The most popular Mondeos will be diesels or 1.8-litre petrol models. Although the 2.0 turbodiesel model was a vast improvement over the 1.8 TD in the previous Mondeo, it still lost out to similar engines from Peugeot, Citroen, Renault and Volkswagen in terms of efficiency and refinement. Late in 2001 Ford launched the 2.0 TDCi which adopted the latest diesel technology.
It produces 130bhp and offers an excellent combination of performance, fuel economy and refinement. The original 115bhp 2.0TD ran until 2002 before being replaced by a 115bhp version of the 2.0 TDCi which is a far superior engine. In 2004, a high-performance 2.2-litre TDCi was introduced with 155bhp which powers the sporty ST and more luxury-oriented Ghia, Ghia X and Titanium versions of the car.
In August 2005 Ford launched a 90bhp version of the 2.0 TDCi, aimed at company car drivers, which although lacking power compared with the 115bhp diesel, doesn't feel much slower on the road. The 1.8-litre petrol engine is a decent motor for the entry-level version of the car, although the 2.0-litre feels much livelier with little fuel consumption penalty.
During 2003 Ford launched a 'direct injection' petrol engine called the 1.8 SCi, which promised better fuel consumption in everyday driving compared to a conventional petrol engine, but also improved performance. As well as feeling a little livelier than the standard 1.8-litre, it also sounds sporty when revved. The SCi engine is only available in Ghia, Ghia X and Titanium models.
The fastest Mondeo is the ST220, which has a 226bhp 3.0-litre V6, sprinting from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and with a top speed of 155mph. A less powerful version of this 3.0-litre engine is also available in the luxury-specification versions of the Mondeo, as well as a more sedate 170bhp 2.5-litre V6. The Mondeo came fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard when launched (a six-speed version became an option later), but newer cars will have a six-speed gearbox as standard.
When Ford launched the Focus in 1998 it marked the beginning of a new generation of models that were rewarding to drive. The Mondeo offered a blend of engaging handling and a supremely comfortable ride that only a few alternatives have come close to since. Intuitive to drive, the Mondeo's steering has excellent weighting - light at parking speeds, but with just the right amount of resistance at higher speeds to help guide the car more accurately around bends.
High levels of grip and good body control inspire confidence when driving the Mondeo on twisty roads. ST versions feel a little sharper, but with a slightly less comfortable ride thanks to their larger wheels and stiffer suspension.
The Mondeo's driving position should suit people of most sizes with a reach and height-adjustable steering wheel as well as good adjustment in the seats. The quality of the interior is generally good, although it was improved further in the summer of 2003, with the option of integrated Sony audio systems, whose gloss-black finish looked far classier than the standard Ford audio systems.
The availability of 'Quickclear' heated windscreen on many models means frosty mornings needn't delay your start, either.
All second-generation Mondeos come with four electric windows and air conditioning as standard. The interior is roomy (rear passengers have about as much space as in the old Ford Scorpio) and the seats are comfortable. Engine noise can be a problem on the early 2.0TD models, although the TDCi diesels are much better, while sportier models with larger wheels can transmit a fair degree of road noise through the cabin.
From summer 2003 top models were available with heated and ventilated front seats and heated rear seats.