Ford Mondeo 2.0 Zetec 5dr

Motorways across the UK prove it. The rise and rise in popularity of the MPV and SUV, as well as the challenge of brands such as BMW and Audi, look like killing off 'traditional' family cars altogether.

By offering more choice, the Mondeo is having its final fling. There may be more handsome or practical alternatives, but for entertainment value the Ford is definitely worth a look. While its styling is beginning to date, from behind the wheel the car is still a match for rivals. The diesel powerplants combine strong performance with economy.

Motorways across the UK prove it. The rise and rise in popularity of the MPV and SUV, as well as the challenge of brands such as BMW and Audi, look like killing off 'traditional' family cars altogether.

But Ford's Mondeo is not giving up without a fight, and although its replacement - the stylish and practical SAV concept from this year's Geneva Motor Show - is only 18 months away, the existing model has been freshened up to see it through to retirement.

Visual changes have been kept to a minimum, but most striking are the new tail-light clusters, complete with flashy chrome trim. They add drama at the rear of the car, and are joined by revised front and back bumpers.

Inside, it is the same story: alterations are subtle, and fresh cabin materials are the only major additions. Mind you, we would not recommend opting for the light-coloured upholstery fitted to our test car. It will show up marks and will not take long to start looking scruffy.

On the plus side, interior space has always been a Mondeo strength, and so the massive boot and airy cabin remain. Gadget fans will also like modern features such as Bluetooth connectivity and iPod/MP3-compatible sound systems on high-spec models.

Under the skin, brake revisions improve the ESP-backed set-up, while six-speed manual cars get a spring-loaded ring beneath the knob to prevent inadvertent selection of reverse gear. But the engine range and suspension remain unchanged - and Ford's reluctance to rework the latter is understandable, as the car's ride and body control remain among the best in class.

On the road, the Mondeo retains its trademark handling and sporting poise. While the new VW Passat and Peugeot 407 make it look dated, from behind the wheel it more than matches the competition. The steering is precise, and although motorway refinement is merely acceptable in comparison with the class best, it still puts a smile on your face over challenging roads. Significantly, two trim levels join the line-up. The Titanium sits alongside the Ghia at the top of the range, but features contemporary materials - you will not find any mock mahogany inside. It is identified by unique 17-inch alloys and a mesh grille.

In the cabin, a titanium finish on the doors and centre console mark out the newcomer. The Titanium X - which debuted as a limited-edition model last year - goes even further by adding Alcantara/leather trim, bigger 18-inch alloys and a painted mesh grille.

The revised car is on sale now, with prices unchanged. Ford has missed a trick by leaving cosmetic alterations to a minimum, but luckily it made a decent fist of things first time around. So, if you still require a big family hatch, the Mondeo is definitely worth considering.

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