Six billion dollars? That’s what Ford paid to design, develop and build CDW27, its 1992 world car called Mondeo (a derivation of the French ‘mondial’, meaning world) to replace the Sierra over here and the dismal Tempo in North America. The Mondeo first went on sale in Britain in March 1993.
And it would rocket Ford close to the top of the pile when it came to driving quality and a whole lot of other things besides. But these early Mondeos are banger fodder now. Why get sentimental about a car so commonplace and apparently ordinary? Plenty of reasons, actually.
Moving the game on
The Mondeo was a ground-breaking car, not only for Ford but the rest of the industry. Its arrival marked the beginning of the end of Dagenham dustbins, the end of an era when British Fords looked a lot better than they really were, their shortcomings papered over with lightly glam styling (nothing wrong with that, usually), chrome, vinyl roofs, faux wood and outmoded, easy-fix mechanicals that appealed to fleet managers.
Suddenly, Fords were flaunting mechanical sophistication, and to a level that served notice on the rest of an industry that had to raise its game. Or it did in Europe, at least.
In the States, where the Mondeo was marketed as the Contour (pictured), it sold less well, despite picking up a heap of magazine trophies, partly because it was too small inside to compete with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
It lived in America only to 2000, and was never properly replaced until the Ford Fusion arrived in 2006. The Contour had an upmarket, lightly reworked brother called the Mercury Mystique (pictured), known as the Mistake because it used to stall a lot.
But in the UK, the Mondeo wasn’t a mistake at all, selling well in an admittedly shrinking market, and even became a political cliche, ‘Mondeo man’ symbolising the average British voter. Its interior may not look much now, but was decent in its day.
Trouble is, ‘average’ is how this car is seen today because it looks so utterly humdrum now, its featureless, committee-crushed styling condemning it as a wallpaper car that you never really see. And soon, we really won’t be seeing these early Mondeos, because they will have all been binned just like their Sierra and Cortina predecessors before them.
One to collect?
Once as common as smoke in pubs, it won’t be long before they’re a rarer sight than a street without an Audi in it. Which is why I’d like one for the fantasy car collection, and really would buy a Mondeo if I needed a decent set of (very) cheap wheels.