Skip advert
Advertisement
Road tests

Ford Mondeo (Mk1, 1993-2000) icon review

The popular Mk1 Ford Mondeo was a game-changer for the Blue Oval

It was around this time last year that the last-ever fourth-generation Ford Mondeo rolled off the production line in Valencia, Spain. And while Ford has made a successor of sorts, the fifth-generation car that bears the name is a different sort of proposition, and one reserved only for the Chinese market.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The Mondeo then, as far as anyone in the west should be concerned, is dead. Wind back the clock to the mid-nineties, and such a prospect would have seemed inconceivable. This was a car Ford sold nearly 130,000 of in the UK alone in its first year of production, rocketing it to the top of the country’s best-sellers list. It was the car that spearheaded a turnaround for a manufacturer that had long been stagnating, while proving that regular car buyers didn’t need to settle for something run of the mill.

It even inspired one of the great political catchphrases of the decade: Mondeo man. This was used as a catch-all for the kind of home-owning, self-made types the Labour Party needed to win back to oust the Conservatives in the 1997 General Election. Ironically, though, in the speech that gave birth to the term, it was the Sierra that Labour leader Tony Blair mentioned, not the Mondeo.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

This leads us neatly to the Mondeo’s immediate predecessor, which by the early nineties was feeling rather long in the tooth. The Sierra’s drastic mid-life visual overhaul might have meant it looked very different to the initial version, but there was no hiding just how old the model had become. It was one of a few cars that were dragging Ford down. For the sake of the marque’s image and its finances, it wasn’t enough for the Mondeo to be better than the Sierra; it had to blow that ageing car out of the water. And thankfully for the Blue Oval, it did.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Gone were the longitudinal engine layout and live rear axle, replaced with a more neatly packaged transverse engine powering the front wheels, with an independent suspension set-up at the other end. The interior was a radical departure from the Sierra’s, and while it looks a little drab today, back then it was notably more modern and plush than people were used to. Indeed, the first Auto Express road test of the Mondeo noted that it was “hard to tell this is a Ford” from behind the wheel.

There was a big emphasis on providing practical little touches throughout the Mondeo’s cabin, which is abundantly clear as soon as we start to poke around the 1994 GLX version we’re trying today. Highlights include coin slots and a pen holder on the centre console, and the lid of the central cubby, which becomes a double cup-holder for passengers in the rear seats when opened. Standard equipment in this GLX will have seemed generous enough at the time, with notable features being front electric windows, electric mirrors, and ABS, albeit for the front wheels only.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Heading up the engineering team was the late Richard Parry-Jones, a motoring industry legend. As Ford’s chief technical officer, Parry-Jones played a pivotal role in various other iconic Fords of the decade, including the Puma and Focus. His genius still shines through all these years later when you take the Mondeo for a drive.

It’s remarkably refined for its age, with the cabin keeping you nicely cocooned from the outside world. It seems a simple space when jumping straight out of a screen-festooned modern car, but everything feels solid, the layout of the controls is near-enough perfect, and cheaper bits of trim are largely absent.

Advertisement - Article continues below

While the engine is fairly smooth, things do get a little noisy if you want to make quick progress. Propulsion comes courtesy of a 1.8-litre, 16-valve ‘Zetec’ engine, a name we ended up with by accident; originally these units were called ‘Zeta’, a trademark owned by Lancia, thus prompting a name change. An output of 118bhp isn’t so bad for the era, and neither is the 10.5-second 0-62mph time, but to achieve both of those figures you do have to work the four-cylinder motor quite hard.

In this form, the car feels more in its element at motorway cruising speeds, enjoying the cosseting ride from the well judged damping and the general sense of calm experienced when not having to wring the neck of its modestly powered engine. Those interested in performance are better served by one of the V6-powered models, especially the sporty ST24 and ST200 that came after the facelift.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

That’s not to say this LX doesn’t impress when chucked around a bit, however. Yes, there is some lean during particularly hard cornering, but it’s not exactly falling on its door handles either. The steering isn’t hugely fast, but the power assistance has a nice weight to it, and the set-up gives a decent amount of feedback from the road surface. It’s pleasing that even in this less spicy form, the Mondeo is still a good driver’s car.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The icing on the cake is the gearchange from the five-speed manual gearbox. Each ratio slots in neatly and accurately, and even the clutch action feels spot on. The one thing that does age the Mondeo, however, is the brakes, which aren’t hugely strong.

