it was a very impressive steer.

  35. Took one on hols to the Isle of Widget in the mid 90s. It was a rental 1.8LX, and wasn’t a bad old hector. Swallowed 4 adults luggage, and all 4 of us, plus a fat hound, and did not complain one jot. Shoulder room for those in the back looked a bit tight though. Was OK at the helm though. The FiL had an early LX in blue (until some daft tart reversed into it), and it was a bit dull and grey inside, but it was a reliable old thing, showing 180k on before it went over the bridge, and it wasn’t showing any real signs of grot. A bloody shame. His current 2001 Mondeo on the other hand has recently scraped an MOT and to make it mint would take nigh on £2k, as the aircon is FUBBED, along with a fair few other electrical gremlins

  36. I know its all down to personal taste, but I never really gelled with the Mondeo. Maybe having owned three traditional Fords – ie: rear wheel drive Sierras and a plethora of Cortinas too.

    That said, they truly pulled the stops out with Mondeo and an 05 plate TDCi Ghia X I very nearly too the plunge with drove really well and couldn’t really be faulted so far as driver appeal mattered.

    Current examples are handsome motors indeed which you never pay retail money for when new and build quality is not far off the the best of the badges in its class.

    Yep: Ford have f***ed up once or twice in recent decades, but they hit the bullseye with the Mondeo – FACT!

  37. @42 What a shame about the Primera. Big Nissans used to be unknown gems.
    Given the Maverick-Terrano tie-up, I used to think that the Primera and Mondeo had more in common.

    Shame that Nissan gave up on the segment, though that qashcow thing sells by the bucketloads.

  38. I dont think the Primera was an unknown gem.

    What scuppered it was the simple fact fleet drivers and the family man would rather eat their own hair than drive / own a Nissan.

    Ford & GM had a dealer in every postcode with stunning deals 24/7 – 365 and were seen to be aspiring and smart where Nissan came over too pedestrian – excitement sells, such a darn shame as the early 2.0 Primera was such a superb car it just lacked sparkle.

  39. My father had for a while a facelifted plain-Jane 1998 Mondeo with the awful diesel engine. It was anemic (90hp to move a car that was quite portly) and had the longest gear box in the history of the world, there was no available torque at all. Ugh.

    That being said, once I managed to get some speed on a long straight avenue near our town, threw it a little fast into the curve at the end of the straight and my gosh did the chassis feel good!

    In North America where I live now, the Contour/Mystique do have an awful reputation indeed. But the engine in the SVT (and in our hoonable ST200) has a great reputation among petrolheads; it’s not the most reliable or easiest to service but it delivers. And the Duratec V6 had a great career in its own right too!

    I mean, it was always put in awful cars (Ford Taurus, Mercury Sable, etc.) but it turned them in quite the sleepers at the strip mall.

  40. In the US the fusion that replaced the Contour/Mystique, was a blocky, shapeless brick, with alot less character than the Mondeo.. The 1996 Facelift certainly gave the Mondeo alot better looks, and was a nicer drive than the brick like 2000 replacement (the MK2 was no where near as well built either)

  41. Great article Andrew-thanks.

    One question though. The “air vent” integrated into the rear door pillar. Did it serve a purpose or was it put there for looks alone?

  42. One thing I always remember about these were the bumpers that would crack and break leaving yellow foam sticking out

  43. @18. The car at the science museum used to be the centrepiece of the then New Ford Showrooms @ Alperton Ford – just of Hangar Lane – in about 1992 I think. Was surprised to see it in the Museum to be honest. Don’t know how it got there.

  44. Ford also quite early on did a tie in with Tamiya, and released a radio controlled 1/10 scale Mondeo in BTCC guise, with the then new front wheel drive chassis

  45. Finally the design story for the Mondy.
    As you can see from my profile pic I had a 96 P reg MK1 1.8 Verona in juice green.
    It was probably the best car I have owned even though it was 17 years old when I finally let her go.
    Quick, comfortable, smooth, excellent handling. The only gripes were the terrible plastic air vents that would fall apart like melted butter everytime you touched them and not much storage space in the cabin.
    But mechanically it was strong and could still blow much newer cars off the lights into a spec in the rear view mirror. Love them!!

  46. I had these a lot on hire when they were new. The basic Mk1 handled quite well but I was never impressed with the overall package. In particular, the estate always looked awkward and I never liked the hatchback rear. Even worse was the drastic grey plastic interior (or chocolate brown if you were even more unlucky).

