The new Ford Mondeo will score a world first as a modern-era family car powered by a tiny 1.0-litre engine at launch in autumn 2013. Power will come from the smooth-revving 123bhp, three-cylinder Ecoboost, claimed to produce just 125g/km of carbon — comparable with today’s 2.0TDCi diesel.
The 1.0T Ecoboost will be the jewel in the crown of a new Mondeo range that has to fight for sales in an increasingly competitive market.
Roughly similar in footprint to the outgoing model, the new 4.8m-long Mondeo is slightly lower, but sits on the same 2850mm wheelbase, a reflection of the significantly-modified, but carry-over platform.
A key change to the Mondeo, code-named CD391, is a new rear suspension that retains a multi-link layout but moves to an ‘integral link’ design, said to be similar to that employed by Audi and BMW. It replaces today’s unequal length control arm layout.
Also of interest to enthusiasts is the switch to electric power steering, which saves fuel, but requires careful engineering to deliver enthusiast-friendly steering. Ford is adamant that the new Mondeo will retain the current car’s handling balance and steering sharpness while adding an extra edge of ride comfort. ‘We are confident it won’t disappoint,’ says Ford.
The latter has been a key requirement for the US market, where the Fusion, the Federal version of the Mondeo, is just going on sale.
Both cars have been co-developed under the ‘One Ford’ program and are substantially the same vehicle. ‘Think of the way the new Focus has been engineered for both the US and Europe and that’s a guide for the new Mondeo,’ says Ford.
The chassis tune of the US and European versions is said to be ‘surprisingly close’, the minor differences explained by the requirement for the US version to ride on all-season tyres, whereas European cars ride largely on summer tyres.
Also significant is the new Mondeo’s styling which features an aggressively raked rear screen that gives a fastback look to the family hatch. Although US and mainland European markets will get a four-door saloon bodystyle, British buyers will be limited to the five-door and estate.
The styling is the work of Briton Chris Hamilton, who designed the Fusion/Mondeo in the US, but has recently returned to Europe to support the launch here. His design is bold, centred on a dominant chrome grille with a flavour of Aston Martin’s shape and body sculpting, and detailing inspired by the Evos concept shown at Frankfurt last year. However, a question that’s yet to be answered is how well the Fusion’s US-influenced design will transfer to Europe.
Hamilton’s design is said to incorporate significant engineering changes to the carry-over platform, like a lower seating position to accommodate the rakish roofline, a lower boot floor to guarantee adequate luggage capacity and narrower A-pillars to improve forward visibility. Clever interior design includes a sculpted rooflining in the rear cabin to create sufficient headroom under the sloping rear screen.
The new Mondeo also looks to feature a higher-quality instrument panel accented with generous metallic highlights complimented by a driver-focused instrument pack centred on twin-dials and a large central infotainment readout. But it’ll be interesting to see how European drivers respond to the moulded-in switchgear on the central console, which experience suggests won’t have the same tactile appeal as the more conventional controls used by rivals.
As part of the drive to high tech in Mondeo, it features no less than 148 actuators and 86 sensors, according to says global product development boss Raj Nair. More than 10,000 voice commands are available with Ford Sync and MyFord Touch, which will appear here first in the Focus Electric.
Ford believes it can achieve 15 per cent growth in D segment with the new Mondeo. Ford says the shrinking market has levelled off. Style is is the number reason to buy in the segment, and Ford says the strength of Mondeo design will help. Global design boss J Mays says impressive equipment levels and a high standard of finish, makes it "premium yet affordable".
There is still plenty of time for Ford to fine tune its large family car for Europe – there are 14 months to go to launch for the five door, while the estate is unlikely to arrive before January 2014.
Given this long lead time, Ford is keeping further powertrain details close to its chest, although it is reasonable to assume the bulk of sales will be centred on the 2.0-litre TDCi diesel and a new 1.5 TDCi, which is gradually replacing the 1.4 and 1.6. Petrols will be 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre Ecoboosts; the most powerful 2.0 pushing out 240bhp. The bigger capacity 2.5-litre four fitted to the US Fusion won’t be heading to Europe.
Also coming is a plug-in hybrid, badged Energi, and powered by a lithium-ion battery pack and 185bhp Atkinson cycle 2.0-litre petrol engine and tipped for launch in 2014/15.
A six-speed manual will be the most common transmission, with a six-speed dual-clutch Powershift on the option list. The conventional, torque-convertor auto popular in the US won’t come to Europe.
In the meantime, Ford will tweak the spec and trim of today’s model later this year to keep the current model as fresh as possible.
The late 2013 launch date also marks a significant delay to an introduction originally slated for summer next year.
Ford blames the six-month gap on quality problems in the production ramp-up. ‘We just couldn’t hit the quality required by mid next-year’, it admits. Although it’s hard not to believe that deteriorating European market conditions — possibly two million fewer cars will be sold this year — are also a factor.
The Mondeo market has been particularly hit, both by market trends and the slowdown. Buyers are switching away from large hatches in increasing numbers to SUVs. Last year, just 83k Mondeos were sold in western Europe, about a quarter of those in the UK. Ten years ago the European number was closer to 300,000.
In contrast, sales of large saloons are picking-up in the US with around 1.5m expected to be sold in 2012.