Ford Mondeo TDCi Estate: 14,500 miles
FOURTH REPORT: A date with a dealer’s laptop has worked wonders on our big family carrier...
So there I was, sitting with the family, reminiscing about old times, when the subject of my first car cropped up.
Memorable features of the brush-painted, orange Skoda Estelle included a five-speed box, a rev counter and an alarmingly twitchy rear end in the wet.
Of course, I treated it with all the respect and love you might expect from a 17-year-old – and it repaid me by breaking down. As a result it spent as much time on axle stands on my drive as it did on the road, but at least I learned how to fix it.
Fast forward the better part of two decades, and the Skoda is a distant memory – while in its place is a shiny Mondeo Estate.
The Ford is safe and secure, and a delight to drive, and I really can’t think of a better car at this price with which to tackle long trips.
The spanners that I once used so often to fix my Skoda now sit rusting in a toolbox.
Yet while we all talk about how hard it is to service and maintain modern vehicles, until I witnessed a scheduled check-up for my Mondeo, I hadn’t appreciated just how far down that road we have come.
My Ford was parked in a spotless workshop at the local main dealer, and a computer lead was plugged into its ECU.
This had the effect of scrubbing clean the car’s memory, and updating it with the very latest information – plus improved tuning for some of the essential elements.
When I got back behind the wheel, the changes this simple process had made were immediately obvious.
First came extra functionality from Ford’s HMI (Human Machine Interface) system, which included a menu that was easier to navigate.
The sat-nav fitted to my car had also been upgraded, fixing its occasional tendency to freeze.
However, it was the next set of updates that really impressed. For starters, new software changed the fuelling – altering the way in which the car responded to the throttle.
This not only made it smoother, but seemed to fix the engine’s running speed, too. I’ve noted before a slight hiccup from the 2.2-litre TDCi diesel when cruising on an even throttle.
And from the letters I have received, I know this is something other Mondeo drivers have noticed, too.
The improvements haven’t been entirely digital, though – and they haven’t all been as welcome as the updates to the engine and control systems.
Look closely at the pictures, and you will spot a set of new alloy wheels. Now, I know Ford’s engineers definitely had to wield their spanners to attach these – but I hope you agree the effort was worth it.
The 20-inch rims are not officially available through dealers. Instead, they can be found on the aftermarket, and mirror the look of the standard 18-inch wheels.
If you’re tempted to fit a set, I have a few words of warning.
Surprisingly, my problem with them has not been the way they affect the car’s ride or handling – although I have to admit that the former is a little worse than before. No, the big challenge is trying to keep these big wheels looking spotless!
The tiny 45-profile tyres provide next to no protection, and the alloys fitted to my car have already caught the edges of a few kerbs, spoiling their pristine appearance.
However sophisticated dealer workshops become, that’s something no laptop will ever be able to fix!
As with Dan, I’m a big fan of this car.
Everything about it is sharp – the styling (particularly now it’s been fitted with those 20-inch alloy wheels), the chassis and the responsive 2.2-litre diesel engine.
And I can vouch for its abilities as a long-distance cruiser.
The Ford recently wafted me from London to Cornwall with absolute ease – and returned amazing fuel economy of 45mpg in the process!
I’m not sure I would bother with the slide-out boot floor – it robs too much space – and the driver’s seat is set too high. But I can’t think of many better estates for the money.
Sam Hardy Deputy motoring editor