29 Oct 2012

Living with - Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium Estate

In the 'Living with' series owners review their cars.  This time it's the turn of a 2011 Ford Mondeo Estate

The Car: Ford Mondeo 2.0 TDCi Titanium Estate, Auto, 2011 
Owner: Adrian Harding


It was with great anticipation that the new Ford Mondeo arrived in June 2011. After reading many excellent reports and reviews I thought we were in for a real automotive treat. After owning the previous generation Mondeo expectations were high. The Titanium spec was chosen as it, more or less, replaced the previous Ghia trim levels and the new Powershift promised much as a replacement for the rather ropey automatic gearbox that was in the previous car. Liking automatics makes me inherently lazy, but for everyday use it seems hard to beat, this car was not destined for B road thrashes or trackdays.

Silver is a colour that does not show dirt or scratches and seems to have reasonable resale values, although on reflection does seem a bit tedious ….and so it arrived.
Adrian's Ford Mondeo

First thing people do is throw away the manual. The manual used to be a quality shiny item with an embroidered Ford logo on it, not anymore it has a cheap transfer stuck to it and the manual pages are the equivalent of tissue paper, this was not a good start. Next up was to plug in my iPod. After half an hour and much Googling it turned out I needed a special lead from the dealer. First drive was to the dealer to purchase the said lead. “What’s the chassis number?” was the surly response to my request. “How the hell would I either know or remember that?” After agreeing to take a “chance” and there would be no refund if it was wrong I coughed up £26 and got my sounds to play.

It has to be said the stereo is outstanding and probably the highlight of the vehicle, combined with the easiest Bluetooth and DAB set up in the world and the most wonderful speakers it often provides the necessary distraction from the car's issues, which there are many.

Next stop, filling it up with diesel. There is no filler cap, which is fine, if a bit disconcerting, where do you put the key while filling up, (but more on that later). Having filled up I was then left to search for the fuel gauge, so that I could witness the satisfying sweep of the needle from E to F, (shows what you have paid for). Instead, I was rewarded by a digital bar graph at the bottom of the dash, which didn’t look like I had just spent £80, I wanted more movement for my money.

Lets get it out on the road. Push start is fine in an Aston Martin, and in the world where men have manbags to put their stuff in. In the real world most men have just two pockets to cram their daily needs into. It would be really nice, therefore, if the car keys would fit somewhere in the car and not wedging into your thigh while you are driving. What to do you with the key while driving is a constant source of wonder to me. Leave it in the door bin and it will no doubt rattle, leave it in your pocket and it will hurt at some point, you will also have a panic wondering your keys are and then realise that the car wouldn’t be going without them. On one occasion I left the key in the boot and drove for a bit and then went to park in a car park. This was followed by me hunting for half an hour looking for the key with engine running, knowing that it must be close or the car would not be going. Wouldn’t a handy orifice in the car be ideal?

So how well does it go once started? It does go well, very well and on the motorway it is in its element, getting to three figures very quickly and meaning that my license was in immediate danger. For a diesel it is reasonably quiet but road noise, the racket that comes from the tyres is quite frankly unacceptable in a £22,000 car, which, by all accounts, has excellent refinement. Once that disappointment is dealt with by the excellent stereo the performance can be focussed on. It does have that diesel fist of torque between 2000 and 3500 rpm but due to the fact it has six gears it is not irritating or inhibiting. It cruises with real aplomb and has excellent motorway ride and manners.

Off the motorway and head back home. Why does the Powershift gearbox think it’s so clever when really it has no idea whatsoever? As you come down the slip road it changes down through the gears with all the skill of my mother and causes boy child to question his fathers driving ability. Accelerating away from the roundabout and again gear selection, by the gearbox. seems quite random, and turns the car into what feels like an elastic-band ride. The throttle is adjusted and unless it is buried in the carpet the gearbox makes for very confusing and slightly sick making progress. Flat out the gearbox understands not to change up until the last millisecond but this is not very relaxing for anybody and creates complaints from partner about “hooliganism” in a family car.

Arrive at road junction. The gearbox is determined under all circumstances to pull away in second gear, this is scary as the diesel engine is a bit dead below 1500 rpm and as you see the car that was quarter of a mile away now three feet from your door with all it s headlights ablaze you wonder why it does this.

Use the gearbox in manual mode. It does make life easier and less traumatic but even so the gearbox is determined to do what it wants and not what you, as an intelligent human being, think is appropriate. This means as you change down it also thinks you should change down meaning you are now two gears less than you thought and are lurching round the roundabout in 1st with the revs bouncing off the limiter. This is not relaxing and can gain unwanted attention.

Lets go away for a weekend. Where is the cargo net I got in my previous Mondeo?  It does not have one.  Luckily I still had the net from the old car and safely stowed the luggage. The quality of the carpet in the boot is woeful, thin and cheap man-made fibres, but at least it is easy to vacuum after the dog has been in it. The dog can get into the back easily but has managed to completely ruin the chrome strip on the bumper with very little effort. This sums up the build quality that is, frankly, light years behind the previous incarnation of the Mondeo.

Lets do an A road at speed and on your own. The previous Mondeo was an excellent handling car with a nimbleness that, at times, beggared belief. This Mondeo does not have these attributes. It neither handles or grips particularly well. It does hang on but a disconcerting amount of lurching and general complaint has to be got through. I did read that if you took it by the scruff of its neck it would come close to the previous Mondeo, I have done this on numerous occasions and can say it does not.

So what’s good about it? It is roomy and, if no demands are placed upon it, a very relaxing drive, a good place to be on a long journey, it does do these well. 300 miles plus will pass effortlessly and reasonably economically. It does do 41mpg regardless of driving and road conditions.  At one point I thought the trip computer was broken it was so static. It has extras other manufacturers don’t have, for example the heated windscreen, which is very useful as diesels take hours to warm up and defrost windows.

Would I have another? No. Not because it’s a bad car, but because I was expecting so much more and have been let down. I need to buy something that I am expecting little of and be constantly surprised or impressed by. Over promise and under deliver is normally a term reserved for public transport, in this case it applies to my private transport.