    I remember the 90bhp diesel, Hertz had a diesel estate that did the rounds on our company hire fleet until so many people objected to the anaemic performance that they took it away. However, on the odd occasions a V6 turned up – presumably when Hertz were short of 1.8 and 2.0s and you were lucky if you got one of those. They were a serious motor with snorting performance and good handling. Again though, shame about the dull styling.

    If you were lucky enough to get a 2.0 16V then they made a pretty good hire car, fast, safe handling and reasonably spacious – but I wouldn’t want to own one. The interior was just too dull and it was just totally bland when there were more exciting cars around, even including the Cavalier which didn’t handle as well but looked a darn sight nicer inside and out.

    I can’t say that I have ever had any desire to own a Mondeo, although I know that they drive well and used ones are dirt cheap, it’s just that I’m not a Mondeo man!

  47. A brilliant little “surprise & delight” feature on the Mk1 Mondeo, that I don’t think I’ve seen on any otehr car, including the Mk2 & beyond, is that at night time, the interior door handles were illuminated.

    Simple yet brilliant.

  48. @62

    Looking at the Finnish Winter test picture, it does appear that there is a vent opening in the body, where the door would close on to.

    I remember the BX had a vent in the rear C pillar too. Not something you see now, the latest Mondeo has Volvo-style interior vents in the rear from the main front ventilation system.

  49. The Mondeo was a 1000% improvement on the terminally dreadful Sierra, though quite why Ford took so long so make the transition to FWD is anyone’s guess.

    Picture 4A has a definite Mitsubishi look about it…

    The Estate version sold horrendously slowly when it first came out – I only remember seeing 3 in the first 6 months they were on sale, so I doubt there were many K-reg examples!

    The MK4 is probably the best Mondeo, although Ford UK shot themselves in the foot by axing the saloon version…

  50. i worked at ford as a collection and delivery driver, picking up customers cars for service and other work then delivering them back once finished when the mondeo came out…i remember when the first ones started coming through for there P.D.I’S…the head mechanic at the time kicked one of the doors and pushed on the rear bumper…hummed and haughed them said “huh the scrappies are gonna be full of these in 10 years” and he was right too…then when the sticking valves started happening on them and all ztecs…i was told by the service manager no less “when you drive a car with that engine drive it like you stole it that engines meant to be revved and those old buggers arnt doing it”…god was that 20 years ago…hehe there was no need to tell me that sir i was 20 and i drove every one like i stole it…not my tires, fuel, or car…smashed a few up too

  51. I don’t agree the Zeta engine was a dog at all. My dad had a 1994 Mondeo 2.0 which he had for 10 years, and which had racked up 200,000 miles by the end with pretty much routine maintenance only. The car / bodywork sent it to the scrapyard, but the engine was still sweet and gutsy. Idiotic dealers wrecked a few by using the wrong oil, but is that the engine’s fault?

    Many cases of so-called “sticking valves” were said to be a ruse by unscrupulous garages to charge lots of money for fixing the real problem, a split vacuum T-piece under the battery tray which cost about four quid from a dealer, and took about 30 seconds to fit. My dad’s car had this part fail, and the engine ran so poorly it could have passed for a major mechanical fault. Easily and cheaply fixed though.

    Mondeos were great cars. Proper workhorses that were really good to drive with it. A quantum leap for Ford at the time, and marked the start of the new era where Fords were actually class leading cars, not just cheap boxes to be given away to fleets at stupid discounts. Pretty much everything Ford have put out since the Mondeo has been good.

  52. My Zeta engine:
    – Sticking valves. We can give them that if it had been given the wrong oil.
    – Cutting out when stopping / not idling correctly when started
    – Eventually running on 3 cylinders and burning oil due to a seal going

    Misc Electrical issues, fuel gauge went, other Ford issues, rust etc.

    The brief moment when it did run, it was quite quick and smooth revving.

    Wasn’t impressed with the Zeta, in the 92 Orion it should have been called ‘Beta’ because it did seem that it wasn’t fully tested.

  53. @iain

    Ford axed the mk4 saloon as it was a slow seller. Like the Insignia, there wasn’t a huge differentiation in looks between the hatch and saloon, it was slightly lengthier and less practical.

    My friend has a mk4 as a family car, have been in it and it is impressive, a world away from Fords of 20 years ago.
    However, I am not sure how it will last beyond usual “fleet mileage” that they are designed for. The engine is a PSA HDi which like most modern diesels the DMF can go.

