Launched November 1992
A decade after the launch of the icon 1982 Ford Sierra, the Ford Motor Company was losing its way. Instead of being the engineering and design-led company that had been successful in previous decades, the beancounters had taken over and Ford’s cars in the late 1980s had a reputation for being built to maximise profit rather than for driver pleasure. This lack of attention to customer needs had a stark impact on the bottom line, Ford went from posting a record profit of $4.6 billion in 1987 to a record loss of $2.3 billion in 1991.
Changes were afoot though. Ford had started working on a replacement for the Sierra in 1986 – just four years after it launched – and six years and an astonishing $6 billion later they had the replacement, the Ford Mondeo.
The Mondeo was meant to be a world car (the Latin word for “world” is “mundus”) which could be sold in every market on earth with minimum modifications. At the time, Ford’s worldwide markets were fragmented with very different models which shared very little, apart from perhaps engines.
|Early Mondeos were conservatively styled, but Ford became bolder with later models
Finally making the shift from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive, the Mondeo was somewhat conservatively styled for the early 1990s but did have the flexibility of coming in a hatchback, saloon or estate configuration at launch which was something the Sierra lacked.
Interior design was good for the time, and the Mondeo had excellent driving dynamics. It could also be loaded with the latest automotive technology – at a price – including traction control, a heated front windscreen, ABS and an airbag. The car was designed to take just about any engine from the Ford range, which meant that the engine bay was larger than some rivals which impacted on cabin space. Engine sizes varied from a basic 1.6 litre 90HP engine at launch to an impressive 202HP 2.5 litre V6 engine in the final year’s ST200 model.
The first generation of Mondeo lasted until 2000, with a substantial facelift in 1996 which replaced almost all the body panels, lights and grille and improved the interior. But it never quite got to be the world car it wanted to be – North American versions were heavily reworked into the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique, but it went a long way to rationalising Ford’s fractured product range.
|Perhaps unfairly sales reps sometimes called it the "Mon-dreary-o". But the higher the spec of Mondeo, the higher your rank as a rep.
The car was a significant success, particularly outside North America. In 2000 the second-generation Mondeo was launched, built on the same platform as the original but completely reworked with a more European flavour. The third generation was launched in 2006 and lasted another six years until 2012, when the fourth and final generation was launched. In 2022 Ford discontinued the Mondeo in worldwide markets, with the last one produced in March of that year.
After thirty years the Mondeo died, a consistently good car that lost sales to SUVs and crossovers. Although a fifth-generation Mondeo is built in China, it is not for worldwide markets. Indeed, the Mondeo isn’t the only Ford casualty to crossovers, the Ford Fiesta was also discontinued late in 2022.
Most early Mondeos are as cheap as chips, except for high-end models such as the ST200 which easily command prices north of £10,000. When you consider that the price for the current model of Ford Focus – one size down from the Mondeo – starts at an eye-watering £27,000 then perhaps that doesn’t seem so expensive…