Ever since the first model was introduced in 1993, the Ford Mondeo has been recognised as a great-value used buy. The current-generation car built on that in a big way, offering superb handling, solid build quality, generous equipment and a roomy interior.
But the lack of a prestige image means new Mondeos are generally bought by fleets and business users, so they've normally covered huge mileages by the time they hit the second-hand market. This isn't necessarily a problem, although you have to check carefully. Do your homework and you could get one of the great automotive bargains.
For an early 1.8-litre car with 160,000 miles on the clock, expect to pay about £2,000 - but prices rise to £17,500 for a 6,000-mile six-month-old ST220. The best buy is a low-mileage year-old 2.0 TDCi, which will set you back around £10,000 - if you can find one. Supply of 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol-powered cars is plentiful, though, with three-year-old models that have covered 50,000 miles readily available for £5,000-£6,000.
Mondeo depreciation is savage, but before buying nearly new, consider pre-reg deals - a third off list is common. Avoid unrefined 2.0 TD, from 2000-2001. Estates are huge, while even heavier depreciation makes saloons bargains.
Low service costs mean Mondeos are cheap to maintain. Even if you have a scrape, repairs won't be expensive: a new (painted) front bumper costs £290, with replacement alloys from £125 (16-inch) to £170 (18-inch). A new windscreen is £113.40, but £251 if it's heated.
Service intervals: 12,500 miles/12 months for all variants, apart from Oct 2000-Jul 2001 2.0 TDs, which are 10,000 miles/12 months.
Service cost: 12,500 miles - 1.8/2.0 petrol £151, 2.5/3.0 petrol £164, 2.0 TDCi £225; 37,500 miles - 1.8/2.0 £225, 2.5/3.0 £240, TDCi £226; 60,000 miles - 1.8/2.0 £237, 2.5/3.0 £283, TDCi £226.
David Hall bought his eight-month-old 1.8 Zetec for £9,000. He does 16,000 miles annually, and loves the Mondeo's cheap servicing and comfort. "My only gripe is that the boot is too small," says David, from Kidderminster, Worcs.
If the Mondeo wore a prestige badge, everyone would want one - but as it carries the blue oval logo, some buyers look elsewhere. Yet the family Ford is one of the most reliable cars in its class, as well as one of the best to drive. With the promise of low running costs and back-up from a large dealer network, it will be straightforward to maintain, and from the thousands on the market, there are plenty of good examples. Choose an estate for one of the most capable carriers money can buy.