    Interestingly, the current Focus saloon, as seen in Ireland, is probably close in spirit to the Mondeo of old, even looks like a slightly shrunken mk4 Mondeo.

  54. I’ve had my 15 year-old facelift Mondeo for 10 years, longer than XR3i,Sierra and 2 Granadas put together! it has 115k on the clock and just sails along the motorway fully loaded….brilliant. Very interesting feature.

  55. We had a 1.6LX mk1 hatch as a family car and it was the best car we had owned to date!
    I never had any problems with the Zetec engine as it was regularly serviced using the correct oil.
    It was ex-fleet when we got it with 100,000 miles on the clock & we kept it for 9 1/2 years!In that time we put another 65000 miles on it and it was still using no oil between services when we sold it on.
    I must admit that the plastic bumpers were its biggest failing-any slight knock resulting in replacement (we replaced the rear one twice!).
    The other problem I had was that the central locking started to play up as the car got old.
    We finally replaced it 7 years ago with a mk2 2.0 GLX Mondeo (one of the last)which is still giving stirling service.

  56. Re: World Car into “So come 1985, and just three years after the launch of the Sierra, and a few months after the Granada (Scorpio) launch, Ford decided to have another crack.”

    The Sierra in XR4i form, and the Scorpio, were sold in the US as Merkurs. Not huge sellers, but were ‘world cars’..

    • The fact that it took from 1985 until the end of 1992 to develop seems a long gestation, nearly 8 years which is just as long as it was in production for although considering how old and outdated the Sierra and the American ford tempo/mercury topaz that it replaced were I assume the development ran past it’s deadline and probably over budget.

  57. @64,The sticking valve problem was commonplace with the early engines,Ford dealers simply revvedthe stones off them while spraying brake fluid into the intake!

  58. @65 No they didnt axe the 4 door. It is the main stay of the range in Russia, China and other European countries. On a global scale it outsells the 5 door. (Fog in Channel, Continent isolated again)

  59. Great article. Shame about the dreary Mondeos, especially the Mk1. To be fair, the Mondy made a great hire car and I was pretty much always pleased to see one at the airport. You knew you could jump straight in and drive away with confidence. No wacky suspension, unfathomable radio or weird switchgear, it was straightforward like ordering burger and chips.

    However, the interiors were just plain DULL, DULL, DULL. My brother owned a Mk3 for ages. It ran well and towed his caravan and did about 40 mpg (2.0 16V) but it was not a car I ever wanted to own.

    I had a few goes in the V6 and they were a pretty good Q-car but you paid for it in fuel consumption. The early 1.8 diesels were pretty dreadful. I recall trying to climb the big hill on the M62 westbound coming out of Brighouse and being down to 55 in 3rd admittedly the car was well laden and there was a headwind but it was pretty embarrassing when you were struggling to stay up with the trucks!

  60. The Mondeo simply suffers what all Fords do, which is the affliction of immediate anonymity and dullness within months of launch because they become so common. The MK1 Mondeo looks as dull as ditchwater in the pics above, made only worse when pictured next to the BMW. That’s not to say it was a bad car, it wasn’t, though typical weak Fod suspnsion components and particulary weak outer bodywork pressings seem to have affected most cars still around. Bodywork suffers the familiar Rover-R8-esque dimpling and rippling – the result of thin and cheap metal sheeting.

  61. @72 Any cars still around will be at least 17 years old. I think you can forgive the odd bit of suspension ware or body “dimpling” – Just as you can forgive my 51 year old grey hair and wrinkles.

  62. The MK1 Mondeo drove many times better than a E36 BMW,and was a better handler too,i have owned both. The Mondeo almost had a look of japenese car to it but was a cab-forward design and the four door looked quite sleek,i had a 2.0 4×4 saloon and a fwd ex police 2.5 Si both great cars.

  63. I’ve had 2 4×4 hatchbacks now over the last 12 years along with many other cars. I love the Mk1 Mondeo, but there aren’t many left now. Those that are still going are either well looked after examples or are rotting away at the arches and the petrol cap, with gaffer tape on both the bumpers!

