Ford Mondeo 2004 review

It had to happen sooner or later! Ford's performance engineers have finally been given free rein with the impressive TDCi diesel.

Ford's diesels go from strength to strength - and its most powerful oil-burner could be the best yet. In chasing performance, the firm hasn't neglected practicality, and its diesel sales are likely to continue rising with the ST TCDi's arrival. The car's many fleet buyers can sit in its luxurious cabin knowing the pace won't leave their wallets or fuel tanks drained.

It had to happen sooner or later! Ford's performance engineers have finally been given free rein with the impressive TDCi diesel. The result is the new ST TDCi - and the move couldn't have come soon enough.

The sharp rise in popularity of cars that drink from the black pump has seen manufacturers rushing to offer models that combine good fuel economy, sporty styling and decent performance. And now the blue oval has a diesel engine to be proud of, it has given us its largest and most powerful oil-burner yet: the Mondeo ST TDCi.

Has the newcomer got what it takes to live up to fast Ford enthusiasts' expectations? Auto Express was first behind the wheel to find out.

From the outside, this model could be mistaken for the petrol version of the ST220. There's a rear spoiler, flared front wheelarches, smart 16-spoke 18-inch alloys and discreet ST badging. But inside, you get a uniquely styled cabin, featuring a new dashboard, as well as sporty chrome touches across the facia and on the gearstick.

Stylish This model also boasts a top-quality Sony front-loading six-disc CD player, although its low-down position in the centre console means it's fiddly to operate while driving. The stylish leather seats are comfortable, providing plenty of adjustment and support.

And as you'd expect with a Mondeo, storage space is good, with lots of cubbyholes, while the large boot easily swallows most families' needs.

Under the bonnet, the 149bhp 2.2-litre engine is a fettled version of the existing 2.0-litre Duratorq unit, and delivers an impressive 400Nm of torque. Start it up and the motor idles away unobtrusively, but the exhaust emits a throaty roar once you press the throttle.

On the road, the car handles very well and feels refined. The agile chassis is nicely balanced, while the direct steering allows you to turn into bends with confidence, in typical Ford style.

The sports suspension set-up will be firm enough for most keen drivers, yet is still forgiving on motorways. And although the ST TDCi is perfectly at home on twisty roads, it's at cruising speeds that it really comes into its own. That said, wind noise in the interior does increase a bit much for our liking, especially on fast roads.

After a quick look at the economy figures, this is soon forgotten, though. The Ford returns 46.3mpg and comes with an excellent CO2 emissions figure of 151g/km - yet there is no trade-off in terms of performance.

Acceleration through the six-speed manual box is rapid, and 0-62mph is dispatched in an impressive 8.7 seconds. Overtaking proves no problem, either. The torquey engine has plenty of power to speed past slower vehicles, even in sixth gear, and propels the car to a top speed of 137mph.

Ford has also been clever enough to offer lots of gadgets on the diesel ST - which means the £21,830 price is competitive. The list of standard equipment includes the maker's Intelligent Protection System, Emergency Brake Assist, ESP, driver and passenger front and side airbags, plus curtain airbags, heated front seats, a leather steering wheel, cruise control, automatic headlights and rain-sensing wipers.

All of which helps make the ST TDCi an impressive and sporty machine, but one which retains its well deserved reputation for practicality. Whether it's for family or company use, this new Mondeo looks set to be a winner.

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