Parking up and examining the exterior, the original Mondeo becomes significantly less remarkable. It’s certainly not ugly, and in fact, its proportions are all about right. It’s just lacking any sort of design flair. Small wonder that Ford jazzed things up considerably for the Mk1’s mid-life refresh, with a new grille, bigger, more rounded headlamps and a more curvaceous rear with redesigned clusters. It’s a much better-looking car, especially the BTCC racing versions with the famed ‘Rapid Fit’ livery.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The Mondeo’s momentum continued through to the excellent Mk2 that arrived in 2000 and was replaced in 2006 by the Mk3, which even had a cameo appearance as James Bond’s company car in Casino Royale. Unfortunately for the Mondeo, the year the film and the car were released, Nissan launched the Qashqai (which we’ll cover in an Icon Drive soon).

It didn’t count if Daniel Craig once drove one on the silver screen, nor did it matter how good the Mk3 and its Mk4 replacement were, the Qashqai had opened a can of worms that would eventually spell the end of cars such as the Mondeo. Buyers turned to the growing compact SUV genre in droves, and those who were still interested in something Mondeo-shaped were increasingly swayed by premium alternatives such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class. The Mondeo went from six-figure sales in the UK to just 2,400 units by 2020.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The death of the Mondeo as we knew it, then, seemed inevitable for some time. It did not come as a surprise when Ford did finally pull the plug. But it did come with a fairly sizeable pang of sadness.

What we said then

  • Issue 226, January 1993
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

“We’ve driven the Ford Mondeo and it’s excellent. Our first drive reveals that it is among the best family cars on the market. All told, we couldn’t find any real weaknesses. The range of hatchback, saloon and estate models must be just what Ford dealers have been waiting for to win back sales lost by the aged Sierra.”

Interested in buying one?

It’s well in excess of 20 years since Mk1 Mondeo production ceased, and time hasn’t been kind to the survivors, because few remain. Models that are more obvious choices for preservation – such as the ST24 and ST200 – tend to be sold at a hefty premium, but you might find a bargain.

If you do find something less exotic, such as our GLX test car, it could prove to be a bargain-priced modern classic, costing as little as £1,500. Just bear in mind that if you only look for pre-facelift cars, you might be waiting a while, because there are far more post-update examples around.

Whichever you go for, keep a keen eye out for rust. It’s worth checking the whole car thoroughly, but the sills and rear wings can be particularly troublesome. Clutch condition is important, too, because changing it is a labour-intensive (read expensive) job.

The engines are generally quite robust if they’re serviced properly, which includes a cambelt change (where fitted; some models use timing chains) at 60,000 miles.

Model:Ford Mondeo Mk1
Years produced:1993-2000
Price then:£13,000
Price now: £1,500
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol, 118bhp
Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

New Ford Capri preview: famous name returns on 390-mile electric coupe-SUV
Ford Capri - front action
News

New Ford Capri preview: famous name returns on 390-mile electric coupe-SUV

Ford has reimagined one of its most iconic nameplates as a rival for the Volkswagen ID.5 and Skoda Enyaq Coupe
12 Jul 2024
Covers are off new MG HS family SUV at Goodwood Festival of Speed
MG HS on display at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2024 - front static
News

Covers are off new MG HS family SUV at Goodwood Festival of Speed

The previous MG HS was a big-seller for MG in the UK and there are high hopes for this one…
12 Jul 2024
Car Deal of the Day: updated Nissan Qashqai with sharp looks and hybrid power for only £220 per month
Nissan Qashqai - front cornering
News

Car Deal of the Day: updated Nissan Qashqai with sharp looks and hybrid power for only £220 per month

Nissan’s recently refreshed family SUV with hybrid power for close to £200 per month is our Car Deal of the Day for 10 July
10 Jul 2024