  64. Another American voice here. I knew someone who ran one as a pizza delivery car back in the day, and I can’t remember anything really going wrong with it. However, it didn’t impress me either. Today they are a rare sight on the roads as most were scrapped long ago and they didn’t sell all that well when new. I think the problem with it came down to a certain amount of brand snobbery. In the US during the 1990’s, you were considered a bit foolish for buying anything that wasn’t from a major Japanese manufacturer (Nissan, Toyota or Honda). Ford, just having come off of the dreadful Tempo/Topaz twins and the unrefined early US Escort, was not seen as a good manufacturer of small cars. In the US, a midsize car was something like a Taurus or the awful Chevrolet Lumina and those sold in huge numbers. However, if you wanted something the size of a Mondeo, you bought a Camry, Accord or Stanza/Altima because you knew it would never die. The Mondeo/Contour/Mystique just didn’t offer enough of an advantage over their Japanese rivals for anyone to take a chance on them.

  65. @Rickerby / 70

    The ‘axing’ was in reference to Ford UK.

    Being in NI I get to see many saloon variants from RoI that are never sold in the UK – including the Mondeo and current Focus saloons.
    Opel also sell an Astra saloon, though it is a little slab sided compared to the elegance of the previous gen saloon.

    Yes the UK doesn’t buy saloons, the original reference was the fact that Ford UK no longer sell them. They’re probably now at a stage they wanted to be in the mid 80s with the Escort / Sierra / Granada, except now the market is ready.

  66. i had one 7 years ago it was a N reg 2.0 glx hatchback mine had aircon which i didn’t think was in glx mk1’s and the blue oval ford logo steering wheel with stereo volume controls which i also didn’t think mk1’s had.
    it wasn’t a bad car but even when i had it when it was 10 years old the door bottoms were rotting quite bad and both bumpers had usual gaffer tape on them although i dont get why people and the motoring press praise them very highly above most other cars it was a repmobile

  67. Here is a perspective from down under, I am a new Zealander who lives in Australia, and the car market could not be more different the mondeo sold very well in NZ and continues to do so the mondeo was discontinued in Aussie in 2002 (but not in NZ) and was re introduced in 2009, I grew up in NZ the Cortina and Mk 2 Escort where the kings, the Cortina was a best seller in NZ, However in Aussie it was Botched and Generally had slow sales, the reasons for this where that NZ is like the UK market where it CKDed Cars from the source and did not have Exhaust emission regs like Australia, the NZ cortina was going out for around NZD$14000 for the Ghia, and a staggering NZ$19000 for the 2.3V6 however it sold like hot cakes, when it was replace in NZ By the Telstar (Mazda 626)ford was going to lose market share so it introduced the sierra wagon on to the Kiwi market to sell along side the Telstar (Just the Wagon) however most kiwis preferred the sierra over the Telstar. In Australia The Cortina was badly built and slow with the 20litre emission motor going from around 112BHP to 90Hp then they put in Straight 6s of 3.3(200Ci) and 4.1(250ci) and they did not go around corners well though in a straight line they where quick combine this with a sea of plastic trim (The Ghia did not get wood grain) it did not sell well so they introduced the Telstar which was far more up to date and assembled that in OZ until they reverted to full import from Japan FOMOCO OZ did not have a midsize wagon only the bigger Falcon.over this period fords marketing became very dysfunctional, because in 1998 the Laser(Mazda 323)was discontinued and the last euro escorts where marketed in NZ the Aussies kept the laser fully imported from Japan. When the Mondeo arrived in Aussie in late 1996 it was already on sale in NZ for a year with ST24 and Ghia Aussie only got LX and GLX in sedan Hatch and LX wagon although cheaper in OZ than the Telstar it was compared to the Cortina before it and some Aussies wanted bigger cars the facelift was rushed on to the Aussie market to stem the flow as where the Kiwis bough em in droves, remembering the Cortina ford oz did not have a mid range car again until the 2009 MH model which was bigger, Ford was very dysfunctional in this part of the world in the Late 80s and mid 90s

  68. Mk3 facelift cavalier was a much better car despite being an older design it just goes to show they were a lot more of these about 15 year old than a mk1 mondeo vauxhalls are built much bettet

  69. Sorry for above post coming off ignorant i just never found this car class leading regardless of what people or press said. I suppose why most of these have gone is because a clutch change cost more than the car was worth and who’d speed 500+ on a 150 quid mondeo at end of day’ I think sills and rear arches rotted quite bad on these didn’t they and bumpers were made out of egg shells my N reg certainly was.

  70. It was built to a price and was noisy. Ford wasted too much money on development and internal conflict. I don’t agree they outlast other cars, they rust and once the clutch goes the crusher calls. As for being a drivers car catastrophic understeer put paid to that. Ford bunged thousands of journalists and they lapped it up.

  71. Interesting listening to peoples thoughts on this car. I hated it and, until now, have never heard of anyone who liked it. That was probably because most people I spoke to were looking for a replacement for the Sierra. For me, it always looked small and dull, both inside and out. There is no doubt the examples I drove were quick cars to drive but the 16v engine lacked bottom end torque compared to the DOHV Sierra engine which made it useless on cross country roads and steep motorway hills and very heavy on fuel. The front wheel drive system may have been cheap to produce but never gave me the pleasure I got from Sierra’s and Granada’s. The automatic, with its high slip torque converter to compensate for it lack of torque, gave it a woolly feeling and used even more fuel. Making the car bigger made the car more roomy but exaggerated the engine problems. I believe the latest Mondeo’s with their turbo charged engines are finally beginning to become interesting cars. It is a lot bigger than the Sierra and it is difficult to compare the two cars nowadays. The question now is whether they are too complicated. It isn’t a car I would like to entrust to our local Ford dealer who have let me down so many times, I wouldn’t trust them to change a light bulb.

  72. Having owned every single version of the mondeo from the mk1 through to the facelift mk4 and a mk5 now in the family i can see the progression of the car from 1992 to 2015. They can be fun. They drive well and have a good chassis setup. The mk5 is playing against the audi and bmw and vw market and bang for buck better to run and maintain. The new selection of diesel and petrol ecoboost engines are reliable and good on fuel and tax for the uk market. The mk4 was a sensible option for cab drivers as well as the mk3. Options lists were good and still are and for just over 23k new you can have a top of the range with all options mondeo. Try and find another class leader at that price.
    The mk1 suffered with issues. Oil starvation on the v6 leading to knackered bottom ends. A baffled sump sorted that one. The v6 also suffered waterpump issues and headgasket issues and was ment to be updated fir the revised mk2 and mk3 market. Still with some issues. The 1.8 deisel being dropped on the mk3 in favor of a 16v tddi and later a tdci common rail engine which due to delphis bad injection system is prone to issues as well as duel mass flywheel issues. The mk4 introduced the psa engine as well in tdci mode and the reintroduction of the endura de engine in tdci with uprated parts. The duratec de 4 pot engine was updated from the mk3 and a turbo 5 pot from the volvo camp was put in the place of the unreliable v6. In 2012 the 2lt duratec he was dropped in favor of the 160bhp 1.6 ecoboost and the 5 pot in favor of the 240bhp ecoboost four cylinder engines. First run mk5 mondeos run a 1.5 160bhp ecoboost and a small 1.0 3 cylinder ecoboost engine.
    Old mondeos are reliable and good cars. Ive modified many of them and still love to drive them. Just never caught on with the same respect as the sierra and cortina but still a reps favorite and a good reliable car for the money. I used to own the last mk4 saloon for the uk market and last ever in ghia spec. Very rare to find but a nice car to drive and own.

    • The mk1 is getting exceptionally rare, that for those of us in the know it has become a head turner.

      Mk4 was a nice big car, friend briefly had one, inside it was huge, reminded me of the old mk3 Granada. The saloon is quite rare (as is the Focus saloon), though on the Irish market it fared better sales.

      Mk5 looks incredibly elegant, kudos to Ford designers. With the fastback shape and Aston-Martin style grille, I would almost go as far as to label it a modern day SD1…. (a car which aped a Ferrari Daytona, the most elegant supercar of that era).

  73. The Mk1 mondeo introduced new levels of occupant safety with a stiff chassis. The front end is very stiff. Had Ford put higher tensile steel into the bulkhead and B pillars I’m sure it would have matched the Volvo S40’s 1997 four star EuroNcap test result.

  74. I think the mk1 Mondeo was a great car. Ford spent too much on development, and it’s a shame that the LX and GLX models didn’t benefit from the increased sound insulation fitted to the Ghia, and that ABS wasn’t standard. Drums on the rear throughout the 4 cylinder range seemed strange in such a large car, but they did the job, and are maybe partly responsible for what must have been the best brake pedal feel at the time, especially on non abs versions. The 2.0 versions were strangely low geared, but didn’t seem any worse on fuel than the coarser 1.8’s, although they weren’t much faster. The 1.8td was dreadful however, noisy and inflexible, the 1.9 units fitted to the French alternatives were much better.

  75. I really liked the Mark 3 Mondeo. Having driven a 1.8 LX in 2003, I was really impressed with the interior space, the styling, the powerful and refined engine and the high equipment levels. Never had any experience of the nineties cars, but from all accounts they were better than the Sierra and helped Ford recover after a few bad years in the early nineties.

  76. Interesting that you say Ghia models had extra soundproofing. Was this traditionally the case with other Ford models . Where was the additional soundproofing added ?

    • The extra insulation fitted to the Ghia was mainly under the carpet, mostly in the front and rear doorbells, although the diesel models may have also all benefited from this Inc additional bulkhead insulation. The V6 and Ghia X model’s also had a thick foam liner under the boot carpet.

  77. I had a 1993 1.8 Lx back in 97. It got slower post 60,000, the wishbones were rubbish and it was a bit low geared and noisy on the motorway. But I did 50,000 miles in it and only had to replace the wishbones twice, starter motor and steering wheel clock spring. Cambelts lasted well, and the clutch which had been changed before I got it didn’t seem to change biting point much. Although I don’t abuse the clutch, and replacing it is expensive.

  78. This really is the first time I read that there was something like design work actually done on the Mondeo. I’d always thought the Mondeo’s looks were the result of an accident like a blob of modelling clay falling off the table in the styling studio.
    This car looked so bland it was nearly invisible and therefore it could have come from any manufacturer. Seemingly they did not learn anything from the Escort Mk4 debacle, a car “clinicked to death” as CAR magazine called it.
    These looks compare very unfavourably with the Pininfarina pinstripe suit of the Peugeot 405, the Bauhaus looks of the Audi 80/A4 or the cool modernism of the BMW Three E36 available at the same time.

    • I guess most of the effort went under the skin, as they didn’t repeat the same mistake of carrying over too many mechanical parts.

      It also helped that Vauxhall / Opel played it too same with the Vectra, making a “more of the same / carry on the good work effort” rather than being a Mondeo bester.

    • Bit harsh, I thought it was a handsome car. Not as radical as the 1982 Sierra had been, but then Ford had their fingers burnt with that so noone could blame them for playing it safe.

      The trend in the 90s was for rounded edges, and as this article shows there was actually much thought went into the shape, it had to look appealing, or at least inoffensive, internationally as it was going to be a ‘world car’.

      Actually preferred the original to the round grille facelift, thought the front of that just looked strange.

      Though thank goodness they didn’t do a full Scorpio on it.

      The mk4 Escort wasn’t a bad looking facelift, not sure what you mean. The 1990 mk5 looked like a rounded evolution on the theme, just the overall quality was lacking – cost cutting was apparent.

      The 405 was a good looker, shame Peugeot lost the plot with the 407, the A4 was the start of Audi’s trendy phase with every model after being an evolution, the E36 was another good looking design – E46 being an evolution, E90 the last good looking 3 series before the heavy-forehead F30.

      The Vectra looking like the mk3 Cavalier would’ve made more sense if the mk3 had gotten the European name – Vectra A. The other big competitor was the Primera, an underrated car.

      • Not forgetting the Toyota Carina E, the first Toyota to be built in Britain, and a car aimed at the company car market and the taxi companies, who loved them as they could take massive mileages and still perform reliably.
        The first Mondeo was always OK, mechanically it was better than the Sierra the it replaced, which had developed some reliability issues, but looked so bland.

  79. One quirk of the Mk 2 Mondeo is that the bumpers would often crack revealing yellow foam underneath. This was often repaired by applying gaffer tape to the bumper..

  80. You can still see the occasional battered, run-down Mk1 Mondeo on the roads today. A few have survived into bangernomics territory, unlike their predecessor the Sierra which seemed to become extinct many years ago.

    • The strange thing is, no-one would notice. Same with mk3 Cavaliers and R8s. Cars that are around 25 years old.

      In the early 90s, a 25 year old car from the 60s would’ve turned heads.

  81. I see the odd Sierra, but a combination of things, mostly rusting wheel arches & many being bought up for drift / banger racing killed many off. You would have thought the relative DIY friendliness of the drive line would have kept more on the roads, but I guess the bodywork died first.

    It’s not too hard to see some early 1990s cars still looking tidy.

    • Strange the 90s cars that survived rust free – things like Xantias, 405s, mk3 Cavaliers and even Alfa 156s.

      And the ones that are riddled with rust are surprisingly 90s Mercs and early E46 BMWs!
      (Not forgetting Kas and the tendency for Rover 100s to go frilly round the arches)

      • I’ve been told Mercedes had a problem for some years with bacteria levels in their new paint shop effecting the quality.

        Sometimes it didn’t effect the anti-rust protection, but otherwise it caused crusty panels after a decade or so.

        K11 Nissan Micras seem to last well with a little TLC.

        • For a while there early to mid 2000s C classes were very cheap, tempting as a little cruiser (with a proper Merc grille / bonnet ornament too!) but almost every example was scabby with rust

          While X types, for all the uneducated “hur dur dur Mondeo!” scoffing, I’ve never seen a rusty one.

          • That was at the height of the Jürgen Schrempp (the one with the “marriage in heaven” Chrysler takeover) era when Mercedes lost about 25 billion Euros through their CEO’s ego boosting experiments.
            There had to be a massive cost cutting all over the company which did the product quality no good and badly damaged Mercedes’ reputation. This era gave us the W203 C class with its nasty and cheap interior and the W210 E which corroded even quicker than the C. Or as CAR said “the Mercedes is built from material that wouldn’t make it into a Volkswagen at half the price”

    • And yet my 1996 Alfa GTV didn’t have a speck of rust when I sold it about 8 years ago.

      (Though the MINI style clamshell bonnet was plastic)

      Any surviving examples of the Puma’s big brother Cougar look rust free (apart from the rear exhausts which are too visible from behind) and surprisingly modern

  82. Around my town, I still regularly see a mid 80’s Nissan Sunny B11 saloon (and in motion!) & its bodywork still looks decent. Another car you wouldn’t expect to see these days.

  83. I think the older Mark 3 Cavalier was a much more solid looking car with a much more upmarket interior and decent reliability, also it was British. The Mondeo didn’t really come good until the Matk 3, a much better car than its predecessors and which is very popular as a bangernomics car.

  84. We loved our 51 Ghia Mk3 2 litre auto, all over Europe, France, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Germany, Holland, Denmark without a problem and great comfort. The only thing it lacked was cruise-control, doubtless available, but always a compromise when buying a used car.

  85. Of the early nineties repmobiles, I still consider the turbodiesel Citroen BX to be very underrated. I had one during a sales job in 1994 and in terms of ride refinement, performance and economy, it was better than most of its contemporaries. 55 mpg was typical on a long run on the A74 and on some of Scotland’s rough surfaced B roads, it rode like a Jaguar. Sad the job didn’t last as the BXs were being replaced by Xantias, another seriously underrated car and far more interesting than a Mondeo.

  86. i have Ford Mondeo 2008 (08 reg). How can i know if its MK-IV 2007-2014 or MK-IV 2007-2015. i have googled it all and could not find any valid answer. its hatchback btw. Any help would much be appreciated.

  87. Ford had to get it right with the Mondeo as another botch up like the 1990 Escort could have done them serious harm. Luckily everything went well with the Mondeo and Ford recovered from their early nineties downturn.
    My favourite version is still the Mark 3, with its spotlight type rear lights. The whole car looked so good and drove so well( possible Jaguar influence as well) and even a 1.8 could do over 120 mph easily. Tens of thousands survive now and a well maintained one will easily do 200,000 miles without any problems.

  88. Reading all this, what stands out is just how little mainstream car design has advanced in the 25 years since the first Mondeo arrived. Go back 25 years from 1993 and you would be comparing the Mondeo with the Mk2 Cortina! – That would have looked like the museum piece it was in the early 90s, crude engineering with absolutely no sophistication whatsoever. The Mondeo looked like it came from another planet by comparison. Now compare a 1993 Mondeo with the current model. Apart from styling and further developed electronics driven mainly by emissions requirements there is not a lot in it. Similar drivetrains, mechanical layout and suspension – and a not dissimilar driving experience. What has happened?

  89. Huge news currently, Ford for a recent while successfully implemented a One world, one vision “One Ford” policy but given the US tastes for crossovers / SUVs and the lack of profit in passenger cars, in the USA the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion(Mondeo) and Taurus are being axed, just leaving the Mustang as their only passenger car, with a Focus based crossover to be offered.

    So lap up those US FBI dramas where they are screeching about in US spec Mondeos while you can, for the next season will have them in EcoSports or Edges.

    Who would’ve seen that coming 10-20 years ago, when they still sold land yachts like the Crown Victoria, and their Explorer SUV was being blamed for rollover tragedies?

  90. I agree the MK1 Mondeo is a bland car. However don’t know if anyone has seen the MK1 with the factory fitted RS kit – i saw a white saloon not so long back and it really did look like your traditional classic fast Ford even though it’s not! Can remember my dad having a Si one back in the late 90s early 00s and for a 2.0 16v it was pretty quick.

    • Ford’s designs in the early nineties weren’t very good. There were the completely bland Fiesta and Escort restyles, the Scorpio was completely ugly, and the Mondeo was forgettable. Also reliability on Fords of this era was poor and the driving abilities of the Escort in particular were terrible. Give me Rover over Ford in this era as the cars were not only better looking, they were a classy drive and had become reliable.

  91. Yes, the early 90s were not Ford’s finest hours for design. The R8 was a better looking car than the Escort MKV and the Rover 600 looked more classy than the MK1 Mondeo. However Ford’s marketing and massive production resources once again saturated the market (Fleets in particular).

  92. The comment about the Sierra not being Ford’s finest hour does not ring true to my experience. In 1986 I was selling construction equipment – excavators / dumper trucks, etc, and my company car was a new Ford Sierra 1.6GL, yes pretty run of the mill stuff. However this car was driven ‘swiftly’ most of the time, crossed building sites and carried stuff in the rear. This quite ordinary car didn’t miss a beat over 144,000 miles in 4 years, I have had more Fords and never been let down so far.

  93. Jeremy Clarkson always said a V6 Mondeo could do anything a six cylinder BMW could do for far less money and was better value. However, the caveat was Ford dealers, he mentioned that if you had a problem with a Ford, you’d probably be punched in the face at the dealership, where BMW would be very apologetic and bend over backwards. While Clarkson’s description of Ford dealerships might be slightly OTT, I can vouch for two where I turned up at 3.45 one Saturday and was told we’re closing by some sullen salesman( the opening hours on the door said 5.00, but I wasn’t going to push the case with Mr Happy) and another where the salesman was completely clueless.

    • Fair comment Glenn. My experiences with our local Ford dealer in 10 years has been much better and I seem to have a rapport with the staff (both sales and service dept). Useful when you do have issues or queries. They are now part of the Lookers Group.

  94. Hello. I have a Mondeo 2.0 SI RS CITRINE YELLOW. This color has not been marketed but a number has been produced including 211 for England. Who can tell me exactly how many CITRINE Yellow produced? As the GENK plant has been closed, I do not know where to go. Thank you

  95. The Mondeo did well thanks to the fleet sales market, but even the fleet buyers weren’t so loyal to Ford as they were in the eighties and some fleet buyers had a bad experience with later Sierras with the replacement engine for the Pinto. In 1993, while the Mondeo was a leap forward from the Sierra and at last had fwd, fleets now had British built Nissans and Toyotas in the family car sector that had excellent reliability reputations and were capable motorway cars. The Mark 3 Cavalier and British built Peugeot 405 had become favourites with many fleet buyers and the 405 had made diesel popular in this sector with the excellent XUD engines. Also some fleet buyers, like the company I worked for 30 years ago, had taken on Citroen BXs due their excellent diesel economy, competitive prices and outstanding ride comfort that was important for reps on long journeys. It did seem Ford was no longer the go to choice in the fleet market and the Mondeo was no better than its rivals, except for the huge dealer network.

  96. Part of the Mondeo’s success was arguably the marketing benefit derived from its presence in the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship). The Sierra Cosworth had been pretty much all-conquering in the BTCC, and Ford got Mondeos on track pretty much at the same time as the road going Mondeo was launched. This built on the “driver’s car” reputation that the Sierra “Cosseh” had already built up. Add in attention grabbing guest turns from the likes of Nigel Mansell at the wheel of a BTCC Mondeo and the marketing spend no doubt looked like a sound investment for Ford. Pretty much every manufacturer who had a “repmobile” for sale in the ‘90s took part in the BTCC Super Touring heyday (except Rover), and often beat Ford, but the Mondeo was always there, and generally at the sharp end. It’s far from the only reason the Mondeo sold well, but for buyers with an interest in motorsport it certainly kept the Mondeo at or near the top of their list when it came to choosing their next company or family car. It was a sensible, reasonably priced car that, when the mood took you, you could indulge your fantasies of going wheel to wheel in the BTCC with. Even if you were only driving a base model diesel to a sales conference in Dudley.

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